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Erin wrote:

Hi, guys —

Thank you for answering my previous questions.

My father has had several affairs and left our family. He has remarried civilly to another woman with whom he has committed adultery. We talked to him about his sins but he acts as though everything is fine and he has done nothing wrong.

I also have a maternal aunt who has a son in his twenties but we don't know who the father is.
Our family believes that our father is also his father because he looks like him. My father calls our cousin often and even attended his graduation.

We have asked our father and our aunt about our cousin's paternity, but they both deny it. My aunt said that she will reveal this fact at the right time. I've already written an advice columnist about this, and she said, let sleeping dogs lie.

We pray and forgive my father everyday but we cannot trust him any more. We just want the truth. We know it will hurt but it will set us free. We respect my father and my aunt as people but we cannot trust them.

  • How can we persuade them to tell us the truth?
  • If they can't tell us the truth, how do we make them accountable?

Jesus said,

"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing," (Luke 23:34)

  • but how can we fully forgive a father who refuses to repent?

Thank you,

Erin

  { How can we find out the truth and how do we forgive our father who refuses to repent? }

Mike replied:

Hi Erin,

Because of the many nuances related to your situation, you should probably seek the counsel of a faithful Catholic pastor or priest who can spiritually guide you.

None of us are priests, so it would be inappropriate to give you any counsel along with the fact that the gist of your questions fall outside the scope of our mission: To clarify misperceptions about the Catholic faith.

What I will say, is our job as Catholic Christians is:

  • To spread the Gospel with charity everywhere, and
  • Correct those in error, once, in charity.

After we correct once, in charity, we have to respect their free will to sadly make choices contrary to Christian behavior even if they are rationalizing their unchristian behavior as Christian behavior. We should be open to catechizing them but only if they are interested.

We should try to help when they show they are truly interested in living a Christian life but we cannot make them accountable; that’s Jesus’ job at their Particular Judgment.

Too many good-hearted zealous, faithful Catholics bring an immature attitude to the family environment with other family members who are not practicing the faith. We have to discern what is the most effective way to persuade a non-practicing family member to consider being a practicing Catholic who renews his Sunday Covenant weekly and attends Confession on a regular basis. Yelling at family members will not help the state of their soul at their Particular Judgment but turn them off to us.

We should focus on our Particular Judgment and keep in mind what St. Francis tells us:

Evangelize the world and when necessary, use words.

  • How do you evangelize without using words?
    <By the witness of your life and how you work and how you treat sinners —
    remember, your one too. : ) >

I hope this helps,

Mike

Erin replied:

Hi Mike,

Thank you very much for your advice.

My mother has confessed this problem to our parish priest a year ago. He said that we do not need to confess the sins of other people and that forgiveness is a lifetime process.

I was afraid that if I do not hold my family members accountable for their sins:

  • it would mean that I am condoning their sins, and
  • that I might go to Hell or Purgatory for being lukewarm.

Now I know that is Jesus' Job.

Thank you for saying that I only have to correct those in error once in charity. Now I don't have to feel bad any more when I have already corrected them many times.

Erin

Paul replied:

Dear Erin,

Do follow Mike's advice. As for the idea of forgiving someone who is not repentant, this is a good question and leads to what is really meant by forgiveness.

There is a distinction to be made between forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is the ideal and the hope that forgiveness would come with a full restoration of a relationship, including the trust that may once have once been there. That is not always possible, especially if the one forgiven is not repentant.

Forgiveness is something that can be, and should be, offered even when the perpetrator of the injustice is not sorry. This tends to go against our grain and might only be possible with God's grace. Forgiveness is an act of the will, a choice, to love in spite of the injury and stubbornness from the other. Love means to will the good of the other, even if we are still hurt by them.

The essence of love and forgiveness is not emotion, as many think today, but a choice of the will.

Love has many forms, depending on the circumstances. Love can be tough, and it can be accompanied by measures to protect one's self from the forgiven one. If necessary one can love from a distance, with prayer only. In other words, the offer of forgiveness, which is the attempt to drop resentment and harbored anger about someone, is a choice, regardless of how the recipient responds.

It may take a long time for you to deal with the injustice, and full reconciliation with the person may or may not eventually occur, but in the meantime you can offer this cross given to you and offer it up in atonement for your sins and those of your relatives.

Peace,

Paul

Erin replied:

Hi Paul,

Thank you very much for your advice.

Yes, I have followed Mike's advice.

I forgive my father everyday when our family prays the Rosary. I always pray for his own good, even though what he has done has hurt us.

Thank you for writing that love can be tough. I respect my father as a person, but he still casually tells lies. For instance, he said that he has not yet remarried when I held his new marriage certificate in my hand. I just have to stand by the truth and correct him in charity.

I have to work on my resentment and harbored anger. When I see people accused of corruption, I remember my father and his lies. I am shocked at how people can lie even when they have evidence against them.

Dealing with injustice may take a long time, especially in my country where people forget easily, but I will use this cross and offer it up in atonement for our sins.

Thank you.

Erin

Paul replied:

Hi, Erin —

Thanks for your response.

May God continue to bless your efforts.

Paul

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