"my adult niece moved in with her boyfriend"

Dear Father Bloom:

I found your web site while searching for some information on Catholic teaching regarding forgiveness and compassion. I was raised in a devout Catholic home, and my elderly mother has a particularly strong devotion to her faith and the teachings of the Church. Recently, my adult niece moved in with her boyfriend. Of course, we are all heartsick over this choice she has made, and have expressed our concerns to her. She is a fine young woman in many respects: generous, ethical, and kind, but has "lost her head" over this man, who is divorced.

My mother--her grandmother--has indicated that she wants nothing to do with my niece while she continues in this lifestyle and has, in her words, "written her off." While I cannot condone my niece's action, I feel my mother's lack of compassion and judgmental response is equally wrong and it grieves me to have this bitter division in my family. I have tried reasoning with my mother, using such familiar Bible verses as "Judge not lest ye too be judged," and "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." But my mother remains angry and unyielding. Can you provide some insight as to the correct response to this kind of situation might be, from the perspective of the Church?

Thank you for your consideration and for your excellent web site.



Dear K,

Difficult situation - so hard to see family members (especially grandmother - granddaughter) at odds. It seems to me the issue is not so much about judging your niece, but loving her. I suspect that on some level your mother's reaction reflects not only disappointment, but concern for the damage your niece is doing to herself, the man she has moved in with - and the other young people who see this and think if such a good person (generous, ethical, kind) can do it, it must be OK. Or at least not very bad.

What I would encourage you to do is educate yourself as much as you can about the actual consequences of cohabitation. It has been going on massively for about four decades now and a number of studies have been done. They indicate many negative consequences - and that, even of the couples who eventually get married, they have both higher rates of divorce and lower indicators of marital happiness that those who wait.

Once you have read as much as you can, you of course have to be very delicate in presenting it. Young people are not likely to be impressed by statistics since they consider their own situation unique, which of course it is. You do not want to come across judgmental. None of us can know what is in another person's heart, but as a friend or a relative (like an aunt) we can sometimes throw someone a life preserver.

With your own mother, you probably won't get too far quoting Bible verses to her, but perhaps could talk about what is the best strategy to help the children avoid (or get out of) mistakes they will later regret.

And lots of prayer. I have similar situations in my own family - and I know my nephews (and their girl friends) are probably getting tired of me asking them when they are going to do the right thing. But hopefully with prayer we can help them know we are saying it out of love.

God bless,

Fr. Bloom

P.S. I don't have them at hand, but there are some very well done pamphlets which both present the facts, but keep the door open for couples to get their situation rectified.


Other Questions

Simple Catholicism

C.S. Lewis: To Dissenting Priests

Interview on Birth Control

Catholic Teaching on Birth Control

Women Priests

The Crisis of the Catholic University

The Abortion Issue.

Homily on Abortion and Homosexuality

The Challenge of Secular Humanism

The Religion of our Culture: Naturalism

Magdalene Sisters and other anti-Catholic Pornography (Warning: Contains graphic descriptions.)

The Catholic Church: Founded by Jesus

Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History