“Ask a Priest: Do I Need to Accept My Mom’s Boyfriend?”

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Q: I have a question regarding my mom’s current relationship. I am married myself. My mom and dad had been married for 28 years until they separated last November. They had had a very up-and-down relationship for years. I had witnessed accounts of abuse on both sides. Both of my parents have hot tempers. During the separation, my mom would call me often and cry and I would console her. This went on for months. They became officially divorced as of August 1. My mom told me that she had not intended for it, but that she had met a man whom she liked. She told me that they had been friends and that she had developed feelings for him. Their relationship has been moving very fast with my mom spending hours each day on the phone with him, spending the entire last two weekends with him, spending nights at his house, etc. She has told me that she wants to act “normal” with him, and to start spending time with her kids (me and my siblings), and she wants him to come over to our house and to play cards/games which is what we used to do with my dad when they were together. I feel very uncomfortable spending time with him because I feel in my heart that they have moved way too fast and that it is wrong. Also, I feel that it is all wrong because my mom and dad have not gotten an annulment yet. I tried to convey my concerns to her. She has told me that I am not honoring the Fourth Commandment because I will not meet him and for implying to her that she is committing adultery. In this situation, am I not honoring my mother and committing a mortal sin myself? — N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I am sorry to hear about your parents’ breakup and the heartache it must cause the family. From what you describe, it seems that you are on the right side of issues.

Honoring one’s parent doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to his or her moral behavior. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. It’s just that, as you mention, without an annulment your parents are still considered married in the eyes of the Church, and therefore they need to conduct themselves accordingly. Mom seems to be scandalizing you by spending nights at her friend’s house.

Objectively, to accept your mom and her friend as a couple would be tantamount to a show of support for their relationship, which seems inappropriate at this point, given the lack of an annulment.

Moreover, what if an annulment is never granted? Not every failed marriage is an invalid marriage.

The best way you can truly honor your mom is to be charitable, pray for her, and to witness to the fullness of your faith — meaning that you act as though the marriage of your parents is still valid. This is a way you can also pay honor to your dad — remember, he deserves some respect, too.

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