Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickie: “My Mother Berates Me if I Don’t Go to Church”

I was raised Catholic and my mother is very religious. I no longer live at home, and over the past couple of years I stopped going to church regularly and now go very infrequently. Every Sunday my mother will ask me if I went to church, and I lie and say yes because of how she reacts when she knows I don’t go. Sometimes I’m out of town on a weekend trip, or doing something with friends on a Sunday morning, so she knows I haven’t gone those times, and she berates me for it pretty badly.

As a grown woman, several years removed from college and living on my own, I should be able to do what I want with my life, spiritually or otherwise, without getting yelled at by my mother. I’m not hurting anyone by not attending church, but in her eyes she feels like she failed at “raising me right” and thinks it will affect me in the afterlife since I’ve been missing Mass. I have other friends and relatives who were raised Catholic whose parents still attend church, but their parents don’t get on their case for not attending church. I can’t help but wish my mother was more like them when it comes to churchgoing. Any tips for how I can deal with this issue? — Daughter of Religious Mom

You can’t change your mother or her behavior — you can only change your reaction to her behavior. Your desired outcome is that your mother stop berating you about not going to church, right? In a perfect world, you’d probably love it if she accepted that, just because you don’t attend church “religiously,” doesn’t mean she didn’t “raise you right.” I would try this: tell your mother that you go to church infrequently and you are no longer going to answer her when she asks if you’ve gone because: a) it’s none of her business, and b) you don’t like her reaction when the answer is one she doesn’t want to hear. Then tell her there are other ways she can measure her job as a mother who raised you, and then point out some of those ways. What are some things you’ve accomplished that she should be proud of? How has your character been exhibited in a way that would make a God-fearing mother pleased?

Then, the next time she calls you and asks if you’ve gone to church, remind her that that topic of conversation is off the table and, if she continues asking, you will have to respectfully hang up. And then hang up if she keeps asking. And keep avoiding the topic and keep hanging up when she asks. You have to set a precedent NOW about this issue and let her know you live your life how YOU want. If you get married one day or have a baby, you will have to deal with this in a bigger way (“You have to have a church wedding!” “You have to baptize your baby!”), so you need to start setting your boundaries now so they’re in place down the road when there are bigger battles to fight.

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76 comments… add one
  • Kate B.

    Kate B. September 16, 2014, 9:32 am

    I can relate to this. My parents and I have fought many battles over who I am v. who they wanted me to be. Religion is just one of the issues. Ultimately, we do exactly what Wendy suggests: we don’t talk about it. I can offer some insight as to how it may turn out for you. As time went on and we all got older, my parents accepted who I am and I think (finally) understand why I made the choices I did. (Religion is still a touchy subject, as is politics, so we still just don’t have those conversations.) I do know that I have disappointed my parents in many ways, but rather than dwell upon that, I remind myself that they are disappointed because I failed to live up to standards THEY imposed upon me. I bet that every parent has dreams of who their child will be. My life was supposed to go something like this: I’d grow up wearing lots of dresses, I’d go to prom in school, I’d go to college and study business, marry a guy who wore a suit to work and carried a briefcase, have kids. A pretty typical life. Of those things, I did exactly one: I went to college, but I didn’t study business, I studied theatre. Oh, the drama when I told them how I wanted my life to go. (Especially the no kids part.) I think part of being a parent is accepting who your child is, rather than who you think they should be. Realize that your mom will not be happy with your choice, but that is her choice. You are the only one who has the right to determine what works for you. She will either accept who you are, as my parents have done, or not, but that’s up to her. Set the boundaries and live your life the way you want to.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope September 16, 2014, 9:41 am

    I don’t know your (her) specific beliefs but here’s a thought that may resonate with her(?)– The one thing that separates us from the angels is free will. It also separates us from the animals and makes us uniquely human. We are not permitted to infringe on another person’s freedom of choice because in doing so, we are taking away their “humanity” (with the exception of children, who are not fully developed or ready to make life choices). If you go to church because you are coerced, it will not impact your afterlife, since it was not your choice. You are an adult now and responsible for your own spiritual well being.

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  • avatar

    RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 9:44 am

    Wendy is exactly right. I was raised Catholic as well, and no longer practice. Same with my husband. We ended up having a church wedding, which my husband now regrets very much because of how it ties us to the church, and our implicit acceptance of their beliefs. I don’t really care about that, but I do regret giving them money because I don’t like supporting an organization that’s still doing coverups of child abuse. Although they don’t cover it up right where I am (two of my childhood priests were convicted :O), that money still goes to an organization that is involved in a coverup at the highest level.

    Now my MIL is pushing for us to baptize our son, which we have refused to do in the Catholic Church because of the child abuse. So she has a friend who’s a United priest, and she wants us to have him do it. Sigh. My son is 16 months and we’re still dealing with this. And I think we’ll probably just give in because, whatever, it’s some water on his head. If it makes her leave us alone it’s worth it. Plus, our parents on both sides actually believe he’ll go to hell and they’re really sad about it. My mom once told me she was afraid that she’d die and go to heaven, but that I won’t get there and she’ll never see me again. She was almost in tears. She doesn’t bother me about not going but I know she’s sad.

    But in the end, they just have to deal with it. I know they think they didn’t raise us right (all four parents, both mine and my husband’s), but it’s something we all just have to get through. Make sure you show that you’re a good person in other ways, and that you love and respect her. Just don’t get drawn into the religion rabbithole anymore. Otherwise you’ll never get out of it.

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  • Portia

    Portia September 16, 2014, 9:45 am

    As the Jewish girlfriend of a Catholic boy with very religious parents, I wholeheartedly agree with Wendy. Bassanio started setting boundaries somewhat before I was in the picture, but him doing that over the years has helped them to accept not only the person he’s become, but also our relationship. You’ll have to accept that your parents wi’ll be disappointed for a time, but if you don’t live exactly how they think you should, they’ll eventually be disappointed. Most parents are at some point or another anyway.

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    • Portia

      Portia September 16, 2014, 9:48 am

      Which is to say, give them the opportunity to accept and love you for the person you are, not the person they think you are out want you to be.

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      • Portia

        Portia September 16, 2014, 9:50 am

        *or want you to be, not out. Oy, typing on a phone is hard…

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite September 16, 2014, 9:51 am

    I agree, I don’t get berated… just passive aggressive comments related to hell every now and then. My poor mom, she just wanted 3 good Catholic kids and she definitely has 3 sporadically attending adults. She has won the baptism battle all 4 times though so at least she’s saving the grandkids.

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  • avatar

    Smalls September 16, 2014, 10:20 am

    I definitely get this. My Catholic mother thinks that I didn’t have a “real wedding” because I didn’t get married in a church. In her eyes, God is only present in church, not outdoors (even though when I point out that according to the Bible he CREATED the Earth, that doesn’t seem to matter). Like RedroverRedrover said, my mother is also sure that I’m going to hell because I don’t go to church or believe in God (again, even when I tell her I believe in a creator, just not the same way she does, it doesn’t matter at all).

    I think Wendy’s advice is spot on. Set your boundaries, and be firm and clear. And show a lot of love for your mother. She really thinks that my soul is damned, and gets very upset when she thinks about where I’m supposedly going, and that she won’t see me in heaven. It all comes from love – I would bet that if your mother is very religious, that aside from perhaps her thinking about how it’s a reflection on herself, she’s also probably very worried about you. Doesn’t mean you have to change your beliefs or actions by any stretch, but I try to have compassion for that part of my mom.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 10:32 am

    I fight this battle every time I talk with my mother or father as do my siblings. My sister, who is still very religious and is married to a pastor, gets berated for WORKING outside the home. My sis and I had a conversation last night about trying to limit our reaction to mom and dad and politely, but firmly set boundaries. Its a lot tougher in practice, but we’ve at least acknowledged it.

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    • Portia

      Portia September 16, 2014, 10:46 am

      It’s so true that siblings who are on your side can also be immensely helpful. Either just to vent about your parents or in formulating plans. Bassanio’s sister played a huge role in convincing his parents to let him out of Catholic school back in the day. And I think Bassanio setting boundaries on church attendance likely helped his sister in being able to set her own boundaries, whatever they may be.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 11:19 am

        exactly! There are 5 of us kids, and we all have just dealt with them by either lying or ‘shutting down.’ My brother in law (the pastor) constantly has to remind us that “they are not normal and how they interact with you is not normal.” Difficult to believe when that’s all you’ve known and you just WANT to have a ‘normal’ family relationship. The commiserating is very therapeutic though, and helps to see that we’re not being singled out. We’re still a LONG way off from getting them off our backs and it may never happen. I really hope I don’t have to cut them out, but they have been the major source of anxiety for me throughout my entire life. Nothing we do is ever good enough and they are incredibly legalistic. No “FUN” in fundamentalism, that’s for sure!

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 11:25 am

        (this is through wendy’s link), but it helped me and my sister a lot. I’m not really religious anymore, but it ‘spoke’ to that side of me that still has a lot of guilt. Some of it is a little preachy, but the general message is good

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    • avatar

      Ivory September 16, 2014, 11:23 am

      There is No (none, nada, zilch) support in the bible for the idea of women having to be solely inside the home. In fact, Proverbs 31 which is considered to be the biblical model of womanhood speaks about the woman owning a vineyard and running it (business ownership and management), making and giving clothes to lepers and homeless people (which is not a command to sew but is about being involved in charity). So on both counts, working outside the home is encouraged.

      I’m an active, practicing pentecostal (not the snake handling kind), and have a professional career. I am a feminist and don’t think that conflicts with my faith at all.

      Sorry, I know this was a tangent, but it bugs me when people say that working outside the home is against the bible, when its against Victorian tradition and norms.

      Rant, done.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 11:28 am

        Ivory: I totally get you. My parents are 110% “submission” people and have completely butchered that passage. My therapist and brother in law have both talked about how the people that use the submissive wife passage are those that want to have power over someone else and abuse that and really don’t understand the meaning of it. The people that “get it” NEVER use that verse to control someone else.

        I’ve been arguing with my parents about working etc since the beginning of time. I have a background in engineering and have been very vocal about working EVEN THROUGH potential motherhood which makes my dad crazy and say things like i don’t appreciate family etc. There is just no winning an argument with them.

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      • Cassie

        Cassie September 16, 2014, 11:01 pm

        I totally agree. I’m also an active Christian, and consider myself a feminist, and when people twist what the Bible says to keep women down, I get so mad. I’m all for someone being a stay at home mom if they want to be, or for working outside the home, but it has to be their choice.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray September 16, 2014, 12:50 pm

      I’m glad you chimed in because I know you can offer advise from the perspective of having to deal with similar parents. I have nothing to offer because, as odd as it sounds, I’ve never experienced a big divide between my parents and me in matters of importance, so I’m having a hard time relating, but Wendy’s advice is great. MG, does it make you feel better knowing your parents also pick on your (seemingly perfect, as far as your parents’ definition of perfect goes) sister? If I were you I’d probably find comfort in that, knowing “well shit if she manages to offend them despite marrying a pastor and not living in sin before marriage and all that jazz, then shit, it’s really not about me or my choices – no matter what they’d be disappointed.” To me somehow that would help, ha. But I can also see just having someone who totally gets it and your parents would help too.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 1:01 pm

        it totally helps. It’s also interesting to see her perception of how my parents treat me and how I handle it. She was telling me last night that she thinks they just leave me alone, which is completely untrue.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra September 16, 2014, 1:03 pm

      I think I know which high school you attended, and HOLY CRAP…I’m amazed some of those viewpoints still exist. I teach in a couple schools that filter into that high school so I deal with these types of attitudes from parents so often.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 1:06 pm

        West Lutheran in Plymouth

        which grade schools?

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      • Lyra

        Lyra September 16, 2014, 10:55 pm

        Yup! Will message you on Facebook…don’t want to disclose my employer. 🙂

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  • BriarRose

    BriarRose September 16, 2014, 10:34 am

    Catholic parents can be really hard to deal with! I was raised Catholic and was married in the church, baptized my daughter…and then got divorced. And didn’t get an annulment. I have essentially left the faith but my mother is beside herself over me not getting an annulment, and has told me flat out that she will no longer speak to me if I marry my boyfriend without an annulment (never mind that we wouldn’t get married in the Catholic church anyway!). Needless to say, I really feel for you. The guilt is incredible and it’s a frustrating issue. I try to understand it from my mother’s point of view–in her mind, my eternal soul truly is at risk, and that is a lot for a mother to try to just forget about. As Smalls said, my mother is extremely worried about me, and as a mother myself, I can definitely understand that. It’s our nature to protect our kids as much as we can, and feeling like it must be just within her grasp to protect me for all of eternity, but to be unable to…it must be heartbreaking for her. So I try so hard to keep that in mind.
    .
    I have told my mother that I have made my peace with my decision and that while I don’t want to make her sad or worried, it’s not something that will change. Seeing as I have yet to marry the boyfriend in question, I can’t report on whether she will really stop speaking to me. Basically just be as calm as possible when you discuss this with her, follow Wendy’s advice, and try to remember it’s because your mom cares about you.

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    • BriarRose

      BriarRose September 16, 2014, 10:36 am

      Not that I think you should change your stance or anything…I just meant to remember this pestering and berating likely does come from love, deep down. She is probably desperate to get you to see it from her point of view and has no idea how to have a calm conversation about it.

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  • avatar

    jhoran85 September 16, 2014, 10:40 am

    Religion is a very touchy subject for a lot of people and it is only in the most recent generations that there has been a large break from strictly adhering to religious rules, especially among Catholics (I am a lapsed Catholic myself). Ultimately, everyone is entitled to believe what they believe, however, a person’s beliefs should be respected and vice versa. I think that with setting boundaries with your mother, an important thing to point out is that you respect her beliefs and in turn she should be able to respect your own choices about religion.

    I’ll give you an example from my own family – my great uncle was a priest and passed away about 10 years ago. All of my cousins on that side, plus my brother and myself, were baptized, and two of my cousins – brothers – did not receive any religious education, while the rest of us did and all were confirmed. My uncle – the priest – never pushed religion on anyone and was one of the most accepting and open people I have ever met. He was friends with people from all different races, cultures, religions, and his funeral mass exceeded the capacity of the church. One of my cousins who did not receive religious education – I’ll call him B – got married about 5 years after our uncle died. He vehemently argued against a Catholic ceremony – his wife is also not religious and we all accepted their choice without a problem – and ended up causing a huge argument over his father wanting to do a simple, non-denominational, blessing on behalf of our uncle who passed away – something our uncle would’ve requested to do himself, had he still been alive. Instead of presenting his reasons for not wanting to have the blessing rationally, he spoke very negatively of our family’s religious ties and in turn negatively about our deceased uncle. It caused a lot of hurt feelings and even his wife had agreed to have the blessing spoken, but he was dead set against it. Fast forward to the present, and he is one of the most disrespectful people I have ever met when it comes to religious beliefs and will battle anyone in an argument about why his own atheist beliefs are the only right way to be. I have lost a lot of respect for him, and I’m not even that religious, because everything he says in relation to religion is condescending and negative, yet he expects people to respect his own set of beliefs.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo September 16, 2014, 10:48 am

    When you live in Western Canada and someone tells you you’re going to hell, you say “At least it will be warm.” I lost my religion a long time ago, but I grew up in a very religious town.My parents were not too pushy about church, but i was surrounded by well-meaning kids of evangelical families who would constantly express concern, shock and horror at the state of my soul. I tended not to play defense. As a young punk, I claimed hell as my own territory. It was the birth of Diablo, like some cheap superhero origin story. Personally, i would suggest that you simply state that your relationship with your spirituality and the almighty is private and your business alone, and you won’t be discussing it with anybody anymore. While I don’t personally point to any pixies in the sky, i do think that as a grown-up, your faith belongs to you alone.

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    • avatar

      MissDre September 16, 2014, 11:00 am

      OMG the SNOW in Calgary! Are you in Alberta? (thankfully I am not, it’s still nice in Ontario)

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 16, 2014, 11:33 am

        No, Saskatoon. It’s going to be 26 degrees today (ie – about 75 degrees fahrenheit) today. It’s becoming clear that Calgary lost a bet with God somewhere along the way. Too much cousin marriage or something. Apologies to any CGY DWers.

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      • Pamplemousse Rose

        Pamplemousse Rose September 16, 2014, 11:46 am

        You know we can’t be insulted because everything you say is true… 🙁
        *
        I spent last Wednesday watching tree branches snap off of all the old trees on my street and Thursday chainsawing them up. The bonus of last week – free firewood! My husband and I had cut down a big apple tree (that turned out to be rotting in the middle) the week before the snow. We look super smart for doing that before it could collapse on our house…

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 16, 2014, 11:48 am

        Yeah, I was talking to people there who had trees come down on their houses and cars, thousands without power, etc. It was a really freaky storm, but it totally missed Toontown. Again, because we are favoured by the Almighty.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 16, 2014, 11:53 am

        Ugh. Saskatoon gets pretty nasty in winter though. I’m prairie born (but not raised there) so I’ve heard from my family about the god-awful winters.

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  • Pamplemousse Rose

    Pamplemousse Rose September 16, 2014, 11:08 am

    WWS! Really whether you are practicing or lapsed, the topic should not be up for discussion. I went through this with my own Catholic parents. My dad used to ask me if I had been to church all the time. I refused to answer the question, even if I HAD been to church I would not confirm that for him, because it was none of his business. When I was in school he also used to suggest that being a nun was a good career choice. I think I was in grade 10 when I finally told him to never say that to me again. I do plan to baptize my daughter and will send her to Catholic school (its a better school system here) because its what I want, not my parents.

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  • avatar

    LadyNeon01 September 16, 2014, 11:20 am

    Ok, this topic has brought me out of lurker-dom. It hits really close to home right now. I was raised Catholic and no longer attend mass.

    I’m getting married in less than a month, and my dad called me last week and said he will not be coming to my wedding. He’s been threatening to do this for a few months, but I thought we had come to an agreement a month ago. He wanted a Roman Catholic priest to marry me and future Mr. Neon. I kept avoiding it because I knew a RC priest wouldn’t perform a ceremony outside the church and there was no way in hell I was going to force future Mr. Neon to go through the Pre-Cana classes when I don’t attend church myself. So we found an awesome UCC minister that we both like and felt comfortable. Well, as soon as we finalized the details with the UCC minister, my dad flips and says he’s not coming to the wedding. He was so compelled that he even contacted the Old Catholic priest who married my sister last fall without asking me. Lucky for me, there was an Old Catholic priest closer to home who could be a co-officiant. I figured I could make that compromise to ensure that he would come to the wedding. Until last week, when he says that he’s not coming after promising me that he would be there.

    I know its a control issue with him. He wants everything his way, and will piss and moan if its not. Last week, he accused me of not asking him anything about the wedding. I’ve been telling him about the things that directly involve him. Everything else is up to me and future Mr. Neon. Hell, my mom doesn’t even know about most of the wedding. I only asked her about stuff when I needed her help. Then he called me a rebellious adult, which makes absolutely no sense to me because isn’t the whole point of being an adult that you can make your own decisions?

    I don’t know what he expects me to do. I can’t change anything with the wedding because its so close. I don’t want to anyway. But my dad is being so stubborn and closed-minded that its really stressing me out. I have started writing a letter to him that expresses my thoughts and feelings. But I know I can’t give him any sort of reason or excuse to not show up. I never thought religion would ever get between us, but then again, he’s been harping on me to go back to church for years (haven’t been in 10 years now).

    Sorry for the novel. I just wanted to let the LW know that I totally understand her dilemma. Its not easy, but boundaries are the way to go. I know I have some work to do on that front.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo September 16, 2014, 11:44 am

      Call that bully’s bluff. Say you are very sorry since this is the only wedding you will ever haveand you were counting on him to give you away. You have arranged for Mr. Neon, Sr to give you away but it just won’t be the same. Then let him stew until he comes to you. Then you dictate terms. “Well, i don;t want to hurt Neon Sr, but if you’ll agree to perform in x, y,z ways I guess we can make it work.” He’s gaming you. Play better than him.

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        LadyNeon01 September 16, 2014, 12:33 pm

        Diablo, he’s very much acting like a bully. I may have to put that comment about this being my only wedding in my letter. And on a side note, I had planned to have both my parents walk me down the aisle. I hate the meaning behind the father escorting the bride down the aisle to turn her over to the groom. So I thought I would honor both people who raised me. Dad didn’t like that either because he thinks that its tradition that the father walks the bride down the aisle. He has no idea the meaning behind it. Ugh, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. But whatever happens, at the end of the day I’ll be married and happy about that.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 16, 2014, 12:38 pm

        If you don’t mind me saying, i’m not keen on the letter. Use it to set out your thoughts and rehearse, but talk in person. Letters just give irrefutable fodder for counter-arguments. your words are free to be misinterpreted in whatever way suits your dad, and you can’t deny the words later, only dispute your dad’s interpretation, which, since it’s his thoughts, can’t successfully be argued against. A chat is something where you can later say, “If I wasn’t clear, what i meant was…” The letter also looks like you are afraid to defend yourself in person. Be tough and resolute, and show no anger. you can do it. My two cents and good luck.

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        LadyNeon01 September 16, 2014, 2:53 pm

        I see your point about a letter. I wish I could talk to him in person, but I live 1200 miles away from my parents. I won’t be seeing him until 1 week before the wedding. And I’m not sure how well an in-person talk would go. He’s one of those who doesn’t say much to start off with. I could do it over the phone, but that obviously didn’t go so well last week. Maybe I’ll try the phone again, but I won’t do that until I get all my thoughts together.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 16, 2014, 12:46 pm

        M and I were never going to get married, because of that whole patriarchal thing of the father handing off the bride as a chattel to the new owner/husband. But we got over it. At our wedding, we both walked out alone at the same time on opposite sides of the back yard (garden wedding, arriving at the front together.

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 11:55 am

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this right before the wedding, but it sounds like you have an incredibly supportive future husband. Call your father’s bluff: you can only control your own actions and you have already done things to ‘appease’ him while stilling having what you want. If he misses out on his own daughter’s wedding, then that’s on him.
      My father came to my wedding, but almost didnt. Now that I’m divorced, I really doubt if he will ever come to a second wedding (should I ever get to that point with someone again).

      It’s gonna be OK.. and you will have a beautiful wedding! Congrats!

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    • avatar

      Vathena September 16, 2014, 12:10 pm

      Wow…that sucks. I agree that the best way to handle it is by setting the boundaries: “I’m sorry you won’t be there. We’ll miss you.” He’s not going to be happy even if you jump through all the hoops he’s set up for you, so why should you? Ugh, parents like this annoy me so much. I can’t imagine putting these kind of conditions on whether I show up for my daughter. (She’s only 16 months so it’s all still theoretical at this point, but my hopes and dreams for her are pretty basic: derive satisfaction from your life and pay your own bills. Also, I hope she doesn’t turn out to be a Republican, but I won’t berate her about it.) 🙂

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        LadyNeon01 September 16, 2014, 3:00 pm

        I don’t understand the conditions either. He didn’t do this when my younger sister got married last fall. So why me? I think it may have to do with the fact that I didn’t turn out how he expected. But he has to deal with that disappointment. All I can do is live my life how I see fit, but it makes it a lot harder to do that when you know you have a parent who is try everything in the book (guilt, passive-aggressive, etc.) to get you to do what they want.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster September 16, 2014, 10:50 am

    Wendy’s advice is spot on: start implementing boundaries now. I think one of the most freeing things was realizing that I don’t owe my parents, or my aunt (who helped raise me) an explanation about my life- in all areas. My mom and aunt are pretty religious Catholics and while they don’t exactly berate me for my church going habits (or, non-habit anyway), they are constantly asking me to say prayers, saying prayers OVER me when I’m around (this is particularly annoying), sending me texts and emails filled with comic sans prayers and early aught era gifs of angels, and then calling me later to find out if I got the chain email/said my prayer for [insert issue that requires cosmic influence here]. If they knew I was some kinda agnostic-atheist they would beat me over the head with a bottle of holy water. Your situation sounds pushier, so this probably won’t work for you, but I just don’t respond, or I respond with noncommittal grunts and otherwise don’t engage in religious conversations. I did make it clear a few years back that they needed to butt out, saying something along the lines of, “My salvation is my responsibility.” That shut them up, even if I could practically hear them thinking I need to go to confession. Haha.

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  • avatar

    HmC September 16, 2014, 11:52 am

    I think Wendy has actually laid out a really good road map for setting boundaries with loved ones who engage in behavior you don’t accept. 1) realize you can’t change others, only your reaction, 2) clearly state your boundary, 3) enforce your boundary by hanging up/leaving when it is crossed. Boom!

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  • avatar

    j2 September 16, 2014, 12:00 pm

    I do not disagree with Wendy, but I do want to bring up independence and escalation. Setting boundaries is vital to your future, like Wendy and others have said, but your mother will almost certainly escalate the situation. How independent you are will affect how this will probably play out. So, I suggest below a few things to consider and even “game out” before you have the conversation that Wendy recommends. You may want to do some planning or prep first.

    First, are you financially independent of your mother/parents/relatives? If you are not, be prepared to deal with her holding it over your head. If you are, be prepared emotionally for her to accuse you of being ungrateful. You may need ear plugs, or use a speaker phone.

    Second, how emotionally independent are you on your mother and those others she will almost certainly drag into this? If you have siblings, they will be lobbied by her to be her agents, as will your father/uncles/etc

    Third, are you psychically prepared for emotional outbursts (including tears) by your mother? If that happens and you are not ready, it might it shock you into a retreat.

    Fourth, are you ready if she campaigns to isolate (“excommunicate” or “shun”) you from the rest of the family? In one scenario, she could give them ultimatums like, “Her or me. If you associate with her, then you’re as bad as she ….”

    In any case, you need to set boundaries. Whenever you do it, think about things like the above first.

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  • avatar

    mrssmith2013 September 16, 2014, 12:18 pm

    I’m the black sheep from a family of “semi” practicing Catholics because I left their church and have become a Pentecostal Christian. We still believe in the same trilogy, my faith just allows for a little more personal connection and encourages a different type of interaction with God than my Catholic church did growing up. When my mom found out that I’d started going back to church her first words were “Is it Catholic?” even though she hasn’t set foot in a Catholic church since my sisters wedding almost 5 years ago. My family goes to mass maybe at Christmas time, but that’s it, and they still try to convince me to come back to the Catholic church.

    How can you convince someone else to “go back” when you aren’t even really going? I’ve just learned to ignore them at this point, but some times the “not talking about it” is just as painful.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 16, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Catholic? Hah! Tell your mother you are busy sunday morning instead volunteering at one of the many organizations that now must help the hundreds of thousands child victims of sexual abuse by priests… Maybe that will get her to shut the fuck up.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 2:11 pm

      This probably won’t work for LW as an adult, but I’ve found it’s very effective on the will-you-baptize-your-baby question. I told my parents I’d do it when I could be assured that they weren’t harbouring child molesters anymore. They haven’t mentioned it since.

      Although now my MIL is trying to get him baptized in a different church. The lengths religious people will go to.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray September 16, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Boundaries are so important. Not just with religion but with all your beliefs. I have the opposite problem in that I was raised very atheist, but I’m a Christian now and my parents think I’m being brainwashed or that I have joined a cult because I go to church. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve never had a bad experience with church. But I know they happen and I know lots of people like your mom. Something I like to remind myself is something my pastor says, “if your belief tells you to mistreat people, you are not only misbehaving, you’re misbelieving”. I remind myself of that when I get berated for having very different beliefs. And I set boundaries with my family. It has made a tremendous difference.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra September 16, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Ooooo I love a good religion topic. I’m on the other side of the fence — a Catholic still practicing. It’s sad to hear about parents doing things like this. Some of these comments though…you guys, the Church isn’t all bad. Not every church sweeps abuse under the rug. In fact, all of the Catholics I know are absolutely disgusted by it, and I know many churches that HAVE taken action. Not every church is completely against gay marriage. The church I attend keeps a really great separation between politics and religion and I appreciate it so much. There has never been a sermon on how we should vote or what we should believe. It’s much more about how to enhance our lives spiritually. My church also heads up a ton of volunteer projects to help the needy. We have an outreach program for people who are homeless or unemployed. I’m not trying to belittle the abuse that has happened in the past. Yet, there are plenty of churches — Catholic churches nonetheless — which do great things.

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    • Ika

      Ika September 16, 2014, 2:05 pm

      But when from the Vatican down there is soooo much crap going on, it is impossible not to paint them all with the same brush.
      And sure; Francis is a charismatic pope, but I remember when Equal Marriage was legalized here how he declared a holy war on it, and how the church sent home pamphlets wih all the catholic school kids about how families are one mommy one daddy.

      The catholic church reinds m of the quote
      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Im sure there are good priests, cardinals, etc. But if they work under the shadow of all the bad,and don´t fight against it…

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 2:19 pm

        Exactly. Everyone’s all over how much they love Pope Francis (even non-Catholics), but what has he done about the abuse coverup? Plus, think about it. It’s an elected position. They would never have elected someone who deep down didn’t believe all the same old stuff that they believe, and who wouldn’t toe the party line. He just puts a better face on it.
        .
        I grew up Catholic and I have a fondness for the mass and the community and all that. And to give them credit, they do do some things right. We learned evolution in school. One year our mandatory religion course was “world religions” and it taught all the other major religions with no judgement. I like the fact that there’s such a thing as the pope and the vatican, to give official answers on what the religion believes – I don’t like all the answers, but it saves the religion from things like what Islam is going through, where people think they’re all terrorists. If Islam had a pope-like figure he could officially denounce the terrorism and tell the world what Muslims really believe about Christians.
        .
        But they do a lot wrong. A lot. And it takes them a long long time to apologize for it and to change it. I can’t support an organization like that.

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      • Ika

        Ika September 16, 2014, 2:25 pm

        Yeah, the amount of crap that the Catholic Church has done in Argentina (and most Latin America for that matter)is TERRIFYING. Supporting fascist dictatorships, enabling disappearances, handing over people to be tortured and murdered, collaborating with hundeds of babies being taken away from their mothers and handed over to friends of the de facto government… it just goes on and on.
        And Bergoglio was part of that church.

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        SummerRose September 16, 2014, 3:00 pm

        “They would never have elected someone who deep down didn’t believe all the same old stuff that they believe, and who wouldn’t toe the party line. He just puts a better face on it”.

        This is EXACTLY what I say when people talk about how great Pope Francis is. Like when they say how he never talks about being anti-abortion or against women having leadership roles in the Church. Of course he is. He has even said his views don’t contradict those of the Church. He just doesn’t talk as much about what isn’t allowed as did Ratzinger.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra September 16, 2014, 3:51 pm

        I think a lot of the “good” priests, etc. which you mention simply don’t have very much power. It’s not as though they’re doing “nothing”. My priest at my home church for example, the archbishop (who is his boss) is VERY political and VERY conservative and VERY vocal about how he wants people in his archdiocese to vote. Yet my priest refuses to use that in his sermons, even though it’s mandated by the archdiocese. He will address a topic but he definitely won’t tell us how to think or how to vote or whatever. He still is doing good things in his parish. It’s not that he’s not “fighting” against it; he’s “fighting” in his own way. I’m just glad we have him because he understands that it isn’t as black and white as some of the leaders think.

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    • mylaray

      mylaray September 16, 2014, 2:32 pm

      So I’m not Catholic (I’m a non denominational Christian), but I dipped my toes into it long ago, and I did go to a very accepting Catholic Church like you describe. I don’t think people are denying that they are out there. But that it’s not enough. I have several close friends who are Catholic. I don’t have a problem with it. But I do think it’s a problem when the overarching organized church is saying same sex marriage is immoral or that women can’t serve as leaders. Not to mention all the child abuse cover ups. It’s not very Christian to be honest. And really I just think that’s a problem with organized religion as a whole. That doesn’t mean that an individual church can’t be great or a really positive influence on someone. I go every week and am very involved with volunteering with mine. But there are a lot of problems with organized religion, especially one that is so huge and has so much power.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra September 16, 2014, 4:00 pm

        I can see how people would see things that way, that it’s not enough. Yet I also think that people see so many bad things because that’s what is broadcast to society and it tends to be magnified. The good things about the church usually aren’t on the news…instead, the scandals are. In my diocese last year for example, the archbishop called for action and change, and those priests who were accused were let go. There was an announcement specifically read during Mass. Action was taken. It was NOT tolerated.
        .
        I’m not saying that everything is ok because obviously there are still issues. My point is that not all Catholic churches and not all Catholics are corrupt. Some of the comments here tend to turn bitter and nasty towards Catholicism.

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      • mylaray

        mylaray September 16, 2014, 5:17 pm

        Theres so much I could say. And I agree I don’t like comments that denounce religion entirely. But I guess I also understand. I think it’s normal to have some bitterness if someone hasn’t been treated right by a church. A church can have so much power in one’s life, and when that power isn’t good, it’s important to take back some power for yourself.
        .
        And I completely agree that what is said in the news is just a tiny picture of what’s going on. I try not to tell too much about the church I go to because many people get the wrong idea and immediately think “crazy, hating, conservative Christians in the south” because of the news. And it’s unfortunate.

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        RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 6:18 pm

        Agree with mylaray. A lot of people have been and still are being hurt by the Catholic Church. Those people have the right to be bitter. I understand that you mostly see your local church and the good that it does, but that doesn’t matter to the people who are hurt by the organization as a whole. Not to mention that if you support it (financially or with your time), you are supporting the whole thing, not just your church. Your donation could be going toward a child molester’s defense. It could be going towards stopping gay marriage. It could be going towards anti-abortion campaigns. You don’t know. By giving them money you are explicitly supporting whatever they may choose to do with it. So yeah, if people are upset you can’t really blame them.

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      • Ika

        Ika September 16, 2014, 6:23 pm

        Or it could go to further line te pockets to the Vatican, or their great art collection,or the mafia that is the Vatican Bank.
        I just love the hypocrisy of it all. Vows of poverty, and so many in the church live like kings.

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    • avatar

      Tax Geek September 16, 2014, 4:07 pm

      The Church shames people to stay in abusive marriages. Not going back.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra September 16, 2014, 4:27 pm

        Where did you see/experience that?
        .
        The bible does NOT support staying in an abusive marriage. The priests/devout Catholics who I know are the same way. I’m not saying that people *should* go back if they’ve chosen to leave, but I’m really curious as to what led to that choice. Again, not saying it’s all perfect because it’s not. Simply curious.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 4:44 pm

        Actually, if you google that, you will absolutely find some religious strains that will judge and shame you into either staying married or merely ‘separating’ and never marrying or be in another relationship again until the abuser passes away. You would be surprised how what one person may think “it doesn’t say that in the bible” will be taken out of context by another group into what they want it to say.
        I had to stay away from the internet on the days I was feeling bad about getting divorced..the internet is filled with ideas and voices, and a lot of them are no good

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        Tax Geek September 16, 2014, 4:48 pm

        It’s there Lyra. My confirmation sponsor, more than once, told me I should work it out with my now ex-wife. And the whole culture that staying together is so so important. The whole Decision to Love is simply an enabler for abuse.

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        lets_be_honest September 16, 2014, 5:16 pm

        A confirmation sponsor is someone you pick who does not work for the church…

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl September 16, 2014, 5:37 pm

        There is “the church” and there are people “of the church.” When you are in disagreement with “the church” or “its people,” there isn’t a real distinction WHO is attacking you or not protecting you. It’s not JUST the Catholic church, either. In my experience, the evangelicals are the worst as far as judging or issuing overarching statements about what you SHOULD do or HOW you should act. And most are giant hypocrites.
        My parents happen to be the people who will tell people they aren’t raising their children right or not punishing them correctly. My father has sat down with my cousin (his niece) and discussed her sleeping over at her fiancees house and how God didn’t like that, how he wouldn’t be attending her wedding, the lord wasn’t blessing this etc etc. Now, you would say that “that’s not the church!” But my parents believe they’re acting on behalf of the church/god etc, so it’s hard to distinguish the two.
        Also, the people of the church run the government section of the church and I know plenty who have turned against a pastor or parishioner whose gotten divorced or committed a sin and expelled them from any leadership positions. (now i get that some of those sins are legit, like child abuse or stealing, but I’m referring to most ‘gray’ things like divorce or living together before marriage)

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  • avatar

    Lily in NYC September 16, 2014, 4:10 pm

    I am so thankful that I was raised by heathens!

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  • avatar

    Ali September 16, 2014, 5:15 pm

    WWs 100%. I stopped going to church for good when I went to college, but my family is really religious. I still had a church wedding to make everyone happy because it wasn’t that big of a deal to me, and I’m also going to baptize my baby to keep my in-laws (who are also religious zealots–my husband’s 2-year-old nephew can recite mass verbatim) and my family quiet. But then I feel that’s the end of the line–I won’t raise my child in a faith I feel is morally wrong and also fucking ridiculous. I just don’t want to battle it out with my grandma, who informed me that she “can’t die unless she knows she’ll see the baby in heaven,” which apparently won’t happen if he’s not baptized. If the LW feels strongly about this, she should definitely keep cutting the conversation off every time the mom brings it up–it sounds like mom needs to be trained on how to interact with her adult daughter in a respectful way. So frustrating when parents become the children.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest September 16, 2014, 5:15 pm

    Oh good, more positivity.

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark September 16, 2014, 5:55 pm

      You want me to say something “positive” about religion? Okay. Fine. How’s this… I am absolutely 100% positive that right now… somewhere some child is being raped and/or molested by a Catholic Priest. Yay! God!

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie September 16, 2014, 5:11 pm

    The parental pressure that goes on to perpetuate religion is beyond me. Santa Claus is a wonderful legend but this bull shit that churches are founded on have caused many times as much harm then their little bit of good. Feeding the hunger and clothing the poor is good but they depend on the insecurities of people without the intellectual capacity to derive truth from fiction. My mom’s family was pretty religious but they accepted the fact that I wanted no part of it. Wendy’s advise was far genteeler then I’d have suggested.

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom September 16, 2014, 6:33 pm

    I am not a Catholic, but I am a Christian. I don’t think it’s fair that the entire Catholic church is judged on the actions of a few. I realize that there are priests that have molested children and SOME people have covered it up. However, I work for a Catholic hospital and they do a lot of good, providing free healthcare to those in need. I can also sympathize with the LW’s mother. She probably really feels her children/grandchildren won’t go to heaven if they don’t go to church, get baptized, etc. Who knows, maybe she’s right, no one knows for sure until we’re dead. Either you have faith or you don’t. I won’t judge you for not having it as long as you don’t judge me because I do.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 8:03 pm

      Please don’t downplay that coverup. Those “some people” you refer to are the upper echelon of the church, as well as many many others further down the hierarchy. “The Church”, as an organization, is covering it up. That’s a fact. The last pope, Benedict, was actually in charge of handling the crisis before he became pope. What did he do about it? Not much. He certainly didn’t hand the names of all the offenders that they knew of over to the police. He oversaw it at a time when they were moving offenders to different diocese in order to hide it. And then he got elected pope, I guess because he did such a great job.

      What is the new pope doing about it? Again, not much. The very first thing they should be doing is handing over a list of accused priests to law enforcement. They have the list. Hand it out, let the trials take place. The second thing they should be doing is allowing clergy to marry. Right now the church is the perfect place for pedophiles to hide because no one’s going to ask them why they never have a girlfriend or a wife. Take away that hiding spot. Let the priests marry. The third thing they should do is make pedophilia illegal in Vatican City, and make it punishable by extradition to the country where the crime was committed. Right now the church has this safe little country where they make their own laws. It allows them to ship priests there to avoid punishment in their home country. Horrible.

      Sorry about the rant, but this really makes me angry when people try to gloss it over it. My point is, it’s not just a few people here and there, it’s thousands and thousands of abusers and people protecting them. Including “upper management”. It’s totally fair to judge an organization on the actions of the people running that organization.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed September 16, 2014, 8:17 pm

        Damn, RedroverRedrover you are KILLING it today! I can’t like all your comments enough.

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        RedroverRedrover September 16, 2014, 8:27 pm

        Hahahaha thank you! I was always angry about this issue, but two things happened in the last little while that made me even more passionate – I had a little son, and I found out TWO of my childhood priests were charged and convicted of molestation. All of my brothers were altar boys, they were definitely in the line of fire. None of them have ever said anything that makes me think anything happened, but lots of victims don’t speak up. You just never know. It’s crazy.

        You guys are just lucky I don’t get started on gay marriage or abortion. Hoo-boy! I’d be on here all day!

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        SummerRose September 16, 2014, 11:34 pm

        Great points. Also want to add to your comment about handing the lists over to the police. Many churches say they’ve let go of priests who have been accused of child molestation. But it’s not enough to say “Hi, you’re not welcome back, goodbye”. They need to be turned in to the police, as would happen to any other child molestor. And very few are turning them in.

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        RedroverRedrover September 17, 2014, 6:49 am

        YES! And they should be finding out who the victims are and offering settlements. Don’t force them to go through a public court proceeding. Jeez.

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        RedroverRedrover September 17, 2014, 7:08 am

        Actually the court proceeding is probably necessary so the priest can be convicted, but the church shouldn’t fight it if they have the info that the priest did it. Just accept the conviction and give the victim a payout. Don’t make it this long drawn-out thing when you know the priest is guilty.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray September 16, 2014, 11:29 pm

        Yeah she’s been nailing it lately!

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