Admonishing Sinners

Admonishing Sinners August 8, 2012

A reader writes:

I enjoyed reading your article on fraternal correction. However, I’m still confused about when I should or shouldn’t admonish an apparent sinner. Could you help me with a concrete situation that I am dealing with? I have a cousin who is in her late 20’s, married, and with a young son. She identifies herself as a Catholic and is a church going person. However, she supports gay marriage so I question how devoted she is to the teachings of the Magisterium. We probably see each other once every two years at a family party. We don’t exactly have that close of a relationship, but we remain friendly. I notice that on her facebook she has pictures of herself in a two piece bikini (in a non-sexual way when going to a beach). I see posting pictures of yourself in a two piece bikini to be immodest and a threat to the chastity of other men looking at the pictures. I’m considering sending her an e-mail about the pictures. However, I see it as more likely that she’ll just be embarassed and angry by my e-mail than that she’ll take the pictures down and never post pictures of herself in a bikini again. Should I send her an e-mail or not? Thanks.

Last things first (and only because you asked me), I wouldn’t send her an email about that if I were you. It would simply be a context-free bolt from the blue that would make no sense to her (particularly because you yourself acknowledge that she’s not attempting to incite lust). Same with the same sex marriage thing. Rather than initiating relationship on the basis of “You know what’s wrong with you?” it’s better to initiate relationship by trying to find out who she is, what she loves, and what she needs. If the conversation gets around to SSM, fine. Tell her what you think. But beginning there while doing nothing else to establish relationship is just about guaranteed to destroy any hope of establishing relationship while doing nothing to advance her understanding of the question, which is–after all–the real goal, not simply being confrontational.

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