Family Unity… At All Costs?

Family Unity… At All Costs?

The central place of the family in society is clearly taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Issues surrounding the ideal of family unity is in the news this week, due to the resignation of the Prime Minister’s brother, Jo Johnson, who is both a Member of Parliament and a Government minister. 

Headlines like this (Guardian headline below) have added to the Prime Minister’s woes, as he is attacked on all sides for the crime of trying to do what the majority of us asked him to do in the referendum of 2016 – take us out of the European Union…

The news of Jo Johnson’s resignation reminded me of the dilemma facing all too many Catholics, these days, as they choose, in conscience, to move from attending the new Mass in their local parishes, to attending a traditional Mass elsewhere.  This has led to friction within families, as I’m certain, Jo Johnson’s decision has caused disquiet, to say the least, within his family.  Indeed, on a popular news programme, one commentator opined that he doubted if the brothers “would ever recover from this.” 

So, the question is, what price family unity?  There are people (in my own circle) who believe that family unity trumps everything else – although, scratch beneath the surface, and often what they really mean is “keeping up the appearance of family unity” trumps everything else.  

Share your thoughts on this – is there a line to be drawn?  Is there a limit to family unity/loyalty?  Look at that Guardian headline again and ask yourself if anything, absolutely anything, should come before family…


Comments (23)

  • Michaela

    I think St Thomas More is the prime example of family unity taking second place to conscience.

    September 7, 2019 at 9:26 am
    • Margaret Mary

      I love that film, A Man for All Seasons. It never loses its impact on me, and that scene is one that always hits home, because having your own family try to coax you to go against your conscience (for the best of reasons, I appreciate that) must add to the burden entailed in trying to do the right thing.

      St Thomas More is a model Catholic in lots of ways, and this thread helps to highlight one aspect of his struggle that sometimes doesn’t get enough attention. He is telling us that family unity is not to be kept “at all costs”. God, his laws, his Church, always comes first.

      September 7, 2019 at 3:05 pm
    • editor


      A brilliant point made via the video clip from the fantastic, A Man for All Seasons.

      The whole question of family life and family unity is a very difficult one these days, no question about it. In fact…

      😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

      September 8, 2019 at 12:03 am
  • Miles Immaculatae

    Family should not become an idol. We are to love God above all. Many atheists as it happens are very religious, it’s just their god is usually themselves, their career, children, or some worldly thing. All men have a god. So for me family is not owed unconditional loyalty.

    I have an older brother who was very unpleasant to grow up with. He was a very difficult child and became a profoundly selfish adolescent and adult. As a youth he was delinquent and got in trouble with the police. On one occasion he tried to set fire to his school and on another he smashed the windows of the local Anglican church hall. He was a truant and he bullied his peers. He was expelled from school. He got girls pregnant. He never worked or resumed study. He beat me when I was a child and he pressured my mother to give him money for marijuana and takeaways. One day when he came home very drunk my mother refused to give him money and in anger he demolished our garden fence. He rarely showed interest or affection to me or my younger siblings. In spite of this our family always stood by him, and we never treated him like a black sheep. The door was always open to him.

    In 2016 I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I telephoned him to tell him about my diagnosis. I naïvely thought that he would be supportive but it instead he told me that I hadn’t had it as hard as him in life, and consequently he didn’t deem me worthy of his sympathy. Later that year he was exceptionally cruel to my mother and blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in his life. Then he cut off contact with us completely. None of us were upset by this. In fact it was a huge relief for all of us. We have not heard from him since, but we do not want to hear from him.

    Psychopathy runs in my family. It is an inherited trait. My brother, cousin, aunt, and great aunt are psychopaths or have features of psychopathy. My aunt for example put cannabis resin in my cheese and tomato pasta when I was 14. She did many other things like this that are too unpleasant to write here. We have no contact with her now either.

    September 7, 2019 at 9:36 am
    • Margaret Mary

      Miles Immaculatae,

      I hate to say this, but your brother shows all the signs of being a sociopath, someone utterly wrapped up in himself. I see you used the word “psychopath” but I think the world of psychiatry have toned it down a bit for use with people who are not exactly mass murderers, LOL! Whichever word you use, your brother is a classic selfish moron.

      You, on the other hand, clearly have Divine Providence working in your life. I hope the rest of your family, especially your mother, are living much more happily now with the sociopaths/psychopaths out of your lives.

      Your post really underlines the fact that family unity can never been the main thing. It always has to be second on the list to keeping a good conscience.

      Saying that, I’m not too sure that Jo Johnson did the right thing. Surely, a political issue like leaving the EU isn’t on a par with St Thomas More having to choose between the pope’s authority and the king’s. He’s made Boris’s job of getting us out of the EU much harder now. Frankly, I think Jo has been self-indulgent.

      September 7, 2019 at 3:14 pm
      • Miles Immaculatae

        Yes, sociopath, this is how my grandmother described my aunt (her daughter). Interestingly, my aunt converted to Catholicism when she was a young adult but she is now lapsed. I think at some point during the life of a sociopath God reaches out to them and gives them a choice. No matter how abnormal someone’s brain is it does not entirely deprive them of free will and conscience.

        September 7, 2019 at 10:07 pm
  • Michaela

    It’s interesting that the saint’s daughter asks, angrily, if her father has not “done as much as God can reasonably want.”

    I think after 50 years of the crisis in the Church, some of us are asking the same thing. There is no sign of things getting better – can we really be expected to go on splitting our families and losing friends over trying to cling to what we call Tradition, when even the popes don’t think it’s that important?

    If there is some bitterness in my question, it is probably because I am experiencing a “Meg moment” (LOL!) It really is wearying trying to keep explaining the same issues over and over again to family and friends. I can see why so many just go along to get along, and keep up that appearance of unity with family and friends.

    September 7, 2019 at 9:42 am
    • Miles Immaculatae

      I have not lost family members for being a traditional Catholic but I have lost friends. A Novus Ordo Catholic friend and I fell out. He thought the SSPX was demonic. He came to believe this after reading a slanderous and malicious booklet published by CTS called ‘Catholic Traditionalism’. I can imagine that many families are divided by outside forces. I am sure many divorces have happened due to third parties filling the spouses’ minds with poison, turning them against each other.

      September 7, 2019 at 10:14 pm
  • crofterlady

    I was so surprised to see this thread as I have been pondering that very matter for some time now. Whilst family harmony is to be preserved if at all possible, it should never be at the expense of truth.

    I think St. John expresses the point when he says (and I paraphrase from memory): “God is light (read: truth) and in Him there is no darkness at all; if we walk in the light (read: again truth) we will have fellowship with one another (read: harmony) and His son, Jesus, will save us from our sins.”

    It seems to me quite clear that, if truth is in conflict with family harmony, then one of them must be wrong, and if God is truth, then it must be the family situation. I accept that it’s difficult and I will give you a personal example which might sound harsh:

    My nephew of 26 years of age died in a self induced accident whilst under the influence of heroin, to which he was addicted. Tragically, so did his 2 year old son who was with him. He was a nice lad but he had lived a very bad life, objectively speaking, although he had had no guidance from family or church. My sister instantly consigned him to heaven with no intention of praying for his soul, none at all. The rest of the family were much the same so this poor soul had nobody to pray for it. I suggested that they all pray very hard for him AND HOPE THAT HE IS INDEED IN PURGATORY, AND NOT HELL. I felt it my duty to say this although, for family harmony sake, I should have gone along with everyone else. I’m still persona non grata to my poor sister.

    September 7, 2019 at 12:32 pm
    • Michaela


      Your story is very typical of what faces orthodox Catholics all the time at weddings and funerals, and especially when the death is like the one you describe. The truth is, if only your sister could see it, that you are the one who is truly charitable and showing love for her son. If he is suffering in Purgatory, he won’t be thanking her for her false charity.

      By way of comfort, I would think that your nephew may not have been fully responsible for his actions, given the length of time he was under the influence of heroin. God takes all that into account.

      Also, the two year won’t be suffering at all of course, but if he was baptised then the fact that your nephew had given God another soul for heaven, will go towards his own salvation, IMHO.

      September 7, 2019 at 3:00 pm
      • Therese


        I’m sorry to have to introduce a negative note into your very natural desire to comfort Crofterlady, who I think behaved absolutely correctly in cautioning her family and directing them to pray for mercy for the unfortunate young man. You are quite right to state that she was the truly charitable one and showed true love for her nephew.

        However, being addicted to drugs in no way lessens the guilt of one’s actions; everyone with a brain knows that drugs seriously diminish moral behaviour and actions, and I’m sure that God takes that knowledge into account. If the little innocent was baptised he is indeed in Heaven, but I’m afraid it is wrong thinking to attribute any salvific benefit to his father.

        I will pray that God took mercy on him: I’m sure He will have taken into account the lack of direction this young man was given during his life. How undeservedly blessed I have been to have been given such an example of Faith in my own family. When my time comes I will not have the excuse that this young man had.

        September 7, 2019 at 5:34 pm
      • Michaela


        I will have to admit to not having a solid theological reasoning for my comment but I always think that if our judgement is faulty for any reason then there can’t be the full consent of the will necessary for something to be a mortal sin. That’s all I meant. If the young man has not been brought up with a strong moral compass, based on the Catholic faith, and has gone astray as a result, then it strikes me that God will take that into account. The people, parents and teachers, priests and bishops who should have seen to his Catholic education and failed to, will be the ones facing the most serious judgement, IMHO.

        As for the child, again, it seems to be that if he had taken his son for baptism, that would show something of the faith in his heart, if he wanted his son to be brought into the Church, and again I think God would have taken that into account. I know I may be wrong, but I hope not!

        September 7, 2019 at 8:59 pm
      • Therese


        I share your hope.

        September 7, 2019 at 9:46 pm
  • RCAVictor

    I believe Our Lord answered this question when he said (Luke 14:26), “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    I suppose I’ve been lucky in that I’ve not had to worry about family unity concerns as a result of being a “traditionalist.” My surviving family members are either Protestant or agnostic (or some other garden variety of non-believer), and I’m sure they all think of me, if they think of me at all, as some sort of black sheep. My oldest son, who is a new ager, respects my religious beliefs, but the other two could care less.

    While I was with the SSPX I heard many a sad tale about split Catholic families. Some of the non-traditionalists were concerned with the canonical status of the Society; others had no love for the true Mass (and therefore, probably, for the true Faith, since the Novus Ordo does not teach the Faith); other problems, I suspect, were actually a reflection of the difficult and frequently unpleasant personalities that my former parish seemed to attract.

    September 7, 2019 at 3:53 pm
    • Michaela

      RCA Victor,

      “lucky at not having Catholics in your family” – LOL! That just shows what a state we’re in!

      September 7, 2019 at 9:00 pm
      • RCAVictor


        Yes, and they were all shocked when I returned to the Church in 1999, after half a lifetime as a Protestant and new age fool.

        September 7, 2019 at 11:05 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        It hadn’t registered with me that you returned to the Church in 1999 – the year of the launch of Catholic Truth! We published our first edition on 10 March, Feast of St John Ogilvie. I’m wondering if you can remember the precise date of your return to the Faith? If it turns out to be 10 March, then your salary will soar 😀

        September 7, 2019 at 11:55 pm
      • RCAVictor


        It was at Easter Vigil, 1999, whatever date that was….looks like it was April 4…

        So much for my salary increase – I’m just a Johnny-Come-Lately!

        September 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm
      • editor

        In which case, less than a month after we launched. Must be some significance in there… unless …

        😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

        September 8, 2019 at 7:37 pm
  • Nicky

    I have no sympathy at all for Jo Johnson. I think he did a very cowardly thing, stabbing his brother in the back at this crucial time. Everyone knows he was a remainer, although his constituency voted Leave over 50% of them, so he should have turned down the post of minister in the government and then waited to see how things progressed, to see if he could help his brother, which would also mean, delivering for his constituents. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a charlatan. I’m glad he’s not my brother. I’ve immediately have disowned him.

    September 7, 2019 at 9:03 pm
  • Josephine


    I agree. I’m sick hearing people on the news praising Jo Johnson as being a man of principle. No way. I’ve not time for him at all.

    September 7, 2019 at 9:17 pm
  • paulinemarygallagher

    Dear all,

    This topic is pertinent to my family this week. I am about to risk our peace and unity – again.

    The scripture RCAVictor mentions (Luke 14:26) is never far from my thoughts these days. But as CROFTERLADY says: ‘Whilst family harmony is to be preserved if at all possible, it should never be at the expense of truth.’ So, while I am anxious and sad about the possible consequences, I will be sticking my head above the parapet on Friday. Crucially, I have my husband’s blessing……..

    I would therefore like to invite you to the following event and ask for your prayers.

    Members of Catholic Family Voice will be praying for the protection of schoolchildren against the extremes of gender ideology outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood on Friday, September 13th at 3:00pm, the hour of Our Lord’s passion. We intend to hand in a letter to John Swinney, outlining our main concerns. The event may draw media interest.

    (‘Catholic Family Voice’ is a group of lay people concerned by the ideological conflict created by the ‘Equality and Inclusion’ materials in Catholic schools and by the intention of the Scottish Government to include elements of LGBT ideology across the curriculum in all schools by 2021.)

    Please pray for us from home or work if you can’t be with us in Edinburgh.

    I am a full-time gran at the moment – hopefully my family need me too much to disown me!

    September 8, 2019 at 1:16 pm
    • Josephine

      I can’t be in Edinburgh but I will pray for your initiative.

      God bless you!

      September 8, 2019 at 10:33 pm

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