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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

October 20, 2010

Moral Case Study: Fourth Commandment and Divorce

The Ten Commandments: Case Studies in Catholic Morality is a new resource by Dr. Eileen P. Flynn of St. Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey. The opening sections of each chapter define a commandment, unpack its theological meaning, and explain how it should be applied to one's everyday life. Several practical questions with answers are also posed for each commandment. Finally, three case studies are presented. Thse are drawn from a variety of simple to more complex moral dilemmas and require students to determine the correct moral response for each. Follow-up questions are provided. Shared below is a case study connected with the Fourth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother." This case study has to do with the topic of divorce.

CASE STUDY: Honor to Parents After Divorce
Melinda’s mom and dad divorced two years ago. Melinda is fourteen years old and has two younger siblings; Matt is eight, and Stacy is six. Her parents share custody, so she and her siblings live with their mom in the house they grew up in Monday through Thursday, and with their father on weekends.

Several weeks ago, it became obvious to Melinda that her dad is now living with his girlfriend Sandy. Sandy is at the apartment when the children arrive on Friday, and she sleeps in the same bedroom as Melinda’s dad. Her dad has not said anything about the status of his relationship with Sandy, but he has told his children that he expects them to be accepting and friendly toward her.

Melinda’s mom is bitter about the divorce, and she frequently speaks harshly about her ex-husband. Melinda knows that her mother would become very angry if she knew about Sandy, and she thinks that her mom might use the relationship between Sandy and her dad to go to court and request sole custody.

Melinda loves her mother and father and, though she knows it is wrong for her dad to live with Sandy, she wants to try to get along with her as well. She does not think it wise to discuss the relationship between her dad and Sandy with her siblings because they are naïve and probably not even aware of what is going on. She believes that she should honor her father and her mother, but she is confused and depressed as she tries to figure out how to put this commandment into practice. Melinda prays regularly, and she hopes that God will give her the wisdom to know what to do.

1.What should Melinda’s father do to keep his children from being scandalized by his live-in relationship with Sandy?
2. How do you think Melinda’s mom could act to facilitate a more harmonious family life despite the divorce?
3. Melinda is confused and depressed, and she prays for guidance. What else, if anything, should she do?
4. Given the situation that she is in, are there things that Melinda could do that would dishonor her mom or her dad, or lead to the further deterioration of her family? What are those things?

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