My father recently was proud of me for great grades during an incredibly difficult semester. He is not a Catholic (though he claims to be one while knowingly disagreeing with dogmas of the Church -- he thinks he is just a normal Novus Ordo Catholic) but is giving me a roof, food, a car to drive, and pays for my University schooling (I will probably also go to graduate school) despite the fact that I am twenty-four. He also is generous in his gifts, buying me things that are very important to my schooling (new computer when the old one was on its last legs). I know that he does this because, as far as a Boomer who grew up during the Cold War in the US can understand it, this is how he shows that he loves me and wants "the best" for me. I am grateful for his simplistic if ultimately misguided expressions of love, and I am also grateful for his help as I pursue what I am good at such that I can start my own life. Times are hard, and since I grew up with Baby Boomer parents, I never developed any profitable skills while growing up such that I could make a living today without a degree. Maybe I could make a living, that is, but I would be stuck living a life on the border of poverty and chained to a major city.
Tonight at dinner, he asked me if I could do him a favor tomorrow morning. My teenage sister is a ski racer, just like I was in high school. Intrinsic to modern ski racing as a practice is the outfit called the "GS suit," which is skin tight though of a thicker material for insulation. (Look at your own risk -- this photo is only of the item of clothing; there's no model.
) The favor is for me to bring her skis in tomorrow morning to be sharpened and tuned at the ski shop so that she can have them by Monday. This might also mean that the work is being done on Sunday (which I didn't think of until now). Anyway, I immediately reacted by feeling incredibly uncomfortable; my face tightened, I felt ill, and I simply said, "[Sister's name] wears a GS suit," indicating that I don't support her ski racing. My dad violently rolled his eyes. It spoiled the evening, and conversation the rest of the night has been strained.
Let's go back a few years for more context. A few years ago, I was not doing well in school because I hated every second of it and thought that it was a waste of time. I went out of fear and to appease the anger of my parents. I spent almost all of my time reading unrelated material about the Faith and involving myself in polemical controversies related to Catholic moral and political issues, much to the chagrin of my parents when they saw my report card. I ultimately was removed from the school and it was understood by me that it was for the Catholic Faith (in hindsight, it was also because of my lack of self-discipline); my parents thought it was because of a bad attitude and general stubbornness, which they associated with my hardline, extreme religious opinions (not helped by my often indiscreet zeal). Our relationship was at an all-time low. As time has progressed and I have matured, I have softened in my approach and have avoided dealing with controversial subjects in a direct way, since that has shown itself to not be fruitful. I have done well in work while sticking to my convictions and, after the hardest course-load of my life, accomplished the best GPA of my life (not counting elementary school).
After dinner tonight, my dad told me that he did not want to make a scene, but that if I wanted to talk "immorality," I should look at all the things he has done for me. He listed them, before saying, "And now I only ask you one little favor, and you won't do it for me. That's immoral." I tried to tell him that that is what makes it so difficult and why I had to get up in the middle of dinner, but he said he wouldn't listen to and didn't care what I had to say and walked off to his room, slamming the door behind himself. Before he went in he said, "During freshman and sophomore year our relationship was at an all-time low. Then it got better. Now you've taken it a big step back
I took my sister to ski practice once before and felt absolutely horrible about it. This was over a year ago. I confessed this and Father (an SSPX accordista who is not a great theologian, once telling me that sanctifying grace only comes from sacraments rather than from meritorious acts -- he sought me out to correct himself a week later) told me that, since she would have been brought to practice anyway, I was not participating in any sin since my motive was to placate my family. I am simply not sure about this. It seems like an incredibly improbably argument, since it could justify participating in all sorts of sinful enterprises that "would be done by somebody else anyway." If I don't do this, my relationship with my parents will suffer immensely. I figure that when I get married and we don't go to the beach and so forth, it will suffer anyway, and perhaps permanently so. That being said, I have always hoped they would convert before then. Am I participating in a sin of immodesty and in encouraging worldliness and manliness in my sister by helping my dad have her skis sharpened? Or am I simply keeping peace in my family as much as possible, the only thing I am accomplishing by my abstention from the favor being to inconvenience my dad?
I want to do as much as I can to be a good son, but I cannot do evil that good may come of it, even if nobody understands. Am I applying this principle correctly to the situation? Any advice at all would help a great deal. After tomorrow, though, it won't really make any difference.