Gay Son Wants “Gay Marriage”
How to Respond?
Dear Father John, Sorry to keep bothering you but in light of the new ruling allowing “gay marriage” throughout our nation I was wondering, how are we as faithful Catholics to respond to this? How should we feel? My oldest son is gay and he’s very passionate about this new law and I don’t know how to respond to him. I don’t want to turn him off to God but on the other hand I don’t want to disregard defending my faith. So far I’ve remained silent. What do you suggest?
This is a hard issue for many people. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer. I will share some ideas, hoping and praying that they will give you some light, or at least some food for thought.
A New Culture Still Emerging
The Supreme Court’s ruling about “gay marriage” is really only the logical next step in a cultural shift that has been happening for a long time. I don’t think we should be surprised by it. Our culture has been gradually secularized over the past two hundred years. Religion has been sidelined more and more as a merely personal pastime, not an essential ingredient for the just society. And with religion sidelined, we no longer have a shared moral compass. As a culture, our vision of what human nature is, and therefore what is objectively good for the full flourishing of human nature, is no longer Christian. Rather, it has shifted to a kind of neo-paganism. In many forms of old (i.e., pre-Christian) paganism infanticide, homosexual sex, and other behaviors incompatible with true human dignity were mistakenly accepted as normal and healthy. It’s logical that they have gradually been making a comeback as the Christian worldview has been drained from our common social presuppositions. From a socio-political standpoint, I imagine things will continue to get worse before they get better.
Fighting the Good Fight
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to work, charitably but passionately, to recover a legal and social enshrinement of the basic tenets of natural law. We should. In fact, I think many Christians and Christian groups are working harder now than ever before to re-evangelize our public institutions. This is an essential ingredient in the work of the New Evangelization. Each of us should discern prayerfully how God wants us to be involved in this process.
Loving the Sinner without Condoning the Sin
On a person-to-person level, I think it’s important for us to just meet people where they are. I can truly love, develop friendships with, and work fruitfully together with a Hindu man, even though our religious and moral beliefs, our worldviews, are starkly different. If he has trouble accepting me because I am a Christian and hold firmly to my beliefs, I can’t necessarily do anything about that. I can only control my own behavior, which still needs to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
I can serve and love and affirm that person, without ever condoning his erroneous religious or moral beliefs. I can interact with him, seek to understand him, and even seek to help him understand my point of view (if he is willing and open). But I can’t allow myself to become anxious and disturbed if I am unable, through loving him, to elicit an interest in my faith. Nor can I compromise my own convictions in order to win his approval and affection. If both of us are mature, we can accept each other and maintain a healthy and perhaps even mutually edifying relationship. But there are limits and obstacles to full communion between us.
Accepting Our Limits
Likewise with those, even family members, who have chosen to accept the prevailing view about homosexual sex, gay “marriage,” and same-sex attraction. It is their choice to go with what society is telling them, even though so much information is now available that supports the traditional Christian view on this issue even from the medical and psychological points of view, not to mention the theological point of view. (See, for example, this article on Theology of the Body http://www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/cis/cis333.pdf and these FAQs [Frequently Asked Questions] from the excellent ministry to people who experience same-sex attraction called Courage http://couragerc.org/courage/faqs/, along with this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rgDLWOFCRA.) If they are open to dialogue, we need to be ready to explain what we believe and why, but many times they are not open to dialogue, and so we simply have to keep loving them where they are, truly loving them, without condoning their erroneous or even sinful choices. We can’t control how they will react to that. All we can control is how we behave towards them.
I hope this helps a little bit. But I know that you will probably face many specific situations that seem like impossible conundrums. Allow this challenge to bring you more frequently to your knees, so that through prayer and contemplation the Lord himself can transform your heart, giving you the capacity to love powerfully and wisely, more and more as he loves. Thank you for your question, and God bless you!
Yours in Him, Fr. John Bartunek, LC
Art for this post on “Gay Marriage”: West face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., UpstateNYer, CCA-SA; Praying Hands study for an Apostle figure of the “Heller” altar (Betende Hände), Albrecht Dürer, ca 1508, PD-US; both Wikimedia Commons.