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How To Deal With A Gay Family Member

The Catholic Church has always taught that we should love the sinner but hate the sin.  That’s exactly what we’re expected to do when we have a family member or friend who is homosexual.  The Church’s official position on homosexuality can be found in paragraphs 2357 through 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which provide as follows:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.  It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.  Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”  They are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2357)

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (2358)

Homosexual persons are called to chastity.  By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2359)

What would you do if your son or brother came to you and told you that he was homosexual and was planning on getting “married” to another man?  After I wrote last week’s article, The Unraveling of a Culture, I started thinking about what I would do in that situation.  I came up with a 3-part answer.  You will most likely agree with my first two parts, but you may have problems with the third part.  Here’s what I came up with:

1. Control Yourself – Upon hearing the news from my family member, I would silently petition the holy family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) for help in responding to him in the same way they would respond – with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  I would then hesitate and silently ask my guardian angel and his guardian angel to assist us in keeping the conversion civil.  Although I would naturally be concerned about what other family members and friends might think and say about the situation, I would do my best to remain calm and not let that interfere with the way I responded.  I would remind myself that I have no idea what he’s going through mentally and emotionally and what caused him to arrive at his decision.  I would avoid the temptation to intimidate him, shame him, or make him feel guilty.  If the conversation started to get out of hand, I would tell him that I was not willing to discuss the matter any further until we both cooled down.

2. Offer Love & Prayer – I would explain to him that regardless of his sexual orientation, I would still always love him.  I would also tell him that I would pray and perform acts of mortification for him.

3. Avoid Scandal – I would make it clear to him that he would always be welcome in my home and at family functions as long as he agreed not to say or do anything to attempt to influence or persuade any other family members that his behavior was acceptable.  In other words, he would have to refrain from discussing or alluding to his sexual preference and lifestyle.  I would also explain to him that his partner would not be allowed to come with him to my home or to family functions.

I expect that most Catholics would agree with numbers 1 and 2, but would have trouble with number 3.  There is very little discussion today among Catholics about our obligation to avoid scandal.  The position of the Church concerning the avoidance of scandal can be found in paragraphs 2284 through 2286 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which state:

Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.  The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter.  He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. (2284)

Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized.  It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others.  Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. (2285)

Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. (2286)

Prior to the liberalization of “no-fault” divorce laws that gave men and women the “right” to terminate, for any reason, the lifetime covenant they made with each other and God, it was a common practice for Catholics to refuse to attend a wedding ceremony that was performed outside of the Church.  There was a time when priests regularly advised parents and family members that attending such a wedding would cause scandal and would be sinful.

The reason that it was scandalous was because the very presence of Catholic family members at the wedding implied that the person attending the wedding approved of the couple’s sinful act.  Attendance at the wedding also had the effect of legitimatizing the sinful behavior of the couple and led other family members to believe that such behavior might be acceptable, despite the fact that it was in direct defiance of Church teaching.  In addition, attendance at the wedding caused scandal because it showed others that if they ever decided to defy the teachings of the Church, their behavior would also be accepted and they would not have to suffer from any of the negative consequences associated with their actions.

For the devout Catholic, allowing a family member to bring his homosexual partner into the family home, or to attend family functions, would legitimatize the relationship and send a message to the children, grandchildren, and other family members that the gravely sinful behavior of the “couple” was acceptable.  In addition, over time, the family would become more familiar with the “partner” and, in most cases, would grow to like and respect him.  This emotional attachment to the partner would naturally cause the family members to accept and justify the homosexual behavior as being good for both of the partners.

I’ve never had to deal with a situation where a family member has come out as being homosexual; however, over the years, Georgette and I have had to refuse to attend some family weddings because of Church teachings concerning scandal.  I can tell you that it was very painful for everyone involved.  What I am suggesting here is not easy.  Our Lord warned us about the crosses we would have to carry.  Unfortunately, this is one of the crosses we may have to carry in the future if we want to remain faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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6 Responses to “How To Deal With A Gay Family Member”

  1. Hakuna Matata Says:

    I think you and the catholic church views are messed up. You all claim to be so Godly but yet your kind is the most judgmental type of people. I thought the “amazing catholic” religion says you shouldn’t judge others, but if someone is different that is all you do. It’s pretty obvious by this blog post you are scared that a close member of your family may be a homosexual. I’m not quite sure how I came across your post but I’m sure sorry I did. It’s to bad you have never had to “deal” with a homosexual family member but it would definitely show everyone just how disgusting you are. Maybe before you start pointing fingers at others you should take a good look within yourself and see how you can become a better person. Just because you may disagree with others lifestyle or view point doesn’t mean that it should be shunned. You mentioned not attending family weddings – how do you suppose it made those family members feel? You weren’t setting an example for others to follow you were placing judgement on them. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t God the only perfect being the only one able to judge? But yet, he doesn’t. Maybe you should listen more than you think when you are at mass; open your heart to feel empathy for others instead of mere disgust. When I grew up I was forced into being a catholic, luckily I realized it was a joke and just is a brainwashing type of religion that looks down upon everything. I’m not gay and I think it’s gross but it’s not my job to judge and based on how you speak and think you shouldn’t even be entitled to an opinion. I’m pretty sure if God was in front of you right now he would be extremely disgusted. So in ending I hope oneday you realize what kind of sick and twisted man you are. If you were a real man you would actually leave this post and not delete it do other people who feel the same as I do will express their opinions.

  2. Born Lutheran Says:

    That is a great response to an ignorant blog. Step off your soapbox and stop hiding behind your catholic religion! The problem with you is that you have put yourself in a position above Christ himself. Christ touched lepers, he protected prostitutes,he lived and worked among sinners, had you have lived in the time of Christ you would have been one to hang him to a cross, yet you blog about being a Christian? Read the bible and practice what the words say to do and I bet you won’t be able to call yourself a catholic anymore.

  3. Hakuna Matata Says:

    Very well put. I completely agree with what you said.

  4. David Williams Says:

    If you people do not like what the author has to say, do not read it or just ignore it. The comments you are spewing are more hateful than the article. You are judging him saying that he needs to change his ways and is not entitled to an opinion. If you are SO accepting of the way people act or behave, why do you criticize the author for his opinion and way of life. At least he was respectful with the way he wrote and did not attack or berate anyone. If you think that the Catholic Church teaches acceptance and tolerance of people, you are right; however, the Church does not teach acceptance and tolerance of certain behaviors such as sins. Acting on homosexual urges is a sin just like theft, murder, or adultery. You both need to reassess your way of thinking and quit being so intolerant of the author.

  5. Hakuna Matata Says:

    David,

    Based on your response you must also be an ignorant catholic. Defending your cult like beliefs instead of actually understanding what I had written. I feel sorry for you. It’s good to know you feel homosexuals should be charged with hard crimes and it’s just as bad as murder. However comparing those two would be like me comparing you to a murder for being an idiot. I express my freed of speech when I do not agree with things just as you have done. I am entitled to my own opinion just as you and the author are. The difference is I down shove religion down people’s throat. You must be simple minded for how easily you have been brainwashed. My God help you.

  6. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Harry, I have not been able to bring up my emails for a couple of weeks, so have missed your message until tonight, the 10th, I’m not sure what the internet problems in my computer are, but for some reason, I was able to get yours to come up tonight.
    I read with sorrow two of the three comments which followed your message above. All commentors speak for themselves, as each of your messages has always affirmed that you do. I pray daily for each one whose life has met mine.

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