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.