“Ask a Priest: Can I Be Friends With Someone With Different Political Views?”

Q: Can a Catholic be friends with someone who believes and supports people and things that are contrary to the faith? I am a student at a community college, and I had a professor and adviser who was like my only support at the school. She was kind and more like a friend to me. She never beat me up for my views or religion in class. Recently I found out that she thinks President Obama was great, which tells me what she stands for. I wish I could still be friends with her, but I feel like our friendship would not be complete because what is so important to me (my faith) would not be so important to her and that really makes it hard. What would be the best thing to do? Can I still be friends with her? If I must I will cut the line for the sake of my faith. I already pray for her daily. – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You can certainly be friends with someone who has different political views and who supports political figures who don’t appeal to you. The important thing is to see what binds you deeply. You are both beloved daughters of God. You both have the image of God in you.

There is nothing that automatically says this professor is or isn’t Christian because of her view about one political leader or another. She might support a political leader for his backing of things that could be in line with Catholic teaching. So don’t be too quick to judge her motives. And it might not be good to think of any given leader as “contrary to the faith.” That isn’t a label that the Church applies to anyone.

At any rate, it is rare to find a political leader who espouses policies perfectly in line with Catholic social doctrine. Still, people are free to support less-than-perfect candidates and leaders, so long as it isn’t for the wrong reasons.

You don’t mention if your friend is Catholic or even Christian, which also needs to be taken into account. People outside Catholicism or Christianity might not have a lot of knowledge of moral issues, through no fault of their own.

The key thing here is that you don’t compromise your own beliefs. So long as your friend knows where you stand on important moral issues, such as abortion and marriage, you can still have a good friendship with her. Your presence in her life might even help her discover the beauty of Catholic teaching. Although she is a professor, you could be her teacher in this case. Perhaps part of your mission is to evangelize your friend.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that Pope St. John Paul II maintained friendships with atheists and Jewish people throughout his life. That shows us that we have can friendships with those who don’t share our faith, though we must be sure to also have deep friendships with people who do share our faith, lest we drift away from the Lord.

On a broader note, it is good to remember that real, practicing Christians are becoming a smaller part of many countries. We will have to learn how to deal with a secular world, not unlike the early Christians did in ancient Rome. This is why we need to stay close to Christ and the sacraments.

And remember, people can support political figures for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps some of your friend’s reasons are valid. At any rate no politician is likely to be perfect in terms of Christian values. This is another reality we need to deal with.

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