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“Ask a Priest: As a Social Worker, How Can I Approach LBGTQ People?”
Q: As a Catholic and a new social worker, how do I approach LGBTQ people? The Catechism says they are living in sin, and my job description says I can’t tell them they are wrong. But I can’t condone the lifestyle or advocate for a transgender who wants to be allowed to do things or go places that are meant for the opposite sex. I don’t hate LGBTQ people, but aside from that I have no idea what Jesus would tell me to do. – Charles
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You raise one of the more pressing and more complex questions in pastoral work. I wish there were a simple answer.
How we respond to people in a given situation depends on a lot of factors, which need to be weighed prudently at the moment.
Perhaps it might be good to consider a multifaceted approach to the problem.
First, remember the words of Our Lord, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The Commandments, including those dealing with chastity, express truth and are meant to lead people to happy and holy lives.
Second, try to think out ahead of time about what you can and cannot do in good conscience. There might be ways of nudging someone toward the truth without compromising your own beliefs.
Here, you will need to be on guard. If you work for a secular organization or a government agency, you might find yourself being pressured to conform to the ways of the world.
It will be good to step back frequently and see how and whether you can continue in the job without going against your faith. You will need to have in mind a line that you will not cross.
For guidance you might want to seek out a solid, regular confessor or spiritual director.
Third, you might want to start reading up on Church documents that help you grasp key principles. One example is a Vatican statement on pastoral care of homosexuals.
Also helpful would be to keep an eye on Catholic media outlooks, such as Catholic Answers, the National Catholic Register, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. They have occasional articles related to your question.
If remaining in your current position becomes untenable, you might consider shifting into an area that is more overtly Catholic, such as therapy that incorporates Church teaching. Points of reference include Divine Mercy University and Catholic Therapists.
The LGBTQ thing is still relatively new, and people are still searching for the best ways to deal with the issue in a compassionate way that is in line with the Gospel.
Be sure to cultivate a solid prayer life and sacramental life yourself. This will help you be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, whose guidance will be indispensable.
And be sure to pray for all the people you have met or will meet in your work.
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