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“Ask a Priest: How Can I Help a Pair of Gay Friends?”
Q: I became Catholic when I was in undergrad, but before my conversion I met Joyce, who instantly became like an “adopted” mother to me. She was there for me in a time when I was separated from my family, and she and her partner became my “adopted” moms and I love them dearly. Over the past year my life has completely changed, and my relationship with God has grown immensely. Now I am on the discernment path of becoming a religious sister or a consecrated woman. Recently Joyce had a serious medical crisis, and it started to hit me about her and her partner living in sin as Catholics. What am I expected to say to them? Is it enough to love them and pray to God that God can transform their hearts and minds? If the answer is for me to share the concern, I am terrified of losing them because they have been such an important part of my life and really are “adopted” moms. I don’t know what to do. But I want to be living my life true to the Catholic Church and its teachings. Any thoughts you could share would be greatly appreciated. – C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good to hear that your relationship with God has grown immensely.
You mention that Joyce and her partner helped you at a critical time of your time. Maybe now is the time when you can return the favor.
Obviously, you understand that their relationship is not within God’s plans. So it would be important not to give the impression that you support their lifestyle. You can love them as people without acquiescing to their domestic situation.
So where do you draw the line — should you dine with them? go on an afternoon outing with them? These decisions aren’t so easy.
Certainly, you would need to intensify your prayers for them and to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.
You might try to consider whether one or the other is open to the Church’s teaching in the area of sexuality.
It might help to do some background reading first.
Two suggested books would be: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church and A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. While geared toward a specific audience, the latter book can give you insights into the roots of same-sex attraction. Also helpful could be a video “The Third Way.”
It is good to remember that when we truly love someone, we want the best for them.
Helping people to draw closer to Christ and to live the Gospel is a key way we show our love. So anything you can do to help Joyce and her friend move toward a chaste life would be a true act of charity.
In the short run you might want to see if there is anything you should change in your own behavior.
For instance, if you visit them frequently and eat with them, what kind of message are you sending? Do they interpret your visits as your way of reaffirming them in their lifestyle? Or do they understand your reservations?
If you want to broach the subject of the moral dimension of their relationship, but don’t feel comfortable doing it with both of them at the same time, you might consider a private meeting with Joyce first, to discuss your concerns.
You could remind her of your love for her and your gratitude for her support. You might share how your relationship with her helped you a lot. Perhaps some of this will help set the stage for the tougher topic you want to address.
And addressing it might be easier than you think. It could be as simple as asking the two of them how they, as Catholics, reconcile their homosexual lifestyle with the teachings of Jesus.
Sincerely asking that question and sincerely listening to their answer could be a fruitful step forward. You don’t have to “solve” everything right away.
For them to be open to hear what you want to say about it, they need to know that you are sincerely open to hear what they have to say — that you really care about them and respect them. Similarly, we can still be friends with people who are Hindu, even though we neither share nor endorse their religious beliefs.
Likewise, a friendship like the one you describe can — at least in theory — endure some strong disagreements. The important thing is for you to be able to be honest, and for you to understand why it is that their lifestyle choice is, in the end, not good for them.
Again, intensify your prayer in the meantime. Offer up Masses and rosaries, so that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of Joyce and her friend.
And be prepared — your message might not be well-received. If it isn’t, keep calm. Give Joyce a chance to tell her side of things.
People in same-sex relationship often struggle with childhood memories of rejection (or perceptions of rejection) or even abuse. So it is crucial that Joyce senses that you are motivated by love and not by judgmentalism.
One other suggestion: Be sure that you are networking with faithful Catholics. It is easier to live the faith within a community of believers. This is especially important if you are considering a life of consecration.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers for you and your friends.
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Here is the link for the Catholic Courage program that helps a person with same sex attraction to live a chaste life. This would be helpful for someone to read before getting into a discussion with the person that you want to talk to. There is a brochure that one can print out to give to that person.