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“Ask a Priest: What If My Daughter Supports Same-Sex Marriage?”
Q: I had a huge fight with my daughter. She posted on Facebook how anyone not accepting of the Supreme Court’s ruling [on same-sex marriage] is full of hatred. I was trying to explain that Christians’ belief, through God’s word, is that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, she indicated it does not state anything in the Bible. I disagreed with her. She has informed me she believes homosexuality in her mind is not a sin — and/or if you are living in a perpetual sin, as long as you accept Jesus as your savior, you are saved. I believe it is a sin and that while you sin you are turning away from Jesus and God’s law. Especially in this case, because a person is not asking for Jesus’ mercy by sinning perpetually. Can you explain if the act of homosexuality is a sin? And is it a perpetual sin as long as someone participates in it? Can we sin and, as long as we believe that Jesus Christ is our savior, be saved? -S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Your situation with your daughter points up the generational divide that marks our epoch. She seems to have absorbed a lot of the secular worldview promoted by the media — hence her demonizing of those who disagree with her on same-sex marriage.
As to your specific questions, permit me to quote two biblical passages that pertain to homosexual acts and to folks who continue to live in sin.
One is from Romans 1:27, “The males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”
The second is from the lips of Our Lord: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
In other words, homosexual acts are objectively sinful. And folks who continue to live in sin, even though they profess Jesus as Lord, are risking the eternal loss of heaven.
It is worth noting that the Catechism makes a special plea in the first case. No. 2358 says, “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.”
This number from the Catechism helps us make an important distinction that maybe you and your daughter can agree on. To experience same-sex attraction is in itself not a sin — it is something that happens, the causes of which are still not fully grasped. To experience those feelings is something that someone doesn’t choose, so the person is not responsible for them.
To freely decide to act out those feelings of attraction by engaging in sexual acts with someone of the same gender, however, is something else entirely. To do that freely, knowing that God’s design for sexuality is different, would be to purposely go against God’s loving plan for one’s life. That is a sin. But it is not an unforgivable sin.
The Church doesn’t teach that every person who experiences same-sex attraction is unspeakable and despicable. Not at all. The Church points out that the path of homosexual activity will not lead to the fulfillment that God envisions for us; it goes against God’s plan and our true good as human beings. Those distinctions can be very helpful in conversations about this topic.
It’s unlikely that those two biblical verses will change your daughter’s mind. What is needed is a prolonged period of dialogue and prayer. No doubt, you could poke lots of holes in her arguments, but that might be counterproductive. This is a moment to remind her of your love for her. Perhaps she will remember that she herself is a fruit of the kind of marriage that God envisioned when he created man and woman.
You might find it helpful to read this interview with Joseph Prever, a man who experiences same-sex attraction but who is also a faithful Catholic. He also appears in a powerful video called “The Third Way,” which you and your daughter could watch.
Remember to keep praying, too. It will take a special work of the Holy Spirit to bring your daughter around to seeing things through the eyes of faith.