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“Ask a Priest: What to Do About a Son Who Thinks He Is Gay?”
Q: I am really struggling here. My 18-year-old son believes he’s gay. Personally I don’t believe he knows; he’s only been on two dates in high school with girls and, in my opinion, there was a lot of immaturity on both sides. When he first shared this idea with me a few months ago, I initially cried and cautioned him to proceed slowly and to remember God’s call to remain chaste and sexually pure. I tried to raise a Christian home. He went to Catholic schools, and our family was active at church. Now, his older sister informs me that he’s gone to gay dating sites and is actively pursuing same-sex dating. How do I come to grips with this challenge in my family? When I prayed about it — here are the images that came to mind but I would greatly appreciate someone praying for me and my home. I was also reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. How much I want to be that father and let my son go off, sow his wild oats, and welcome him when he returns, but oh it’s so hard for me to do that. But right now I’m so filled with guilt. What did I do wrong in raising this child? How do I refrain from being preachy and watch him go on this course? I pray constantly for God’s protection and intervention in my son’s life but how do I make this commitment practical in the daily business at home and still be mom and minister to my wayward child? -T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: My heart goes out to you. It must be very painful to have a son going through this difficulty and to think that he might be actively pursuing this kind of lifestyle.
It is good to remember that God, like you, will always love your son. His grace and mercy will be available for your son.
And don’t beat up on yourself. It might not be the case that you “did anything wrong.” In fact, adolescents and young adults not infrequently have problems about their sexual identity. People are complicated, and original sin has made the area of sexuality one of the perennial problem spots of the human condition. The wider culture hasn’t helped either, especially the way the media often glorify homosexuality.
I also want to affirm your instinct that he might not really know at this point — it is well attested that teenagers often go through ambiguous periods as they come to grips with their sexuality. It is important to try to avoid dangerous experimentation during those periods. See, for example, Frank Moncher’s article.
So what should you do? What can you do?
Focus, first and foremost, on what is within your control: your prayer life and sacramental life, your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, your confidence in Jesus. Continue to offer up your prayers and sacrifices for your son. If you feel that your prayer life needs a boost, consider investing in a good resource like this book by my colleague, The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer.
Then, keep in mind that as an adult, your son will make his own decisions. Be realistic about the influence you can have over him in his day-to-day decisions. In no way, however, should you feel obliged to tolerate anything that goes against your conscience. You shouldn’t feel as if you have to welcome any of his “friends” into your home, if doing so would imply approval of his “alternate lifestyle.”
Now is a moment for tough love. Remind your son of your love for him, and always have confidence that your witnessing to your faith is one of the great acts of love you can do for him.
For further reading, you might want to take a look at this booklet. Scroll down the page and download the booklet “Mom … Dad … I’m Gay: How Should a Catholic Parent Respond?”
I hope some of this helps. Count on you and your family being included in one of my Mass intentions. God bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for you.