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“Ask a Priest: What If My Gay Brother Is Pushing His Views on My Children?”
Q: My gay brother recently married his partner and is very disappointed that my wife and I have not congratulated them on their wedding. More recently, his disappointment at my silence and non-judgment has turned to anger, and the last time we were together as a family at Easter, he threw out the topic of homophobia, making an indirect accusation against my wife and me in front of our very impressionable young children. My 9-year-old blurted out, “What’s homophobia?” My sense, is that he would like to script our children against my wife and my beliefs. As the holiday season approaches my wife and I have decided not to attend any shared family dinners this season, where my brother and his partner are in attendance. Looking to what’s best for my children, I think that this seems the best option. However, it pains me greatly to have to disrupt my family dynamic especially with my other siblings. Most in my family are quite liberal, and so in essence my choice will no doubt not only distance my own family from my gay brother, who I otherwise love and respect, but it’s quite likely that my other siblings will side with my gay brother to more broadly exclude my wife and children from future invitations. I am prepared to bear this and any cross to give my children the best formation and shot at eternal salvation that I can, but just want to make sure I’m not overreacting. Am I doing the right thing, or should I have more faith that God is in charge and that my children’s occasional exposure to alien ideas will not determine their formation and salvation? –M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I applaud you for trying to raise your children as Christians. Your difficulty with the family members, unfortunately, is becoming more common.
It would be good to continue focusing on the most important relations of your life. First comes God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Then comes your wife and children. Your other family members come afterward.
It sounds as if your brother’s conscience is bothering him a lot. It is understandable if you want to avoid family get-togethers where there is a danger of blow-ups and scandal to your children. Perhaps you can communicate in other ways (phone calls, e-mails) with family members, reminding them of your love for them and assuring them of your prayers. Then see where things go.
There are no guarantees that they will change, but at least you can control the things in your own home.
As for your children, it is good to remember that helping them on their way to salvation doesn’t necessarily mean trying to shelter them in a bubble. That is probably impossible anyway. Rather, you are called to form them to be responsible adults who can stand up to the slings and arrows of the world. To that end, it would be helpful to dialogue with them and, in this case, teach them, in an age-appropriate way, about sexuality and its part within God’s plan for humanity. There are resources that can give you ideas, such the Theology of the Body series.
As for dealing with your brother, considering the violence and intolerance of his reactions, it seems that you and your wife have made the right decision.
By the way, the video “The Third Way” might help put things in perspective.