View all Ask a Priest | November 29, 2016
“Ask a Priest: What If My Girlfriend Is Pro-“Gay Marriage” and I’m Not?”
Q: I have been giving a lot of thought to marrying my girlfriend of five years. But recently we have been arguing about a very personal topic: gay marriage and homosexual attractions (LGBT attractions to be more precise, but I am just saying homosexual for short). I am worried that this is something that will eventually tear our relationship apart. In the past few months, two of my girlfriend’s very good friends have come out and told her that they experience homosexual attractions. One of these girls is in a relationship with another girl. My girlfriend is Catholic, but she cannot bring herself to believe that people who experience homosexual attractions should not marry or act on these attractions. She is supportive of her friends’ relationship. I myself sometimes grapple with this teaching as well, but deep down, I think my heart is in alignment with the Catholic Church’s teaching. I have discussed this with my girlfriend twice, but both times the discussion got emotional and did not seem to go anywhere. She said to me one day, “What if we get married and our kid turns out to be gay? I’m not going to tell him that he cannot act on those feelings.” This caused me a good bit of concern. We weren’t even able to talk much the next few days because we both got so emotionally invested in the conversation. I do love my girlfriend’s friends who experience homosexual attractions, and I actually like them too. They have good hearts, and I am afraid of what they will think of me when they find out where I stand. I also know this will be very hard on my girlfriend since these two friends are close with her (one will be her roommate soon). I am even more afraid that this disagreement will break us apart. But I am also afraid of siding with her, because I will feel like I am abandoning Christ. I don’t know what to do, and neither does my girlfriend. I was hoping you could offer me some advice. –P.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I applaud the sincerity of you and your girlfriend, and the ability of both of you to speak openly about your differences on this issue.
It is far better that you are discovering and airing your differences now, rather than trying to sweep them under the carpet. Eventually the differences would resurface — and if this happens after a wedding day, those unresolved splits could cause huge tensions within a marriage.
Church teaching in this area of same-sex behavior is based not just on Revelation but on a very sensible anthropology that used to be regarded as common sense. Marriage is between a man and a woman, and part of their natural complementarity leads to new life.
It is probably hard for many people, especially those who have grown up on social media, to realize how bizarre this talk about homosexuality, etc., is within the scope of human history. The idea of same-sex “marriage” and transgender issues, etc., would have been unthinkable to just about every culture in every age in the history of the world.
But enough of the big picture. What about you and your girlfriend?
You have discovered a big divide between your views and hers on homosexual behavior. Here you would need to weigh the implications of this chasm.
Marriage and the right use of sex are fundamental pillars of a healthy society. They are serious, life-shaping phenomena — the kind of things on which spouses ideally should see eye to eye.
Do you foresee your friend changing her ideas? And if not, could you live with that the rest of your life?
What will you do about the presence of her openly homosexual friends in your life? Your friend’s homosexual roommate will likely be a fixture on the scene for a while. Would you be comfortable with that?
More generally, the presence of openly homosexual friends and your own friend’s support of the gay lifestyle will be realities that you can’t ignore. These realities will shape conversations and your own social life.
Will you be prepared to have the homosexual roommate and her partners join you and your girlfriend for social events? Will you and your friend feel obliged to invite them to Christmas parties and birthday parties? Are you prepared to go out to dinners and movies as a foursome?
These are questions worth considering now, because sooner or later you might face them. And in the course of events your own beliefs will be put to the test.
Wiggle room is limited here. Certainly we can and should be charitable to people with same-sex attractions; they are, after all, sons and daughters of God like the rest of us. But where will you draw the line between charity and compromise?
Beware of showing false compassion. Real charity demands that we try to share the Gospel with others, in loving ways. The Church understands that people who experience same-sex attraction will not reach fulfillment if they act on those feelings, since the feelings are objectively disordered. The Church holds clearly to this teaching precisely because she wants the best for each of her children.
Same-sex couples who engage in sexual intimacy are doing damage to themselves, to each other, and to the society. They might not intend that damage, but the damage is done anyway. The true path toward fulfillment, happiness and holiness for people who experience same-sex attraction is the path of chastity and, in many cases, of healing the wounds that are at the root of their sexual inclinations.
The Catechism is worth quoting here:
“2358 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.”
“2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
These numbers highlight the very compassionate and hopeful message that underlies Church teaching on homosexuality. Trying to hide our beliefs so that people “accept” us is a dead-end. We end up compromising our own beliefs. Or else we live a kind of double life, appearing one way to some people, another way to others. These avenues eventually lead to disaster.
Then there is the matter of a possible future marriage to your girlfriend. She has already stated where she stands if a child turned out to be gay. Would she attend a same-sex wedding? Would she invite the child and the partner to spend the night in the same bedroom in your home? What would you say to that?
Your quandary is a sign of the times. Each one of us is at a fork in the road, and each has to decide which way to go. Jesus warned us that the right path would be a narrow one and not easy to follow.
This is a moment to ask: If your girlfriend holds to her views, would you be comfortable with the idea of her being the mother of your children someday? Would you be comfortable with her as the first moral teacher of your children?
Perhaps you would want to continue to take all this to prayer and see where the Holy Spirit is leading you. Pray for your girlfriend. And consider viewing “The Third Way” together.
I hope that you choose well. Count on my prayers.