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“Ask a Priest: Being in a Same-Sex Union, Can I Return to the Church?”
Q: I have been away from the Church for 15 years. I would like to return to the Church and take Communion, but I know I must confess my mortal sins first. How do I approach confession after so long? Also, I am in a same-sex marriage. Is there a way for me to return to the Church in the first place? – R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
It is good that you feel a desire to return to the practice of your Catholic faith, and to be able to partake of Communion again. Even when we are away from the sacraments for a while, the Church still considers us her sons. And Jesus himself says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one lost sheep who returns than over 99 who have no need of repentance (Luke 15:7).
Receiving Communion, as you mentioned, means being in a state of grace (no mortal sins). So after 15 years of being away, a good confession would be one of the key first steps.
One of the ingredients for making a good confession is to have contrition for one’s sins. No. 1451 of the Catechism says, “Contrition is ‘sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.'”
The “resolution not to sin again” means that we have to make an effort to break with sin. In the case of someone in a same-sex union, that would require ending the relationship and separating from the other person.
This would be required for your own spiritual benefit, which is what the Church is concerned about here.
The Catechism in 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.”
Out of a sense of love and duty, the Church teaches that homosexual acts “‘are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” (Catechism, 2357).
The Church understands that there is a lot of confusion today about the right use of sexuality. It also knows that God has a plan for sexuality, and that it is meant to unite a man and woman within the bond of marriage.
So the first question would be: Are you willing to break with this relationship? That would be a prerequisite for making a good confession and receiving Communion.
This will require a radical change in your life. Perhaps you are ready for this change, perhaps not.
At least for now it would be helpful to make time for prayer each day. Pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for help. Feel free to attend Mass, even if you can’t receive Communion. Just hearing the readings and the prayers and the homilies might help you on your spiritual journey.
Perhaps you might seek out a local pastor and, if you aren’t ready for that radical break, at least speak with him about your situation.
The Church is here to help you each step of the way. Sometimes the road back home seems difficult. But with the grace of God anything is possible.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.