A Family Member Has Come Out As Gay. How Should I Respond?

A Family Member Has Come Out As Gay. How Should I Respond?

The common (and unfortunate)  perception of our culture is that the Catholic Church hates gay people. This is untrue, but the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is often misunderstood because it rejects both anti-gay bigotry and the unconditional endorsement of homosexual activity.

And this misunderstanding isn’t just for non-Catholics. Many Catholics find it difficult to know how to navigate relationships with loved ones who are gay. Fortunately, more and more people are coming forward who both experience same-sex attraction and love the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. They are able to provide valuable insight to help Catholics understand the complexity around this controversial topic, while sharing the truth in the Church’s teaching.

One such person is Rilene Simpson, who spent most of her adult life living as an atheist in a same-sex relationship. She returned to the Catholic Church in 2009, and since then has been telling her story at conferences, was featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hillsand will soon have a television special on EWTN.

Rilene stopped by The Kristine Franklin Show recently and answered some important questions on how to approach homosexuality as a Catholic.

What would you say to somebody who experiences same-sex attraction, but they’ve never acted upon it? Maybe they feel shame, confusion, maybe pressure from peers – what would you advise them to do?

I think there are important things to keep in mind. We always make three points when we’re talking about this in the context of the Catholic faith.

First of all, as far as the Catholic faith is concerned, we’re dealing with persons, inclination, and activity, and all of those need to be separate. So as a person, you are a child of God. You are made in the image and likeness of God, and God loves you. And it doesn’t matter what feelings you have or what your inclinations are. That is the primary thing to keep in mind for anybody who is experiencing same-sex attraction.

The second thing the Church teaches is the fact that although the inclination is off-course, because our course is oriented toward the opposite sex, that’s not in itself a sin. Having the feelings or having the inclination is not a sin, but some activities are.

So for instance, behaving sexually with someone would be a sin, or even thinking about things in such a way that feeds the inclination and makes it grow. But those are things that you can take to Confession, you can take them to your confessor (and please find a good confessor).

This teaching is not really what the world thinks the Catholic Church teaches. It really is a beautiful teaching: the person is always good; the feelings, although off-course, are not sinful; and avoid the activities or behaviors because that would be sinful and put you in jeopardy or danger.

For any adult, I would hope that you would get in contact with your local Courage chapter. And if there is no Courage chapter, contact Courage International and help them get a Courage chapter in your diocese.

What should parents do if their child tells them he/she is gay?

When that conversation happens, you will not be expecting it probably. But you have to kick in to that parental wisdom that you’ve had in all these other circumstances where your child has done something or is injured in some way. … You never let your panic take over, you never got upset and started crying in front of your child, right? What you said was, ‘It’s alright dear. We’re going to take care of this, we’re going to work through this, I love you, I’m going to take care of you.’ Right?

And so the same thing has to apply in this situation. I know you’ll be feeling panicked, upset, thinking ‘What did I do wrong?’ because that’s something that happens with every parent I’ve ever talked to. But please just suppress all that and be a parent at that point. Be loving toward your child and assure your child that regardless of this situation you love your child. Assure your child that you will always love her, that you will be with her, that you will support her, that you care about her in every way, and let’s talk more about this.

You don’t have to beat them over the head with the Catechism or anything, you can just say, ‘Dear, I hear that you’re in pain over this, and let’s talk about it.’ And just calmly, quietly engage in asking good questions, having a conversation.

What the culture tells people is that your parents are going to flip out, they’re going to be yelling and screaming at you, they’re going to kick you out of the house; and so even if you are inclined to do those things, you need to reign it in. You can get some good support somewhere else. Because your child needs to know that you love them, and that’s the primary thing.

The second step would be to contact Encourage, which is a ministry under the Courage ministry who will put you in touch with a (hopefully) local group of parents who are going through the same thing. This is an area that is just exploding with interest. … Parents are in pain and it is something that society doesn’t recognize – the pain of the parent. But as a parent you just have to be understanding and calm, and you can talk about God’s teaching and so on later, or you can talk about it and say, ‘You know this doesn’t fit with the way that I believe, but that’s not going to get in the way of my love for you.’

Listen to the full interview with Rilene on The Kristine Franklin Show, and watch others share their stories of how they navigate faith and homosexuality in the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills.