A common, but unfortunate, misconception in our culture is that the Catholic Church hates gay people. This is, of course, untrue. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph #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.
But even Catholics who know the Church’s teaching have a hard time knowing how to apply this teaching in their own lives, and in their own families.
Father Mike Schmitz, a priest for the Diocese of Duluth and a popular speaker, recently released the book Made for Love: Same-Sex Attractions and the Catholic Church to share the Catholic teaching on homosexuality as one of truth and compassion.
Fr. Mike recently stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ to discuss his book and take calls from listeners who are experiencing this in their own lives.
For Catholics, the tension with this topic often comes in knowing how to balance truth and compassion. So where do we start?
“This is not about tolerance, it is about love,” Fr. Mike said. “And one of the things we do when it comes to the opposite of love is we start making distinctions. And those distinctions are ‘us’ and ‘them.’ No. There’s just us. … Because we’re really talking about people. And that’s where we have to start.”
In fact, real people are the reason that Fr. Mike decided to write Made for Love. He told the story of speaking with a mom whose high school son experienced same-sex attraction. Before coming out to his mother, he would cry to her and tell her that no one really knew him or loved him. After reassuring her son that he was loved by many people, her son told her that if she really knew who he was she wouldn’t love him anymore.
“That was his experience growing up in a truly loving, Catholic home, with this fear that ‘If you knew you wouldn’t love me anymore,'” Fr. Mike said. “And that’s the reason I wrote this book. Because we can’t be silent for our brothers and sisters, our friends who say that if we’re Catholic and we know this about them, we won’t love them anymore.”
During the conversation, Fr. Mike offered some guidance for parents whose children come out to them.
“I know there’s a lot of fear,” he said. “Not only the fear of stuff in this life, but there’s also the eternal fear where we recognize that people’s actions have a consequence to them.”
“But I really want people to recognize what your first role is,” Fr. Mike continued. “If a person you love comes to you and says that this is part of their experience, I encourage you to make it your first response to be there to listen.”
Fr. Mike also asked parents to remember that while they may have fears, their child likely also has fears of his or her own.
“There is a great act of trust when a child will come to a mom and dad or their sibling and say this is part of their experience,” he said. “And what they’re waiting for is for you to be what they feared you would be. They’re waiting for you to say they can’t come back home, they have to leave, all these kinds of things. And so the first thing that I always encourage people to do is just be calm, and realize this is part of their story.”
“The thing is, when they share this part of their story with you, they may believe in their heart of hearts that what they’re saying resets the deck. They think, ‘This might actually disqualify me from my mother’s love.’ And what I would encourage you to do is address that right away.”
But where should a parent go from there?
“Now, after that is shared, I think there is room to ask questions,” Fr. Mike said. “I think there is room to ask, ‘What are you going to do?’ It’s not accusatory. I think in many ways, we make people feel powerless when we say, ‘OK, this is your experience. Therefore, this is your identity.’ And that’s so profoundly disastrous. We don’t do that in any other area of our lives. Have more respect for them than to reduce their experience to their identity. Don’t take away their agency, don’t take away their power, because they are far more than this.”
Fr. Mike also stressed that for those with homosexual tendencies, the Church is not condemning them to a lifetime of misery and loneliness.
“This is not a death sentence, and I think one of the messages we have to give people,” said Fr. Mike. “That this is a reality, but it doesn’t mean you are condemned to loneliness, to shame, to non-love. This is part of your reality, but it is not a death sentence.”
“There are so many men and women who are faithful Catholics and experience same-sex attraction. Yes, this is part of their story, this is what they might identify as a cross. But it is not the end of their lives. They are very, very happy and very fulfilled.”
Listen to the full conversation with Fr. Mike Schmitz here.