How should we respond in conversations that go against Church teaching?

When people in your everyday life—family, friends, coworkers—bring things up in conversation that aren’t in line with Church teaching, what should you do? Many of us have wondered about this. We might work with someone who is going through IVF treatments, have a friend whose sister has decided to move in with her boyfriend, or have a cousin who tells us about their son in a same-sex relationship. In situations such as these, do we need to speak up and tell the person what our beliefs state about such actions? If we don’t say anything, do we seem to support the behavior that goes against our conscience?

This was on the mind of Stephanie, who called Father Simon SaysTM from Missouri to ask: “I have a boss whose daughter is in a same-sex relationship and is going through the process of adopting a child. My boss brings this up in conversation at work regularly; kind of excited she’s going to be a grandmother. I was wondering if you could advise me how to respond? And a little bit of context—I work in health care so there’s a lot of regulations of how I’m supposed to behave regarding those kinds of topics.”

“You get the movie Man for All Seasons and watch it. It’s a 1960s movie and it’s of course Thomas More trying to deal with an illegitimate relationship on the part of his boss, Henry VIII; eventually they cut his head off. I don’t want them to cut your head off, but on the other hand, I think it’s good advice,” suggested Father Richard Simon.

At times, we are called to speak up, especially when we are close to the person and feel that we can lovingly discuss such a topic with them. In other situations, such as talking with your boss at work, silence can be a good thing. “The child is most certainly not to blame for the sins of the parents. Every child deserves two parents—a mother and a father—and that’s an optimal situation and of course that’s no longer the through the looking-glass current morality of the time. So you need say nothing about the parents, their situation, and when you’re shown a picture of the baby, you can say, ‘What a lovely child. You must love her very much.’ You know, that kind of thing,” explained Fr. Simon.

Some people strongly desire approval for sinful behavior. If you’re ever put in a position where someone pushes you to tell them how you feel about a situation and you’re in an environment where it’s not appropriate to discuss, Father Simon gives the following advice: “But if she ever point-blank asks you, what do you think about my daughter’s relationship, I would say, ‘It’s not my place to comment on it.’ … If she insists on it, say, ‘Do you want my opinion, or do you want my permission?’ And just say, ‘I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation for a workplace.’ And use that blessed word ‘appropriate’ and then you put her on the defensive. If you call something inappropriate, people back off like it’s an electric fence.”

Come, Holy Spirit, inspire our minds and our hearts to speak the truth with love and charity. And give us the strength to be silent, when necessary.