My Catholic Kid is Gay! Now What??

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In a previous article, I detailed my ongoing struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA) as I live out my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother. From that perspective, I’d like to share what I think is an authentically loving response to what strikes fear into the hearts of most faithful Catholic parents: your son or daughter coming out as a gay man or lesbian.

As someone who knows this struggle intimately, I’ve thought a great deal about how I would respond to such an admission by my child. Obviously, I’d have a slight advantage over most Catholic mothers because I have my own SSA journey to share. But even beyond that, if my son came to me and confessed to SSA, I would:

  1. Listen to him compassionately and let him unburden his heart without seeing me react in horror, disgust, or disappointment.
  2. Reassure him I love him unconditionally. That he has no reason to be ashamed. That we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. That no cross is more disgusting or better than another.
  3. Ask if he’s considered he might be called to the single life or religious life, which brings with it a deeper union with God than is usually possible in marriage and family. Offer resources about the theology of the body if he hasn’t studied it and it open to it.
  4. Ask if he’d like to seek therapy with a Catholic counselor trained in dealing with SSA. Yes, these people exist and they know how to handle this cross in souls sensitively and with great compassion. As a Catholic, I believe that SSA is a disorder and just as with any disorder, I’d recommend individual counseling.*
  5. If he wants counseling, I’d offer to pay for it. And assure him I have no expectation he will emerge from the experience “cured” of his SSA. That I expect it will be a lifelong cross for him. That I will love him even if he emerges as an on-fire, flaming homosexual drag queen, even if I’m praying for that NOT to happen!
  6. If he chooses not to seek counseling, tell him the option is always there. And assure him, again and again, that I’ll love him no matter what.
  7. Then, I’d drop the subject–unless he asked me to talk about it.
  8. Love him.
  9. Pray for him.
  10. Sacrifice for him.

Our first priest once said, “When people tell you they’re tempted to sin, you pull them close. Once they sin, you pull them closer.” Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine the self-loathing and shame that comes with SSA. So it’s critically important that we as Catholic parents do everything we can to assure our children who have this cross that while we can’t support them having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone of the same sex, we will always, always love them deeply as a person. Jesus loved us “even as we were sinners.” Even when we’re rotten to the core, He still adores us and pursues us. I’d want my son to know I still love his sense of humor, admire his cooking skills, and appreciate his kind soul—regardless of what else he does in his life. This message–that he is more than “gay”–is something he won’t be hearing in the gay subculture.

The single greatest thing we must do if our child struggles with SSA is keep the relationship loving and open. If we worked hard while raising our child to ensure he understands the Church’s teaching about sexuality, then more preaching will only drive a wedge between you and you’ll lose the Catholic influence you could have on his life. When our children have chosen the wrong path, we need to fight their sin with prayer and sacrifice, NOT words. A person who constantly hears he’s disordered will feel deep shame and avoid you, no matter how many times you follow it up with, “But I love you anyway!”

For as long as my son remained chaste, I’d encourage him to remain an active member of our faith. The only reason I’ve been able to maintain a loving, fruitful marriage despite SSA is because of God’s grace. There is no greater weapon in the battle for chastity—for gay or straight people—than the Eucharist and Confession.

But what if my son decided to live openly as a gay man and had a partner? How should we treat our children’s gay and lesbian partners? The answer, for me, is simple: I’d treat the partner with love and respect, too. If we were still raising his younger siblings, I’d privately ask the couple to avoid public displays of affection when around them, because it can be confusing for children. As long as they agreed to that, I’d have my son and his partner as part of all of our family gatherings. His partner would be welcome in our home, because he, too, has that inherent dignity that makes him precious to God. Like my son, he deserves to be loved and respected, too. He deserves to see what Catholicism really is, too.

For those of you who find that idea offensive, let me ask: if your daughter had a child out of wedlock and lived with the child’s father without being married, would you tell your daughter that her child’s father isn’t welcome in your home or at family events? Not likely. You’d love them both, pray for them, and hope your witness speaks to their hearts and leads them to Christ. I’m very disturbed that parents wouldn’t dream of shunning one part of a straight couple that’s living in sin think shunning their child’s gay partner is acceptable.

This isn’t to say there aren’t non-negotiables. If my son asked me to participate in events that would legitimize his relationship with his partner, such as a gay wedding ceremony or gay pride parade, the answer would be a gentle but firm, “NO.” Whether we like it or not, our presence as such events would cause scandal. People would rightly think, “Well, if the practicing Catholics are here, it can’t be all that bad!”

This is all the ideal, of course,  and not every person will accept your attempts to love the sinner but remain a committed Catholic. It seems tolerance of gays and lesbians isn’t good enough anymore…you must celebrate homosexuality or risk being vilified. My son could choose to be one of those “all or nothing” people, who can’t accept that I’m faithful to the Church. He may hold a grudge and try to sabotage our relationship or even cut me out of his life. If he insisted on promoting his choices to me (probably in a misguided attempt to get my approval), he shouldn’t be surprised if our relationship ends up strained and distant.

If he is receptive to a relationship based on mutual respect, however, he ought to know me well enough not to be surprised when I decline to attend the gay pride parade. And a loving, open relationship means he’s more likely to want me in his life even if I’m not his cheerleader. If I can accept and love him as a person, even though I disagree with his morality, why can’t he accept me and love me as a faithful Catholic, even if he thinks I’m wrong? Respect is a two-way street.

We are called to love as Jesus loves–and that means warts and all. One of the most common criticisms of Catholics is that we don’t practice the love we preach. When it comes to having a child with SSA, let your love do the preaching for you.


*By counseling, I’m NOT referring to “conversion therapy,” which is largely a Protestant construct. These programs aim to “cure” SSA through prayer and mental reconditioning. Some of them also use heavy-handed, abusive practices such as electrocution, verbal threats, and humiliation to change the person’s sexual orientation. Homosexuality is a complex pathology and not something consciously chosen by the person. Programs that propose to “pray away the gay” do great harm to souls when the person exits with his SSA intact, and not as the morally upright straight person he’s told God wants him to be. The intensified self-hatred participants feel after “failing” the program too often leads to severe depression, self-destructive behavior, and even suicide.

As a Catholic and as someone who struggles with SSA, I believe wholeheartedly that it IS a disorder, however. And because of that, I would recommend therapy with a sensitive Catholic counselor trained specifically in helping those who bear this cross. I’d recommend the same to any of my children who suffered from a psychological or spiritual disorder that threatens to lead them away from their Catholic faith.

63 Replies to “My Catholic Kid is Gay! Now What??”

  1. I’ve taken this approach (minus the counseling suggestion) with a lesbian friend. She, and all those around her, have taken this as patronizing and I have consequently lost a group of, allegedly Catholic, friends. There is so much animosity towards those who do not validate this behavior that it is difficult to accept this genuine love and compassion.
    Even this approach towards homosexuality is difficult, but as Catholics, it is probably the best way to approach these situations.
    Thanks for this.

  2. I continue to be amazed by this blog. It continues to take on the really tough topics, boldly and unapologetically. Pop culture has become a religion, maybe it always was. But its single tenant, if it feels good do it, is the bane of so many souls.

    I love The Lord of the Rings movie (excuse this moment of intense geek-ness) because to me the ring represents all of our addictions, otherwise known as our destructive passions. Whether it is food, sex, alcohol, drugs, exercise (yup, that’s my problem – ha!) or whatever, our destructive passions will consume us if we let them. Christ is the only way out, and getting there is our journey to Mount Doom where we have to give up everything and surrender to Him.

    Anyway, kudos to this blog and its authors for keeping it real. Every Catholic should dig deep into these posts and reflect on the narrative woven here at Catholic Sistas. What warriors you are for Catholics everywhere!

    Any chance of changing the title and getting some dudes involved?

  3. Catholic Bruthas – you never know. Great article, as usual with this blog. Keep up the good work Ladies, the guys are watching….. Pray that God may inspire a male version of this type of blog, it is only with His help that such a thing could come about.

  4. This is a beautiful soul-touching article. Although, it is aimed at those who have a child who suffers from SSA, it is applicable to so many situations and contains so much comforting and wonderful advice. Anyone could take out SSA and substitute so many other problems and disorders. To love and to give good example, to pray and to care, these are invaluable pieces of advice that anyone could benefit from. Thank you for a touching, beautiful and worthy article. God bless you.

    1. Amen.. I’ve been trying to post a comment to this blog for some time now through my phone! Satan can get thee behind me! god bless all of you I’m going to my computer now where I’ll post another comment and share a little about my story and my struggle with my children. only to have a new struggle in my life God be with us all

  5. I absolutely agree with everything you say on this post and am so heartened by your attitude towards your son. Love and compassion must be central to every catholics treatment of anyone suffering under SSA. May God hear you and be with you and with your son – in the depths.

  6. Thank you for this follow up article. The do’s – be open and loving, accept their partner with special limitations – and don’t – know when to say NO, turning down invitations to gay events – even if might put a wedge between you and your child are all aspects that I learned in a Sociology course where this topic was brought up, whole chapter devoted to it.

  7. Struggling with the idea of embracing the partner. First of all, the difference between a same sex couple and an unmarried heterosexual couple with a child is that the hope is that by embracing the father of the child you will help draw him into a chaste (married) relationship with your daughter. The goal is to help bring them closer together, so you include them as family.

    I don’t see how treating a same sex couple as a married couple will encourage them to have a chaste relationship. I actually see it as having some of the same objections as going to their commitment ceremony. It treats their relationship as something it is not, and in doing so appears to legitimize it.

    Of course I’m not saying we should be rude, and maybe the only way to hold on to the relationship with your child is to include the partner. But then again, Jesus did say: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53

  8. Try to remember, dear ladies, that one is not “gay”. One succumbs to one of the most heinous mortal sins imaginable, a degrading, spiritually devastating sin that will carry them straight to that unending, everlasting torment after their death. Is that the type of “love” you wish to practice on someone?

    For myself, I will work hard to tell them the hard truth because by doing so they will, hopefully, abandon this unnatural vice and seek the Confessional, the first place to start for the healing of body and soul.

    To “accept” them that way, or to “accept” their partners is not helping them. On the contrary. Tough love is what is needed, not sentimentality and a rejection of the only thing that will really and truly help them abandon such horrifying sins. We have to start coming to our senses when we discuss this unspeakable perversion, otherwise there will be no hope for those who are disordered in this fashion.

  9. Some of the above advice is at odds with the actions and advice of the apostles (not to mention the practice of the Church for the next 19 centuries) after the resurrection. If a sinner was obstinate in grave sin despite repeated entreaties, then they were separated from the community. Just sayin…

    Another word of warning: when my father abandoned his family to “re-marry”, a relative who was an amazing nun came up to him, embraced him and told him she loved him. He then took from that that she approved, had her blessing, etc. So it is very difficult to express love/solidarity and be honest about disapproval and the spiritual gravity of the situation.

    Finally, conversion typically comes after we have felt the full horror of our sins after some years. Think of the prodigal son and his isolation. Would the Father have welcomed the son back home if he came back with his prostitutes and party friends? In welcoming the “partner” as well, you are acting on a day to day basis as if everything is ok–or at least that is the impression that seeps in.

  10. Rebecca, I know what you mean. I think it’d be difficult (for me, at least) to find the balance between loving the “partner” as a person made in God’s image, and inadvertently acting as if you truly see the two as a legitimate “couple.” It’s a fine line to walk, and I don’t think the right way to navigate that challenge would be the same for everyone. In other words, whether or not to welcome the couple into your home together is a gray area and I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer for everyone, beyond the fact that both people need to be treated with charity at all times.

  11. As Mary and Richard imply above, beyond full charity and full truth (which is our clear duty), these are prudential matters that have a lot of moving parts/variables. Perhaps one reason our ancestors disagreed with keeping the obstinate sinners in the bosom, was because since this is a spiritual battle something has to give, and what often gives is the will of the parent. America is full of parents who once disagreed with their child’s gay/lesbian lifestyle, but only to “come around” in time as they saw the couple’s relationship first hand. Make no mistake, this is a spiritual battle, and our spiritual enemies are very adept at wearing down faithful Christians. And make no mistake, gay couples are trying to evangelize you, too, and they have a strong hope that you will accept in time. Recent history says the gay couple is usually right. Pax Christi.

  12. Scott W – You brought up an interesting point that I hadn’t really thought about. What is the spiritual effect on us as parents of continually exposing ourselves to the relationship? It know it’s very hard for many people to look upon two people who seem “compatible” (in a secular sense at least – obviously not in a metaphysical sense) and who seem to truly have strong affection and concern for each other, and not have some pangs of doubt about the Church’s teaching. And psychologically speaking, it’s true that the more you are exposed to something, the more accepting of (and even affectionate toward) it you become. This certainly adds a different dimension to the issue that I hadn’t considered before.

  13. The person who said that these are prudential decisions with many nuances is right. Since it’s not possible to address every scenario in one article, I think the overall message stands: speaking the truth in love, but when the truth is not received, love the person anyway.

    The situation I described above–having the gay child and his partner as part of the family events–only works if the gay couple is willing to NOT promote their relationship during those events. It goes beyond PDA; obviously, a couple that keeps making comments about their relationship in the presence of people they know disagree with their choices is trying to be provocative. I watched a gay friend who attended a wedding with my husband and I do this repeatedly when he discovered he was seated with an older man who had forbidden his son to be friends with the gay man.

    Constant references to your homosexuality in mixed company is a clear challenge and it’s doubtful you can achieve the loving, open relationship that’s ideal in this situation if the couple insists on behaving that way. If that happened, I wouldn’t hesitate to limit the time my family spends with both of them. I would likely still visit my son, but I would not risk having them around impressionable younger children. That kind of thing is clearly disrespectful; I wouldn’t expect to be invited back to their home if I repeatedly talked about Catholic sexual morality when visiting, so they can’t reasonably expect me to invite them to my home if they choose to keep challenging me on homosexuality when they’re visiting us.

    If we shunned every person who was actively engaged in mortal sin in our lives, the churches would be virtually empty, especially considering how tolerant we are of straight couples who cohabitate, contracept, sterilize, remarry, etc. There seems to be a double standard when it comes to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and quite honestly, I think it comes down to the visceral “ick” factor a lot of straight Catholics have to their sexual sin. Women seem to have an easier time hating the sin while loving the sinner, but for men especially, what happens between gay men sometimes (understandably, I’ll admit) evokes a deep-rooted disgust that makes that harder.

    Any person who “comes around” to the “gay is okay” position and abandons their Catholic faith’s guidance can’t have been a strong Catholic to begin with, if they’re willing to cede the Church’s authority on a moral issue to get along with someone.If a gay child is openly hostile to the Catholic faith, then it’s doubtful the parent can have a loving relationship with him and the partner.

    We do our best to have a warm relationship with those in the abortion industry and we don’t worry about whether our loving kindnesses will be interpreted as “support” for their choices. And that strategy—loving them when arguments fail to convince—has proven dramatically effective in reaching their hearts. These are people who made a CHOICE to end the lives of unborn children, whereas the gay person usually does not make a conscious choice to have SSA anymore than a person who is bipolar chooses to have a chemical imbalance. So why do we think the person who chose to destroy innocent children deserve loving support, but gay people (whose brokenness usually hurts themselves more than anyone else) don’t?

    What I suggested takes a great deal of finesse. And not every gay person is going to be receptive to it, as the first comment here proves. But for those who are, the Catholic parent must work very hard to draw the line between the person and the sin. We do this all the time with straight people who engage in horribly destructive, sinful behavior, so I don’t see why we can’t extend that to our brothers and sisters with SSA, too.

  14. Mary,
    Most of us have family members with cohabitating couples, contracepting couples (we’re usually the lone NFP users), and sterilization, etc. Why don’t those behaviors–which are widely accepted and even expected of us–threaten our resolve to be faithful to the Church?

    I also would have to add that VERY few gay relationships end up as stable unions. The stats on gay relationships reveal wide promiscuity and very little long-term fidelity. Even in countries that have legalized gay marriage, those couples who “marry” almost always have multiple sexual partners and have a massively high divorce rate. It’s rarely a situation that embodies emotional health, so I can’t see a serious threat to the faithful Catholic parents who choose to embrace the child. It has always baffled me how parents who spend time in the gay culture change their minds and start marching in gay pride parades…if anything, the dysfunction I witnessed over time in the vast majority of gay couples left me doubting the rightness of homosexuality, not the other way around.

  15. As I said, this is the first time I’m really starting to think about this particular aspect (the challenge to the parents’ own faith). But, as someone mentioned above, the difference between a sinful heterosexual relationship and a homosexual relationship is that one can become ordered and healthy and the other can’t. My contracepting (etc.) family members (if I had any) could stop contracepting (etc.) and everything would be fine. A gay couple can never change the sinful aspect of their relationship and maintain the relationship. So it would be uniquely difficult for many people to see their child happy with someone and know that they can *never* have a moral and ordered relationship. That creates cognitive dissonance, and sometimes people solve the problem of cognitive dissonance by ridding themselves of the wrong piece of the conflict… in this case, convincing themselves that it’s not really wrong after all (at least in their child’s super special situation). I don’t think this means they will start marching in gay parades, but I think there is a great temptation for parents of children with same sex attraction to condone what makes their child seem happy (though we know this isn’t a true, deeply-rooted happiness). I have witnessed this. I have also witnessed it regarding other issues too. Any time you see someone you love struggling with living a teaching of the Church, esp. when the objectively wrong choice SEEMS like the one that is “best” for them (even if you know better), it can be a challenge to your own faith, because sometimes it can just seem like the “rules” are so darn impossible to follow for some people. I do not think this requires someone to be weak in the faith, because none of us is above the temptation to abandon our principles, esp. when it happens incrementally. But even if it did require someone to be weak in the faith, I’m not sure what difference that makes.

    I think that there can be a moral and happy medium between shunning the “partner” and treating them like your own child. If it were me, I think my inclination would be to simply treat them like a friend of my child’s, and give them that much affection and no more, as opposed to treating them like a family member/ in-law. But in reality, I can’t really say for sure what I would do in that situation. As I said above, this not black and white and there can be more than one right answer.

    1. Mary, we’re actually in agreement. In saying I’d treat the partner like my child, I didn’t mean to imply I’d treat them like a family member. Because yes, that’s how we treat SPOUSES and that can never be with a gay couple. I simply meant I’d treat them with love and respect as I would my child and not shun them for living in sin…really, as I would treat most people living in habitual mortal sin that’s affecting them primarily.

      I think our children will always be a special case and we’ll always be more willing to embrace them despite sinful behavior. Which is why, as you said, that can cause erosion of our own principles if we’re not careful. It would be harder to strike that balance with your child’s partner and I would most likely do as you mentioned and treat him like my son’s close friend, but work hard to ensure I don’t reinforce that their union is equivalent to a heterosexual one. It’s such a dicey, complex situation and a faithful Catholic would have to constantly rely on the Holy Spirit (and perhaps a good spiritual adviser) to simultaneously provide an unwavering witness to the faith while still loving the sinners for their inherent dignity.

  16. Ah, yes, I misunderstood you originally. It truly is a complex situation. But I am in 100% agreement about always treating people with love and kindness and being a witness of the love of Christ. I wish it weren’t so hard to balance that with a clear message of the hard truth.

  17. Dear Guest,
    Thank you for sharing your considerable wisdom, and I certainly believe God has called you to share your wisdom!

  18. I am of the firm conviction that people are born either heterosexual or homosexual. I find it interesting that the majority of the long-term relationships that I see around me (both married people and cohabitating people, heterosexual and homosexual alike) are usually based on things that go beyond sex: companionship, children, shared hobbies, shared values, etc. It seems those who value the sexual aspect of a relationship the most are the ones doomed to fail. I don’t think it is ever wrong to treat someone with compassion, respect, and an open mind and that is exactly what I would hope to do if one of my children were gay.

    1. There’s only one problem with believing people are “born” straight or gay: there is no scientific evidence backing up that opinion. For decades, we’ve tried to uncover a genetic basis for SSA, and never found one. It’s easy to understand why–it makes being gay the equivalent of having blue eyes and blond hair and how can you fault a person for that? I think many Catholics want to believe this, too, because is absolves them of their moral obligation to treat SSA as a disorder. We are afraid to speak the truth in love, so we try to ignore that our Catechism calls SSA an inherently disordered sexuality.

      I have my own theories about SSA’s origins, but suffice to say I have no problem admitting that it IS a disorder. No wonder that we as Catholics are so ineffective in formulating an authentically Catholic response to SSA, when we have so many of our own insisting it’s genetic and not a pathology.

  19. As a gay man & Christian minister (not Catholic), I just want to say “thank you” for your wonderful post. It is such an important message, to love your children no matter what, to model compassion, ethics and standing by your principles while staying in relationship.

    I underatand that the LGBT community can be rather “intolerant” of Christians. You should see some of the reactions I get when I “come out” as a Christian minister. This reaction does come from somewhere. The historically brutal, shaming and shunning behavior of church institutions has left very deep wounds that have not healed, and we can react out of that pain instead of with respect. However, not all LGBT people feel this way, but we are not usually the voices that are heard.

    I know certainly that you and I would disagree on many things. However, your post reflects an attitude with wide areas of commonality as well as principled differences.

    Today in our nation there is an epidemic of homelessness among LGBT youth who have been kicked out of their homes by their parents. Often, they report that their parents used religious justification for this expulsion. On the street, these kids are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, drug addiction and HIV/AIDS. Thank you again for your post. Your plea to stay in relationship with their LGBT kids may actually save lives.

    In Christ,
    Rev. John Magisano

  20. Beautiful! Though I do not have a child who struggles with SSA, I do have two close friends bearing this cross. I have used your same approach, and have also observed all the good that comes from a loving response to the situation. Perhaps the most difficult ‘moment’ in our relationship was having to stand firm in not attending a “union ceremony” for one of these friends. Both friends were confused and hurt initially, but over the years have come to understand that I truly love them without affirming the practices.

    Thank you for this post. Your experience consoles me that I’ve made the right choices in how to love my friends.

  21. All I can say is: thanks for writing this! 🙂

    To John G: there’s a Catholic men’s blog titled “2 Catholic Men and a Blog” if you’re interested.

  22. I am a lifelong Catholic and the mother of three children, one of whom has informed me she is a lesbian. My daughter is a teenager and I thought, “there is no way she can know at this age” but it took only a little bit of persuasion on her part to get me to understand the ridiculousness of this thought because I certainly knew at that age, and long before, that I liked boys. Well, she likes girls.

    People who do not have children experiencing SSA are very quick with their condemnation of the parenting choices of those of us who do have such children. If you have not lived in these shoes, you cannot possibly have the slightest understanding of what it is to have your own child look at you with hopeful expectation that you will not reject them for who they perceive they are, not what they do, BUT WHO THEY ARE.

    It is fine for people to say that homosexuality is not innate. I don’t know the answer to that question. But my daughter believes it is because it is the ONLY feeling she has ever known. She has never had any romantic attraction to the opposite sex, not even a 1st grade crush on a boy. For her it has always been girls.

    My daughter knows the teaching on the Church on homosexuality. I don’t need to remind her what it is, she has heard it her whole life. She is also more than aware of the condemnation that would be thrown at her by so many people in the Church (including some of the people who have posted on this thread) if they knew who she felt herself to be inside.

    I would never in a million years tell my child she is disordered for one reason and for one reason alone. She will face all her life people who do not care about her, people who will look at her with disgust and antipathy, people who are all too willing to tell her that her sin is disgusting and she is disordered. But she will only ever have one mother to love her, to accept her, to hold her in her arms and tell her she is a beautiful child of God. She will only ever have one true earthly home, and if she cannot find sanctuary with her own mother, than I have betrayed EVERYTHING that Christ has taught me. I am to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. My daughter is my neighbor. And I will love her as I wish to be loved myself by my own mother, unreservedly and untainted by judgment.

    I will leave the judgments to those who, when it is most convenient for them, ignore Jesus’s commandment to judge not lest you be judged.

  23. I am impressed by the article and the comments. I know someone who told her mother that she thought she was a lesbian when she was rather too young to know what precisely it meant. Her mother looked thoughtful, and then said ‘ There is nothing wrong with loving another person. There is nothing wrong with being deeply and passionatly committed to that person. But, especially if you are a Christian, sexual expression of that love it OUT.’ This clear statement of the truth was salvificatory: the person was therebye saved from acting on sometimes very passionate affections for other women, or, according to her, even feeling drawn to the erotic side of these affections.
    The reason why homosexual sexual activity seem more legitimate now is because of the wide acceptance of contraception. It is VERY hard to find a rationale which validates contraceptive intercourse, but forbids other perversions. Notice that I say other perversions: contraceptive intercourse is intrinsically disordered too. The message about the wrongness of homosexual activity needs to be given against the background of the whole of Christian teaching about chastity. It might go something like this ‘ Real sex is between a faithful, permanently committed man and woman, ( aka married people) whose sexual activity is open to children. Any other genital activity is not real sex at all; it is a pallid imitation of real sex’

  24. What if I, as the young man that I am, were to tell my parents that: “I love a lot of girls. I can’t see myself with only one. Each one pleases me differently. This is how God made me. He made me a loving creature, whose love knows no bounds. Society says that I can only have one, but what can I do if so many good looking girls seek my loving? Mom, Dad, tomorrow I’m bring two girls who don’t mind sharing my love, I expect you to treat them with respect because you love me. This is who I am”

    I would hope my loving parents would say: ” Dear child, you know we love you. Let me tell you what love actually is. LOVE IS THE SELF GIVING OF ONESELF TOWARDS THE BELOVED. It is NOT what you define love to be. I understand that you have temptations. WE ALL DO. But like the prodigal parent, I will not accept you’re behavior (not you, you’re behaviour) because I must stand fast by the truth, the truth we have all imprinted in our hearts, and which I can not deny. I DO NOT CONDEMN YOU BUT I JUDGE YOU TO BE IN ERROR AND IN LOVING CHARITY WILL FORGIVE YOU 70 TIMES SEVEN OF YOU SEEK MY FORGIVENESS.

  25. Wonderful blog and discussion. One book on straight parents and gay children recommends nearly all the above but also recommends going to gay parades and gay bars with children with SSA. The purpose: 1) to show them you are not afraid to know their lives and 2) because they see those realities through your eyes and get a whole new perspective on them.

  26. Jeanme: Reading the research, I think you may be on to something, especially in the case of lesbians.

    A recent study showed that 93% of self identified lesbians have had heterosexual sex. A large percentage have had a series of abusive or self-destructive heterosexual activity in their past or other self-destructive behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use. My own experience is that most of the women I know who are in lesbian relationships still have opposite sex attraction, but have found relationships with other women to be safer and more nurturing than their experiences with men.

    Conversely, studies have shown that many self-identifying heterosexual women have a certain degree of SSA. Women’s sexuality seems far less black and white than men’s.

    As for biology, a small number of lesbians were born “intersexed” meaning that they had both male and female “parts” at birth. In the 1970s, nearly all intersexed children were surgically made female because this was easier for the surgeons to do and psychologists of the time believed that the child could be raised to be a normal girl. But the person may have been biologically more male than female. These children are now in their 30s and 40s. (What is the Church’s teaching on the intersexed anyway?)

    As for gay men, there is some evidence that it is biological, specifically that the brains of gay men are more similar to the brains of women than they are to straight men. ( ) This is probably true for some, although not all, of the gay men that I know. There is also evidence that it may be psychological.

    Gay men, bisexual men, exclusive lesbians, and bisexual women are four different types of behaviors and there are subsets within that. Lumping them all together as “SSA” (or worse, “GLBT”) confuses what may or may not be going on. I also think gay advocacy, while intended to help the plight of exclusive homosexuals, specifically exclusive homosexual men, may be harming bisexuals by making the same-sex option more attractive that it should be. Political correctness also stifles discussion as to what is going on and how best to help people with these issues.

  27. Gay man here trying hard to live with Christ.

    A couple things: male-male and female-female I think are very different. And I believe that that is very important. Second, I am not sure what a mother can do for a son who is SSA. Love certainly. An open door, but this can be tough because the boy doesn’t need more feminine influence and his inclination will be to find love where he can. I was praying pretty hard about this today: grieving for all the men I know who are gay. The modern world gives nothing and the modern Church offers far too little, at least in her members, for all that so many try hard to be generous.

    Generally most boys in this case need help to be much more in tune with their bodies and with men. Time with loving grandfathers and uncles who “force” them into the accepting company of men could do wonders. Lots of prayer and one thing not mentionned at all: spiritual warfare on their behalf. The internal struggle is everything; gay kids need to be with Christ internally and the Evil One works hard to take them out. Catholics are bad about remembering the spiritual warfare element.

    And one other thing: every gay man I know – it may not be true of all – has a terrible problem with self-destructiveness. It follows from the internal dislocation. Additionally, gay men tend to learn at an early age to dissemble. Sometimes I think that the current openness is a huge mercy from God so that gays have a chance to move away from hiding and the generally common trickiness that results, what I call, “an attenuated relationship with the truth”. A mother could watch for all of that and get some men to assist her son in avoiding it.

    Finally, there is a greatness about men (and women like this one) who deny themselves, take up their crosses and live married lives. This can be an occasion for fraud of course if the spouse doesn’t know, and the toll on the person doing it, lacking, if they do, the imaginative structure appropriate to a heterosexual marriage, can be great. But it is a heroism that, while I could not live, I have at least known others that did it with integrity.

  28. We have to be very careful in stating that “many self-identifying heterosexual women have a certain degree of SSA.” Who did the study and where is it published? What is the quality of the research? What exactly–exactly–is meant by “a certain degree of SSA”? If poorly operationalized, such a variable might include warm, friendly feelings that are non-sexual, but then interpreted by a researcher as sexual. This, of course, then leads to error in the conclusion and a false perception of heterosexual women. Given the great importance of the conclusion, the research has to be impeccable. Until I see the methods and findings, it is my counsel that readers be cautious about this claim. Few heterosexual women have the childhood emotional conflicts that would make them vulnerable to SSA, that is, most have a close, loving mother relationship, an appreciation of their female gifts and beauty, good female friendships and a reasonable trust in males.

  29. Love and compassion does not equal toleration and acceptance, that is a tough stance to make but the alternative can be worse. For me, I taught my children growing up the importance of serving Christ and His Church, with the emphesis of love being the baseline. I think it is tougher for a child learning about this when they get into their teens when they are discovering themselves. As a parent, we always want to see our children succeed in life from winning games, developing good friends, do well in school and finally obtain a good job. Most importantly, we want to see them practicing their faith and not living in the grasp of sin. All we can do is to offer them up to the Lord, but it is important that we give them a good foundation. I have seen Homosexuals convert to Christianity and lead a life of hope in the Lord. I think it is really difficult when society gives in and accepts sin as a normal way of life. Many will never see the need to repentance.

  30. Mr B,

    God Bless you in trying to enjoin your suffering with Christ’s on the cross. Whenever all of us suffer, we know that our Lord is right there suffering with us in the fight against the ‘spirit against God’ of which our Lord is triumphant.

    I recommend frequent confession and going to daily mass, thus having our Lord triumph over your daily battles from within.

  31. To the Christian Reverend,

    Imagine you were to go to a gas station in the middle of nowhere (our modern Samaritan well) and while you’re pumping gas our Lord Jesus Christ walks up to you and recites your life to you.

    Can you really try explaining to him that your ‘gay’ desires are what he would want you to indulge in?

    This our most gracious Lord who warns us that even thinking about a woman lustfuly to whom we are not married is adultery (because every sin begins with the thought) and who desires us to keep the commandments of God (the commandments of God are the 3+7 commandments of Horeb, not the ones written by man). Do you really think you could convince our Lord of Lords, King of Kings, son of GOD, that what you’re living is not sin?

    Sir, in loving charity I recommend that you realize you must enjoin you’re suffering with Christ’s (straight people suffer too) and try to live humbly (not “proud”) submitting your desires to the will of our Lord and savior.

    In fact, become a Catholic, as we don’t ignore suffering in our world and pay heed to:
    “your inmost being must be renewed and you must out on a new man”
    Ephesians 4:23

  32. Thank you for sharing your perspective, as you have a unique standpoint. I also have been somewhat perplexed at how the “unconditional love” stops when it comes to homosexual orientation. I guess a few generations ago, the love used to stop when it came to out of wedlock babies, so that’s a great example.

  33. People, we are ALL tempted! We ALL have to battle to direct and found our lives on the aim, which is HEAVEN, which is life forever with God. SSA is not in a special category of temptation, or certainly not in a special category of temptation among sexual sins. A man or woman tempted to adultery may endure agonies too! The differnce is only that secular society promotes fornication, sodomy, contraception: and it is HARD to be counter-cultural, especially if we are tempted to join the culture.
    There is photographic evidence that I have been bad tempered all my life; I struggle with anger still. I was ‘born that way’ – my family still recall my howls of rage when I was a baby. Does that justify any of my particular sins of anger? Can I excuse my anger on those grounds? I am helped to resist my anger because society deprecates it: the trouble with sexual sins is that the secular world has always found church teaching hard.
    In our comfortable Western world we have forgotten that the way of Christ is the way of the Cross: familiarity has made us overlook the violence of what Christ said ‘ If anyone wants to come after me, let him take up his Cross DAILY and follow me’ The people who first heard that will have SEEN crucifixions, so even if we said ‘take up your gas chamber/ electric chair/lethal injection’ it would not have the impact that those words did on them. “What??” they must have thought ‘take up the symbol of torture and opression by our Roman rulers: take up the sign of a curse (cursed is who dies on the tree)take it up, embrace it ……WHAT??” but that is what we have to do. We have not only to endure, but to embrace the difficulties of our lives; for they are the means of our sanctification, they are the means for fitting us for an eternity with God!

  34. Dear Guest,

    Thank you for your important article on the response to a male child who struggles with SSA that has generated many loving and wise comments.
    Yes, our children have free will but as parents we want to be certain that we educate them in the truth about all sexual matters so that they can have an informed conscience in order to make decisions that will benefit and not harm them in the future.

    In our 35 years of working with Catholic families we have found that the most common cause of same-sex attractions in males is an intense weakness in masculine confidence that is associated with strong feelings of loneliness and sadness. This insecurity arises from a number of factors, including same-sex peer rejection in early childhood as a result of a lack of eye–hand coordination. This challenge in boys interferes with male bonding in sports and with secure same-sex attachments. Other origins of male insecurity and sadness are an emotionally distant father relationship, a poor body image and, finally, sexual abuse victimization.

    Several major research studies of adult and adolescent males with SSA have also demonstrated low self-esteem as being a major conflict in their lives. The first study from the Netherlands of 7,076 adults demonstrated that lesser quality of life in men was predominantly explained by low self-esteem. The authors recommended the importance of finding out how lower sense of self-esteem comes about in homosexual men. (1.)

    In a 2010 Israeli study of ninety homosexual and 109 heterosexual men with mean age of 26 and with no significant differences with respect to country of birth, ethnic origin, education level, military service, or participation in psychotherapy, homosexual young adults scored lower on the self-esteem measure and higher on narcissism compared to their heterosexual counterparts.(2.)

    A 2011 UK study of 10,000 adolescents was notable for boys with some same-sex experience reporting less self-esteem and more experiences of forced sex. (3.)

    Healing of these emotional wounds can occur through the establishment of health male friendships, growth in gratitude for one’s God-given masculine gifts, forgiveness of rejecting male peers and work with a spiritual director on friendship with Jesus as one’s best friend.

    In Spitzer’s study on the healing of SSA the participants were presented with a list of several ways that therapy might have been “very helpful” (apart from change in sexual orientation). Notable were feeling more masculine (males) or more feminine (females) (87%) and developing more intimate nonsexual relations with the same sex (93%). (4.)

    There is every reason to be hopeful that greater knowledge of SSA in parents can lead to a resolution of the emotional conflicts and SSA in their sons and thereby prevent in their lives the serious medical and psychiatric illnesses associated with the homosexual lifestyle.

    1. Sandfort, T.G., et al. (2003) Same-sex sexuality and quality of life: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study. Arch Sex Behav. 32: 15-22.
    2. Rubinstein, G. (2010). Narcissism and Self-Esteem Among Homosexual and Heterosexual Male Students. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 36:24–34.
    3. Parkes, A., et. al. (2011). Comparison of teenagers’ early same-sex and heterosexual behavior: UK data from the SHARE and RIPPLE studies. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 27-35
    4. Spitzer, R.L. (2003) “Can some gay men and lesbians change their orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32: p. 412.

  35. The article was very well written and thought through and thoughtful. It is a very heart wrenching subject, it goes without saying…..many excellent points made in the guest’s article and the responses.

    Many of us have had these experiences within our friends and family and it is very painful for everyone involved. But, with Christ’s love and wisdom and our Catholic faith we can still be at peace with our loved ones and ourselves.

    Pray unceasingly and live the Golden Rule, obey the Great Commandment… in Truth….all difficult…but with God all things are possible. I know it sounds elementary and maybe simplistic but these simple statements are the basis of our truth…. am very glad to read the responses and comments from everyone regarding this subject, have had much commenting and debating on this subject (and much prayer) with so many up in arms with the many states and the legislation of SSM laws, where the debate has not been at all “civilized” via the internet.

    Wishing everyone a Blessed and Holy Pentecost in Peace and Hope

  36. I have 7 children and, as of today, I am unaware that any of them suffer from SSA. But, as a parent, I do wonder what my response would be if one or more of my children “came out.” This is a very thought-provoking piece, and I am grateful to the author for having written it. I don’t know that I agree with everything written, but it has given me something to think about and pray over.

  37. I read up above reading someone questioned the love we should have for someone who is caught in sin, especially sexual sin. To tell a homosexual that this is ok is the worst form of hate you can show them? Thinking themselves to be wise they became fools instead. To tell someone dead in sin that they are ok is in reality like telling someone to go to hell? That is not love nor is it charity. Is that harsh? I call it tough love. It is not always easy to tell someone the truth.

  38. #4 – I’m sorry but I do not think you can say “as a Catholic” you believe that homosexual attraction is a disorder. Perhaps it is “disordered” but the CCC doesn’t mean that in the same way as a psychologist or a doctor means it. The Catholic Church does not officially label SSA as a “disorder” or a “pathology” even though some “Catholic counselors” might.

    If that’s your opinion, fine–I can totally respect that. But do not propose to speak for the Catholic faith unless the Church has a teaching as such.

  39. This article horrifies and makes me feel ashamed to be a Catholic. I hope more people follow the Pope’s lead and focus on doing good for others, not obsessing over sexuality.

    1. I’m not sure why this article would horrify you. Or worse, make you ashamed to be Catholic?? She shows nothing but compassion for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Or are you one of the Catholics who believe we ought to pick and choose which of our faith’s teachings to embrace?

      I’m always amused when people accuse the church of “obsession over sexuality.” First, it’s society that uses sex to sell beer, clothing, and food and that encourages us to gluttonously indulge our sexual appetites without regard to the consequences. The church is the one that says it’s something sacred and ought to be treated with respect. Second, the church has every right to guide us on sexual matters. Or have you forgotten that sex is what results in a new immortal soul and binds us to individuals more closely than any other act? What we do with the body not only affects our soul, but it affects the souls of others, and sometimes results in the creation of another whole human being. Sex has profound, unparalleled consequences, yet people have this idea that what we do in the bedroom is somehow off limits, that we don’t need guidance about how to use our sexuality properly. Given the mess that we human beings make when we DON’T follow God’s plan for sexuality, it’s clear that we need the guidance of the church on sexual issues more than just about anything else.

      And finally, engaging in homosexual activity is sinful. This was the teaching of Christ, of his apostles, and it’s reflected by the earliest Christians (the church fathers). Yes, we must treat all who struggle with this temptation with compassion, but when the majority of youth in our society have decided that homosexuality is not only acceptable, but to be celebrated, it is an act of LOVE to address this very real elephant in the room. Unlike the author, I doubt you’ve suffered the effects of SSA and thus, don’t fully understand how damaging it can be to one’s soul to engage in SS acts.

  40. This article offers the pretences of compassionate understanding but blows it’s credibility by labelling SSA a disorder and a sin. Whether you are gay or straight has nothing to do with morality, and everything to do with biology. Would you respond the same way if your son/daughter told you they like to eat shellfish?

    1. Listen to him compassionately and let him unburden his heart without seeing me react in horror, disgust, or disappointment at his desire to eat shellfish.

    2. Reassure him I love him unconditionally. That he has no reason to be ashamed for his taste in shellfish. That we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. That no cross is more disgusting or better than another.

    3. Ask if he’s considered he might be called to the single life or religious life, which brings with it a deeper union with God than is usually possible in marriage and family. Offer resources about the theology of dietary restrictions if he hasn’t studied it and open to it.

    4. Ask if he’d like to seek therapy with a Catholic counselor trained in dealing with Shellfish Eating Disorder (SED). Yes, these people exist and they know how to handle this cross in souls sensitively and with great compassion. As a Catholic, I believe that SED is a disorder and just as with any disorder, I’d recommend individual counseling.*

    5. If he wants counselling for SED, I’d offer to pay for it. And assure him I have no expectation he will emerge from the experience “cured” of his SED. That I expect it will be a lifelong cross for him. That I will love him even if he emerges as an epicurean, connoisseur of shellfish cuisine, even if I’m praying for that NOT to happen!

    6. If he chooses not to seek counselling for SED, tell him the option is always there. And assure him, again and again, that I’ll love him no matter what.

    7. Then, I’d drop the subject–unless he asked me to talk about it.

    8. Love him.

    9. Pray for him.

    10. Sacrifice for him.

    Because the very same OT covenant that denounces homosexuality as an abomination also calls eating shellfish an abomination.
    “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” ~ Leviticus 11:12

  41. Interesting food for thought, but it doesn’t take the place of the counsel of a faithful holy priest. We recently met with our parish priest over a similar situation (involving a relative whom we love dearly, but not a child of ours). This particular relative is Catholic, they know what we believe because at least two of our family members have shared with her what is wrong about living this lifestyle, they also know we are trying to raise our children to be faithful Catholics. She either doesn’t get it or chooses to ignore it. He advised that in the situation of this person wanting to bring their “friend” into our home, in family functions (where children were present, even our older teens)we should respectfully decline. As this would only confuse children as to what an appropriate relationship that God intends for marriage is. In situations where it would be just adults, it would be different and of course we should be kind and willing to meet the friend. Jesus is not Buddha, no matter how much people want him to be.
    Luke 17:2-4
    “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3″Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4″And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

    Many people always forget the repent part of Jesus’s words there.

    Here’s a good video about how gays identify themselves and how they should:

  42. Okay, negotiable, but what do you think about being transgender? I am living a chaste life until I meet a man I can marry. I was born a biological male. My condition is treated by becoming the opposite sex. If I was still male I would probably be on drugs or dead. I am a practicing Catholic. Frequent confession. Is this a disorder too?


    There are, so far as we know, three types of persons: Divine, angelic, and human. There are no gay persons because people are not reducible to who or what they’re sexually attracted to.
    When we call a person “gay,” we’ve done just that; reduced them. Said, “this is who you are, you are the type of person who is attracted to people of the same sex as you.”

    Good grief! What a narrow and reductionistic view to hold of another person—a person created in the image and likeness of God. There are people who experience same-sex attraction, yes, but these people aren’t qualitatively different to us. They’re not “gay people” They’re just awesome, complex, beautiful children of God like the rest of us.
    My friend Andrew, who experiences same-sex attraction, can’t stand it when people call him “gay.” He shares three reasons why:
    1. We make it the norm to see ourselves first and foremost according to the attractions we experience instead of according to our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God.
    2. We deprive people from coming to realize that attractions experienced (which are not specifically chosen) are distinct from embraced identity (which is specifically chosen).
    3. We deprive people from coming to realize that sexual attractions are part of our fluid human experience, and that the experience of any attraction does not necessarily mean that the person will experience that attraction for the rest of his or her life.

  44. Thank you so much for writing this helpful article. One of our precious daughters introduced us to her girlfriend last year. All the pain in my heart is fear for her. Your words give me such comfort.

  45. Do you know where one could find a counselor for someone struggling with same sex attractions?

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