Q.Recently, a boy at my daughter’s Catholic high school revealed to his lunch table buddies that he is gay. The group was caught off guard, but not surprised. After a few days, the novelty of this news wore off and the general feeling on the part of the kids is “whatever.” In short, it’s clear that even in an institution where kids are taught that the practice of homosexuality is sinful, the acceptance of the gay lifestyle seems to be universal.
As a Catholic parent, I’m stumped as to how to respond to this. How can we help our kids to understand the principle of “loving the sinner but hating the sin” when their gay friends — who are terrific, loving, and even faithful people — seem perfectly normal and acceptable?
A. This is one of the toughest issues for parents who are committed to rearing their children in the Church and want to instill the values of their Catholic faith with respect to sex and sexuality. In particular, the aggressive agenda of the gay rights movement — to be not only tolerated but wholeheartedly accepted and approved of by everyone — presents a difficult challenge for those who are teaching their children to live by gospel values.
The most important of those values is love, and fortunately, that’s the part our kids’ generation clearly understands. Their desire to demonstrate unconditional love for their friends is a wonderful impulse that we mustn’t undermine.
But — and it’s a big one — the pillar of faith for Christians is truth, and truth isn’t up for debate. God created us as sexual beings for a procreative purpose; one that is complementary, selfless, and life-giving. This is why marriage between a husband and wife is the only setting for which God’s gift of sexuality was designed.
This is a tough sell to a generation that sees nothing wrong with gay marriage. The hypersexual culture in which our children are living has convinced them that sexual relationships are simply part of the continuum of intimacy (you’ve heard of “friends with benefits?”), and that everyone is entitled to have whatever sort of consensual sex they choose. If this were the basis of your assumptions regarding sex and sexuality, how could it be fair to deny your gay friends the opportunity to experience loving relationships just as your straight friends may enjoy?
The point, then, is that it’s not about homosexuality. It’s about sex. And it’s about helping our children to learn and speak the truth — in love — about God’s plan for sexuality in our lives and stand for their values while also loving and cherishing their friends.
Our current social and cultural environment demonizes those whose religious beliefs about sex and sexuality espouse chastity as a core value. Merely expressing a difference of belief frames people as bigots and bullies. What kid wants that label? Better to accept the “new normal” than be perceived as mean.
The key, then, is that first principle: love. We need to teach our children to love unconditionally — as Jesus did — and simultaneously to speak the truth — as Jesus did. (It goes without saying that trying to do either of these things the way Jesus did will be nearly impossible, but we get points for trying.)
The revelation that a high school friend is gay creates yet another (as if you needed one) teachable moment about sexual morality. For parents who wish to impart their Christian values regarding sex, these moments are essential to guide and instruct our kids toward a proper understanding of our beliefs, and more importantly, toward a truly Christian response to those we encounter on life’s journey.