Monday, November 1, 2010

My friend is gay, but wants to come back to church- how can I help him?

Question Hey, Peter! I noticed that you've started a blog and I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something about a friend of mine.
One of my friends is Catholic but he hasn't been going to church recently. Before school started he told me that he wants to start going back to church and getting involved in the faith again. But there seems to be something that he feels is getting in the way...
Well...he also happens to be gay. He's been keeping it a secret from his friends and co-workers, so I'm a little surprised that he was able to tell me something so personal about himself! He also told me it's not exactly his favorite thing about himself - hence why he doesn't tell people.
Do you have any advise for what I could do or say to help him get his foot back in the door?

AnswerFirst of all, I want to congratulate you that as a Catholic, you are so open and genuine with your friend, that he is willing to come to you with this without fear of being judged.

I would suggest first of all that you remain frank with him- you can even tell him that you are doing so. People hate duplicity, like when you can tell that someone won't come right out and say something, but they are hinting at it. So, you regard homosexual actions as sinful- don't gloss over that. You want your friend to come back to church- tell him that! If he knows that you are being honest and straight up with him, you give him permission to have a similar degree of openess with you. Of course in this, you don't have to tell him about negative feelings or thoughts you have. Hopefully you don't have any! If you do, recognize that you are being judgemental, and repent of that. What you want is to consistently speak the truth, without judgment.

We need somehow to get the message out that homsoexuality is objectively sinful, and as such that it is self destructive. People will tell him that to be homosexual is who he is, that he should take his identity in it, and therefore if you reject the action as sinful, you are effectively rejecting him as damned. This is ridiculous, of course. It would be like if a cancer patient felt judged because you said 'cancer is a disease.' But this is genuinely how homosexual people feel- that if homosexuality is seen as anything less than on par with heterosexuality, this must therefore be a condemnation.

As a Catholic you have an opportunity to do powerful outreach with him. You said he does not like the fact that he is homosexual. Perhaps this is in part why he has come to you. Perhaps he does not want to hear the nonsense that that's just who he is and he should not only cope with it, but take pride in it. Maybe what he wants is hope.

I know of a case of a crossdresser, who had been cross dressing since he was a kid. He rejected that action as sinful and as a psychological dissorder, and now, through his Christian faith, he has been able to put that fetish behind him. On the other hand I know of a kid who is a crossdresser, and was brought to counseling where the counselor gave him womens clothes to wear, as 'therapeutic play'. Rather than helping him get out of this strange habit, she worked to entrench it by telling him that it's who he is and there is nothing he can do about it.

I know of similar cases with homosexuals. I have a friend who is homosexual, but sees the action as sinful, and so is living a fairly contented celibate life. This is the hope that Christianity offers- freedom from sin. The message of the homosexual community is that you are your sin, and thus there is no hope for you. This is frightening, since we know that despair is the unforgivable sin. If you give up hope that God can change you, then you refuse to ever repent and be changed. And of course, if you start with the premise that you can't be changed, you will have to reject Christianity and it's God which declare that you can!

To be clear, though, it is likely that your friend will continue to have homosexual desires, even if he lives a pure life. Just as a married man will still be tempted to look at porn or have extramarital sex. But God is faithful- he gives us the grace to get through it! God may no more 'heal' your friend of homosexuality (though he sometimes does) then He would heal a blind man or a schizophrenic. God has, for whatever reason, created all sorts of people with all sorts of dissorders, but each has to learn to live out their life in a way glorifying to him inspite of all this!

So, your message has to be one of love and hope. Invite him to Church, listen to him, validate his feelings, and continue to communicate the truth. He may reject you, but I suspect he has come to you out of a desire for truth and release in the first place. Beyond that, there are groups that specialize in helping homosexuals to put the homosexual lifestyle behind them. I am not personally aquainted with the various agencies, so I would be reluctant to recommend any particular one, but I would suggest that your friend look into that.

Keep praying for him, and above all, keep loving him and listening to him!

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