Hating the Sin, Loving Our Friends

13 Sep

I recently received a letter from a concerned parent which contained this comment: “One of our daughters has stated that she believes that they are turning against their gay friends if they support the Catholic Church doctrine on the subject.”

Is the Church really against people who identify themselves as “gay”? Of course not. But how do we explain the Church’s position in a culture that increasingly promotes homosexual liaisons and even “gay marriage”? What kind of guidance can we give parents such as one quoted above? After all, the Church has always taught—based on natural law and Scripture–that homosexual acts are serious sins (see Catechism, nos. 2357, 2396).

First, I think we should be clear as to what we mean by terms such as “love” or “friendship.” Our Lord said that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for a friend (John 15:13). Friendship entails sacrifice; love involves a sincere gift of self to another.

Further, when we truly love someone, we desire his or her good. The greatest good we can desire for another is his or her eternal salvation. This may sound good in theory, but it can be most challenging in practice when our friend or loved one is on a trajectory away from God. Are we willing to speak the truth in love to them? Do we have the courage to be ambassadors of hope and mercy? Alternatively, out of human respect, misplaced tolerance, or lack of religious conviction have we become “enablers” of sin?

The Church has always taught that we love the sinner even as we hate the sin. The Church certainly would not want anyone’s children to “turn against” or sever their relationships with their homosexual friends, but would challenge them to be “real” friends who desire their friends’ eternal well-being.

Second, it just may be the case that our children’s friends are so hostile to the Church that our children’s espousal of Catholic teaching on homosexuality alone would end the friendship. Here we have to affirm the challenging truth that fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Church must be the priority. We hold out every available olive branch, but we cannot deny Christ just to keep a friend. Our Lord on several occasions reminded us that our vocation as Christians would at times require us to face rejection, even from those close to us (see, for example, Luke 12:49-53). Yet He does give us the consolation of His Holy Spirit to help us in those difficult situations.


One Response to “Hating the Sin, Loving Our Friends”

  1. M. Forrest September 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    This was excellent. It’s important to make these kinds of distinctions. When dealing with this issue during 11th grade CCD (it frequently comes up because the kids perceive the Church’s stance as “mean”), I typically ask, “is the Church against two men loving each other?” And when the answer inevitably comes back, “yes”, I respond by asking: “so then, the Church is against me loving my son? My father? My best friend?” And then we’re able to get to the core of the issue. What do they mean by “love”? And when the hard reality of the most common homosexual acts finally comes to the fore (including the negative effects upon physical, emotional and spiritual health), it becomes much easier to see that this is not truly “love” at all.

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