This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat. We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.
Q. So how do we explain this to our friends? Is there a non-Catholic explanation? If we proclaim the truth with love, is there a good personal experience of how to do this?
A. Great questions!
First, how do we explain this to our friends? We have to be always compassionate and understanding instead of argumentative or rude. It's important to ask questions and listen, instead of simply speaking. When we do talk about same-sex attraction, we need to keep the big questions in mind too. -- What is gender? Who is God? Who am I? What is the purpose of sex? What is the purpose of marriage? Frequently, we become fixated on surface-level questions which don't engage the heart of the issue. The more deeply we probe, the more we are able to see why the Church teaches what she does.
Secondly, there are many non-Catholic ways to discuss this issue. In fact, the Ruth Institute offers 77 reasons to support marriage between one man and one woman. Rather than reproduce many of these arguments, I suggest you head to the link to read them.
Another way to discuss same-sex actions is what Bl. John Paul II called, "the language of the body. " Our bodies were created by God who is Love, and so they have an inherent meaning -- love. Our bodies are able to speak a language, and because of where we come from (God) and where we are going (God), the language of our bodies is love. We did not create this language, just as we didn't create English, Spanish, Swahili or any other language. Rather, we are able to participate in this language and communicate it, similarly to how we can communicate in English.
The language of our bodies is meant to express authentic love, which is freely given, total, faithful and fruitful. For any action that we do, and in a particular way we can analyze sexual actions, we have to ask if we are truthfully speaking love that is freely given, total, faithful and fruitful with our bodies, and therefore with our entire person. Same-sex actions are inherently not fruitful. They are also not total -- in part because they are not fruitful (and total requires giving everything of ourselves), and also because the nature of a same-sex action is not the total union in difference that the sexual act is meant to be. We could also analyze how same-sex acts are not truly free or even faithful. (If you'd like more on talking about the language of the body, or the general topic of same-sex marriage, check out what Jason Evert has to say.)
Finally, you asked for a personal experience of speaking the truth in love. I mentioned at Credo the reactions of two different groups of people to a friend who was experiencing same-sex attraction. One group defriended their friend on facebook and cut off all communication. The other group never backed down from supporting Church teaching, but was also very present -- continuing communication, quietly praying, etc. Over time, our friend had a profound experience of God's love because of the persistence and presence of friends who cared enough to speak the truth in love and who knew the times to be silent. Today, our friend is living out the faith with great fervor. If everyone had said, "Our friendship is over!" then the invitation to come back to the Church couldn't have been given. And if the remaining friends had said, "Don't worry about what the Church says, just do what you want," then she would not be experiencing the peace and joy of the fullness of the Catholic life right now. It's a delicate balance, but speaking the truth with love -- which can involve silent witness -- is so important!
Speaking the truth in love is also not about embarking on a warrior crusade to win converts. Rather, it's about loving those around us and praying that they can experience the true joy that can only be found in Christ.