How Parents Should Respond to a Child “Coming Out”

The most challenging questions I’m asked when speaking about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality come from parents who are committed to the teachings of the Church and have a child who has “come out” and identified as gay or lesbian. This is what I tell them.

Express unconditional love. When a child “comes out,” he needs to know that you won’t reject him and that your love for him will never change, regardless of his choices. Naturally, love can’t be blind to the truth of the Church; but before you speak of the truth, a child needs to feel unconditional love.

Listen. Then listen some more. Then be silent. Then listen some more. Unless you have lived with same-sex attraction (SSA), it’s not possible to fully understand the inner turmoil, isolation, and fear of loneliness and rejection your child has borne. Your child will know your love is genuine by your attempt to understand his experience—without interruption or condemnation.

Being preached to about the immorality of homosexual acts has rarely, if ever, changed a person’s mind. If you are a devout Catholic, he may fear that your first response will be to tell him that this will lead him to hell. Hearing such language will usually drive him away from you and the Church. It will drive him to embrace a community that will affirm him in his newly claimed identity and confirm what others say: that you and the Church are bigots to be ignored.

Before urging a son or daughter to seek the path of truth, educate yourself, listen to others who’ve trod this path before, and seek support. EnCourage, the family support arm of the Courage apostolate, is the best place to find help. Support is vital!

Realize that God has allowed this in your life and your child’s life for your collective sanctification. Complete trust in God’s providence can be difficult when a child “comes out.” Fr. John Harvey, founder of the Courage apostolate, stressed that the most difficult virtue to acquire is “willing acceptance of the permissive will of God.” God allowed SSA in my life as the path that revealed my complete need for him. So too, I am convinced, with anyone who lives with same-sex attraction. For parents, their child’s SSA is a means by which God invites them to total abandonment to divine providence. Remember that God works all things for good (cf. Rom. 8:28).

God wants you to be more concerned with your own growth in sanctity than with your child’s. The more we are faithful to Christ and the teachings of his Church, the more effective instruments we will be in his hands for the spiritual good of others. Ask the Holy Spirit for an increase in the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and right judgment. Offer the merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for your child’s deliverance and well-being.

The best way to assist in your child’s salvation is through the gift of redemptive suffering. In the beautiful paradox present in God’s redemption, what is most painful in our lives becomes what leads to the most joyous outcome. For example, through redemptive suffering, pain caused by a child’s choices becomes the very means by which a parent can love him with a Christ-like love and ultimately help bring him back to his Father’s house.

“Do not despair, for we are an Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.” Refuse to live either in the past or the future, the twin regions of despair. Christ tells us to live in the present, for today is the only place where peace is found and where grace is available to us. Take an honest inventory of your relationship with your child, and seek forgiveness for past shortcomings. But avoid regret or assuming blame for your child’s SSA. Likewise, banish all imagined fears that reside in the unknown future.

Always live with hope. St. Monica’s answered prayers for her son St. Augustine should give parents hope. Oscar Wilde’s deathbed conversion should inspire hope as well. I am certain that his salvation was brought about by his mother’s insistence that he be baptized Catholic and by her continuous prayers for him.

Finally, and most importantly, wait on the Lord. Allow God to act and, in “the fullness of time,” wait with “joyful hope” and excited anticipation for the moment when God reveals his salvific power in your child’s life.

For further support, visit the Courage apostolate’s website at CourageRC.net.

This article was originally published in the June 2013 issue of Legatus magazine. Reprinted with permission.

 

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Daniel Mattson is a writer and public speaker who focuses on sharing the good news of the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality and chastity. The story of his conversion to the Church from a life of active homosexuality is one of the three stories featured in the Courage Apostolate's new documentary, Desire of the Everlasting Hills.

He entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2010, primarily because of the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. His message is simple: the path to fulfillment and peace for the person who lives with same sex attractions can only be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church. He is a frequent speaker at events across the country, including at Catholic high schools, parishes, seminaries and Diocesan clergy gatherings and conferences. He often appears on Catholic Radio programs such as the Al Kresta Show, the Teresa Tomeo Show and Catholic Answers Live. He has been a guest on EWTN's, Life On The Rock, and will be appearing soon on the EWTN program Women of Grace. His writing has appeared in First Things, Crisis Magazine, Catholic Answers Magazine and other Catholic publications.

His personal blog is LettersToChristopher.wordpress.com, and his writing can also be found at JoyfulPilgrims.com.  He can be contacted for speaking engagements at [email protected]. When not speaking or writing, Daniel enjoys his career as a professional orchestral musician.