Living the Catholic Faith in the western world today is counter-cultural, to say the least. Anyone who assents to the authority of the Church's Magisterium is bound to get lots of questions from lukewarm Catholics and non-Catholics.
Since the assumption is that "Catholic rules are mean!", people are hopeful to hear that I do not actually hate others who "break the rules". I will tell you from the outset that secularists in particular often have philosophical difficulty with making a distinction between the dignity of a person and that person's sinful acts. In other words, the very legitimate "hate the sin, love the sinner" seems like a fraud or a cop-out to them.
Without the ability to make that distinction, mutual understanding on these issues is difficult. But let's try anyway.
Let's tackle the most common questions:
What if your child is gay? (Implied: Would you still love a child who is gay?)
Of course I would still love my child if he told me he was gay! There is nothing in this world or the next that could make me stop loving my children. The entire vocation of a Christian is to love God and to love others. A mother's love for her children knows no bounds, and I will always love my children.
Will you accept his sexual identity?
First, let's define our terms. The only "sexual identity" that we have is our actual, biological sex. Meaning, we are either male or female. Male and female He created us.
My "sexual identity", therefore, is woman -- inherently, intrinsically, essentially, eternally. Even if I had a son with same-sex attraction, his "sexual identity" would still be man, just as intrinsically and eternally as I am a woman. Homosexual women are women. Homosexual men are men.
Of course I understand that the implied question is, Will you be accepting of your child's homosexual temptations and/or actions? and we can break that down into two parts:
First, sexual temptations of whatever stripe are simply that -- temptations. They are not sinful in and of themselves. No mere temptation can ever equal an actual sin. It is only in the willful indulgence of the temptation to sin that we actually sin. Sin is something freely chosen, in thought or in deed. If a thought is unwanted and consciously rejected (even if it continues to tempt), then it's not a sin.
Second, will I accept my child's homosexual actions or willful desires by condoning, confirming, encouraging, or celebrating them? Never. Not in a million years. But that does not translate to "I will disavow and hate my child." I would never cut off or disown my child if he were living a homosexual lifestyle, but at the same time, I would never betray my Lord by rejecting truth and virtue in order to make my child "happy" or to be comfortable in this world.
In fact, I will never accept as "good" any sin that my children commit. This is not hard to understand, I hope. It's so simple: Sin harms my children and could eternally destroy them. Virtue, truth, and goodness, on the other hand, will lead them to Christ and Heaven. I want my kids' highest good, and that highest good is Heaven -- perfect and eternal union with God.
If my child is a thief, I will still love him (though I may not leave valuables laying around the house when he comes for dinner).
If my child is a drug addict, I will still love him.
If my child is a porn star, I will still love him.
If my child is a lying, no-good, nasty, bigot who hates his whole family and God too, I will still love him.
If my son is a rapist, a murderer, or a child predator, I will still love him. Yes, I will. I may have to turn him into the authorities, but I will still love him.
If my son is in prison for crimes against humanity some day, I will still love him, and I will visit him in prison. I will pray daily and do penance for his conversion.
There is not a soul breathing on earth who is beyond God's mercy, and if my child is the most evil person on the face of the planet, I will never stop loving him and praying for his conversion and salvation.
What if your child leaves the Catholic Church?
It would be heartbreaking. I have raised my children to love and understand the Faith and to embrace it on the logical, reasonable, historical, biblical, and spiritual levels. Should a child reject his birthright someday, I will lament that fact. But I will simply turn to St. Monica (oh, St. Augustine... what a time you gave to your mama!) and pray and fast for his eventual return. And I will trust God in all things.
What if your child wants to get married outside of the Catholic Church? Will you attend his wedding?
First, an explanation about Catholics and marriage. A Catholic is obligated to be married in the Church, unless there is a (very rare) dispensation given by the bishop. Note that I speak of a Catholic's obligation to be married in the Church. Two Protestants are not obligated to be married in the Catholic Church, and assuming they are free to marry (no impediments), Protestants may even get married in front of a Justice of the Peace or in Las Vegas by Elvis... and the Church would assume their valid and even sacramental marriage.
But Catholics (yes, even lapsed Catholics) are required to follow the laws of Christ's Church, and that means obeying Canon Law as well as the moral law. So, a Catholic who marries outside the Church would not have a valid marriage.
My answer to the question, then, is, no. I would not attend my child's wedding if my child should get married outside of the Church. It would be an invalid marriage, and I could not in good conscience be there to witness or support the ceremony or celebration. This is my personal choice in the matter, and depending on circumstances**, others might come to different conclusions, but my children were raised to understand and practice their Catholic faith, with no ambiguity. They cannot plead ignorance, and I cannot pretend that they simply do not know.
I can say with confidence that none of my children would ever expect me to attend their non-Catholic wedding, so it's not an issue for us, not even on our radar, and they would not be shocked or appalled by my stance. In fact, I firmly believe they would be shocked and appalled if I compromised on my faith after living it openly and happily and with conviction for their entire lives. Feel free to ask them yourself (I can get them here to the blog), but I am certain that my children would not want me to go against my own convictions, my faith, and my conscience to attend an invalid wedding that would put them in sin.
I hope that makes sense.
And as I stressed earlier, I would continue to love them no matter what, and they know it. Would they and their civil spouse still be welcome in my home, and would I love that civil spouse and my grandchildren and have everyone for Christmas? Of course!!
** The question of whether or not to attend the non-Catholic wedding of a Catholic family member or friend is multi-faceted, and here are three good articles to walk you through some of the issues involved:
What if your child was living with someone? Would you have them over to your house and would you go over to their place?
I would be terribly sad and disappointed if this were the case (and I would, again, be praying for St. Monica's intercession!), but yes, I would certainly have them over to the house and keep all lines of communication and all bonds of charity open. However, no way in one trillion years would I allow a cohabiting couple to stay overnight at my house in the same room, as if they were married. Nope. Fornication is serious sin, and I will never indulge it or look the other way. Not only because of the destruction to their own souls (and to mine if I facilitate it), but because of the scandal it would bring to my other children, especially any school-aged children still in the home.
It's such a no-brainer. It's so easy. No unmarried couples sleeping together under our roof.
As far as going over to their place, that's an interesting question. I have not given it a lot of thought. I'd have to cross that bridge when I come to it, and thank God I haven't come to it yet. Maybe He will spare me that dilemma!
Okay, those are some of the most common questions I get, and if you can think of any more, let me have 'em. And, as always, let's discuss.