Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gay Cooties

I'm blogging today about something that I found on the Catholic Answers Forum. Here is the featured question from yesterday:
Re: Should I be forced to celebrate Thanksgiving with a gay "married" couple?

My sister-in-law invited her gay brother and his "husband," who are "married" -- as defined by our judicial system here in Massachusetts. There will be about twelve adults and ten children attending, children ages 13-19. I have a big problem with this being forced on me and am not going to be with my family this Thanksgiving. I feel that it is thrust upon me and confusing the children about what we believe as Catholics. I'd like to do the charitable route and go, but I feel I must stand up for what we believe and be a witness of our faith to both the adults and the kids. What do you think?

Michelle Arnold's Response:

Before I get to the point at which I basically agree with you, which I plan to do, let's first look at this from your sister-in-law's point of view.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday, one at which your sister-in-law evidently has taken responsibility to host for her husband's family -- a family that, by your estimation, will include over twenty people. Is it surprising that your sister-in-law would like to include her family in this celebration by inviting her own brother to the event? If she is not Catholic, or is not convinced of the Catholic position on homosexuality, she may even consider it rude not to invite her brother and his "husband." (Of course, it may be that your sister-in-law invited her brother and his "spouse" to someone else's home for Thanksgiving. In that case, take up the matter with whoever is hosting the event.)

My point is that someone is going to a lot of trouble to host over twenty people for Thanksgiving dinner this year, and either chose to include or chose to allow someone else to invite a family member and his "significant other." For another guest to make a fuss that two men are being welcomed over to someone else's home for one of the biggest family holidays of the year is going to appear to them to be churlish.

Now, back to your point of view. I completely sympathize with your discomfort over the idea of seeing teens given an example of "gay married life" over their turkey and cornbread, especially if the men are not willing to behave for the sake of the children as if they are merely platonic friends. By attending such an event, and appearing to sanction such a relationship, you could indeed be contributing to the corruption of the morals of children. In that light, attending such an event is hardly "charitable." I also completely sympathize with your outrage at feeling that you are not able to spend Thanksgiving with your family because one family member did not feel the need to consult with other adults in the family about the appropriateness of including this couple at a family event at which children would be in attendance. But, just because you are correct, does not mean that you need to contribute to the family drama by making a show of your disapproval.

Here's one possible plan of action:

* Call the host with your regrets. * Simply say that "something has come up" that prevents you from attending. (This is true.) * Do not allow yourself to be pressed into explaining what came up. (This will make it all the more obvious what the problem was without you appearing to be a "spoilsport.") Just keep reiterating how sorry you are that you're unable to attend. * Arrange your own Thanksgiving celebration this year. * As early as possible for next year, perhaps over Christmas this year, let your family know that you would like to host the family Thanksgiving next year. * If your sister-in-law asks if her brother and his "spouse" can come to your home for Thanksgiving, regretfully explain that you already have a "full house." * Then allow her to decide where she and her immediate family will spend Thanksgiving.

I've attempted to stir up some controversy over this in the forums but I'd also like to post a response here.

This is a category of question that I've seen a lot of times, and it basically rests on the assumption that if we agree to do everyday normal things in the presence of people who are in gay relationships, that we are somehow sanctioning their relationships. The corollary is the belief that by refusing to participate, we send a clear message about the morality of same-sex relationships and we witness to the truth about homosexuality.

When we refuse to get involved in the lives of LGBTQ people, we do send a very clear message, but the message has nothing to do with the truth. We send the message that we are bigoted homophobes who think that gays are icky. We send the message that Catholics don't want anything to do with those nasty fags, and that we're afraid that our children will catch homosexuality like a disease if they're brought into even the most casual contact with gay couples. We send a message that we really care a lot about hating the sin, but that we're not even willing to eat at the same table as the sinner.


  1. Thank you deeply for posting this.

  2. I am thankful that you are out there in the Catholic media Melinda, bringing a fuller answer of empathy and love to the conversation.

  3. Hi,

    I just heard your show on Catholic Answers and decided to take a quick look at your blog. I saw your reaction to the response to the question of what should be be done when we are invited to someone's home where a homosexual couple will be present. I do see your point about being afraid of gay cooties. However, you gave no suggestions of how one ought to look at these situations. Is there no difference between the openly gay couple and your run of the mill anti catholic pro abortion acquaintance or family member?

  4. M,

    I think that the issue for me is that in general practice, the conspicuous sinner is frequently singled out, while those who commit secret, socially acceptable sins are treated like ordinary folks. Christ seemed to take the opposite approach: He sat at table with the tax-collectors and sinners -- that is to say, with the people of ill-repute whose sins were widely publicized -- and He was generally very gentle with them. I often hear people talk about how liberalism makes Christ too nice, and how He was actually pretty harsh a lot of the time, which is true...but usually He reserved His harshest sayings for those who thought that they were good, holy and righteous. I guess in terms of how you would treat a gay couple, it's a matter of thinking about the probable effect of your actions, and of considering whether you would respond in a similar way to a different, less politically divisive sin. For example, would you boycott a Thanksgiving dinner because one of the unmarried guests was bringing their opposite-sex common-law partner along as a date? The likelihood that they will make some reference to home-life with their live-in lover is about as high as the likelihood that the gay couple will make some comment that makes it clear that they're an item -- and the scandal to minors is much more likely (the chances that a teenage kid will one day be tempted to shack up is much higher than the chance that they will one day be tempted to have sex with people of the same sex.) It just seems to me that there's no way that a Christian can interact with the world at all if they're going to try to avoid associating with anyone who is openly committing some sort of sin -- and that therefore it is unjust discrimination to make a special case out of the gays.

  5. Unless I am missing something, Jesus never continued in a relationship with those who were publicly sinning. He spent time with public sinners either after their repentance or with the purpose of bringing about their repentance. He said that if sinner would not repent the apostles "were to shake the dust off..." and move on (sorry, big paraphrase there but I think I go the gist of correct). There is a huge difference between those who publicly sin and are seeking approval for that sin and those other everyday sins that may or may not be public. I don't know what sins most of my family members commit but I do know what the gay family member is up to when they bring their partner and are all over each other. The other angle on this is that the gay family members view of the world and life is so at odds with ours that conversations are difficult. He is very intolerant or just downright dismissive of other viewpoints. And no, up to this point I really don't want to hear about his gay friends, gay clubs. Before you see red and go off on me, I will see him next week and will be doing some serious praying about all of this. There is a lot of history here and it is not all on my side.

  6. The original question did not say that the brother-in-law and his "husband" would be "all over each other" or that they would be going on about their gay clubs and friends. I don't think we can assume that they would be doing that, even if some gay men do such things. This is not a one-stereotype-fits-all situation.

    As for those who "publicly sin," assuming they aren't doing it in the streets, I take it Anonymous means that the very fact of their living together proclaims publicly that they are sinning privately. This is no different from the unmarried heterosexuals who live together. If one would automatically refuse to be in their presence, then it's consistent to avoid being at dinner with the homosexual couple.

    But it seems to me that the premise some people go on, that dining with someone means you approve of their presumable sins, is not valid.

    It also seems to me that people who refuse to attend for the sake of their children are a.) naive if they think that the kids won't find out that this sort of thing exists and b.) avoiding a chance to have an important conversation (after they're back home) about sexual morality and loving the sinner without loving the sin.


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