Friendship and fraternal correction

shaking_handsOver at Our Sunday Visitor Msgr Charles Pope answers a reader’s question: Can Catholics have gay friends? If so, under what circumstances?

Answer: Yes, though as you indicate, circumstances are important.

Some friendships are close and personal, others are more peripheral. Some friendships involve very personal sharing, whereas other friendships involve only a general acquaintance.

Clearly it is more possible to overlook many things with people with whom we are only acquainted, or with whom we simply have professional relationships. In these situations, our obligations to give and receive fraternal correction is less. But close friendships presume many shared values and similar respect for the truth. When such things are lacking in significant areas, close friendships are going to be strained.  

Close friends also have greater obligations to instruct and admonish one another (cf. Jas 5:19; Gal 6:1). Hence, it is not the proper nature of a close relationship to simply overlook significant matters.

If I have a close friend and I know he is viewing pornography regularly or living with a woman outside of marriage, I have an obligation as a Christian to seek to correct him. If I have a close friend who is destroying his life with alcohol or drugs, I have obligations to admonish him and assist him to seek help.

All of these principles apply to someone with a homosexual orientation. If I have a close friend with this orientation and he or she is living celibately, this is fine, and I should seek to offer encouragement in this regard. If, however, they are straying into illicit sexual union and/or advocating a gay lifestyle, same-sex unions and so forth, I would have an obligation to instruct and admonish. It is difficult to see how a close relationship could continue if the individual were to utterly reject such correction about such a significant matter. The first concern for close friends ought to be each other’s salvation, not merely their feelings.

If a Christian were too weak to engage in this instruction, then it would seem that the close friendship is not really experienced as a friendship between equals, but a friendship wherein the other person has the upper hand. In this case, one might consider the admonition of Scripture that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33), and seek healthier friendships. For, once pressured to silence, many Christians give tacit approval, and the truth is no longer respected or proclaimed.


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4 Responses to Friendship and fraternal correction

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    “Some friendships are close and personal, others are more peripheral.”

    Just so. While you can pick your friends, you can’t pick your family, even if you want to. If one has a sibling, say, who‘s in a legally recognized same-sex union, and who has adopted a child who calls you “Uncle Johnhenry” (for instance), some thorny problems arise.
    “…it is not the proper nature of a close relationship to simply overlook significant matters.”

    I couldn’t agree more. What parent would not reprimand a child starting down the wrong road – engaging in pre-marital sex, for example? What loving child would not beg a parent to quit heavy drinking?

    “All of these principles apply to someone with a homosexual orientation…I would have an obligation to instruct and admonish.”

    Again, Msgr Pope will get no quarrel from me, but instruction and admonition need not take the form of Mrs. Grundy-like finger wagging; and in the case of some relationships – such as adult relatives – finger wagging, pursed lips, frowns, pleading eyes , etc. will be unwelcome, useless, counter-productive and probably downright destructive of continued family life – remembering amongst other things, that little boy who calls you “Uncle”.

    “It is difficult to see how a close relationship could continue if the individual were to utterly reject such correction about such a significant matter.”

    But, Father, personal circumstances can restrict the range of practically, indeed morally, prudent instruction . Constrained by ties of blood, “one needs go where the devil drives”, to paraphrase Shakespeare. Ironically, those words appear in his tragi-comedy, All’s Well That Ends Well.

    “For, once pressured to silence, many Christians give tacit approval, and the truth is no longer respected or proclaimed.”

    Still, Father, proclaiming the truth is not always served by sermonizing, even if the homily be ever so gentle (and btw, I suspect your above answer to the question put to you in Our Sunday Visitor is a case of ‘preaching to the choir’ – it would be considered condescending by most outsiders). I admire Jonathan Edwards’s 1741 tirade, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, as much as the next guy, but in our day and age, when addressing the spiritual needs of homosexuals who are very close to us, I sometimes think the best approach is that exemplified by Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff-but-not-unwise rhetorical: “Who am I to judge”? In my situation, this means confining my proclamations of the truth to asking sis and her partner where the closest church is when I go visit them, and by foregoing their offers of breakfast on Sundays, mentioning one’s Catholic duty to do so before attending Mass.
    One more attempt at irony…The Reverend Edwards preached that 1741 sermon (^) in Northampton, Massachusetts, formerly known as “the Paradise of America”, which is where my sister et ux et filius live, and which now goes by the sobriquet: “Lesbianville, USA” 😉


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    …and one must ask whether Msgr Pope has considered the possibility that there is no such thing as “homosexual orientation”, or for that matter, “heterosexual orientation”?

    Where did the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ come from? When did they first enter the European lexicons? Not until the late 1800s, apparently. There was a provocative essay published recently in the (orthodox) opinion journal First Things, to which I’ve long been a subscriber, written by Michael W. Hannon, a novice Norbertine: Against Heterosexuality, the subtitle of which reads “The idea of sexual orientation is artificial and inhibits Christian witness”. The germ of his argument is that to identify oneself as being of “heterosexual orientation” is ahistorical and pernicious to a proper (i.e. Catholic) understanding of relations between the sexes. He maintains that to self-identify as such plays into the hands of the LGBTQ lobby by framing the debate in terms of orientation, thereby conceding their premiss that ‘orientation’ – be it ‘hetero’ or ‘homo’ – is a real solid biological fact, not a political construct. Hannon’s piece is not easy to digest in one sitting (what is?), but worth the effort. Michael Stern, a writer for Slate, has this to say about it:

    “Last week, Michael W. Hannon published an article you haven’t read, “Against Heterosexuality,” in a magazine you probably haven’t heard of, First Things. The article is lengthy and dense, and the magazine is little known outside of certain faith communities. But you should read it right now—twice over, if you have the time—because “Against Heterosexuality” is one of the most alarming anti-gay polemics I have ever encountered, and it provides a valuable glimpse into religious conservatives’ next plan of attack against gay rights: gay denialism.”


  3. kathleen says:

    @ Johnhenry,

    Very well argued! This is a dilemma many people face with beloved family members, or with true friends who have gone adrift. However nobody is going to take an “admonishment” or “correction” of their unorthodox lifestyles from you meekly and then just turn things around. It will all look to them as if you are interfering in their personal choices as you sit on your superior high horse. Yet it must be evident that you do not morally accept such behaviour (for otherwise, you will be uncaring of their eternal welfare as you watch your relation/friend tread the path to Hell – and that is not love at all)… but just by preaching this to them is not going to work! Only by remaining a loyal and loving friend, whilst giving an authentic witness of an alternative Christian lifestyle, just may trigger off some little worm of conscience in their souls.

    To your second point – that there is no such thing as “homo” or “hetero” sexual orientation – I completely agree. It’s a whole lot of twisted nonsense. We have been so indoctrinated by our secular culture in our day and age that we are just made one way or another and that we have to “discover” our identity, that it is really hard to see through the mire of gay propaganda to realise we are being lied to.


  4. TerryC says:

    The most amazing thing about Slate’s propaganda is that they don’t seem to realize that many people have been saying this all along. Basically anyone with a knowledge of the history of gay agenda has realized that the goal has always been to get homosexual behavior declared as a biological trait so that it could be declared a protected class. Of course there is not, nor has there ever been any indication that this behavior is in any way genetically linked. It is, in other words, a learned behavior subject to conscious decision or unconscious psychological trauma.
    Which is how it has always been viewed throughout human history. Absent genuine scientific proof, which is totally lacking, that is how it should continue to be see.


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