For some people, speaking up is hard to do. While some of us don’t mind arguments or confrontation, others of us feel at peace when everything is harmonious. We need both our debaters and our peacemakers. Sometimes though, those of us that like to keep the peace (I fall into this category) like to please people to the detriment of others and ourselves. I have seen this become more prevalent in recent years. As I look at some of the biggest points of contention in our culture, I see many areas where we Catholics are falling short in our duties, particularly in one spiritual area. In Catholicism, there are seven spiritual works of mercy. One of them is to instruct the ignorant. Unfortunately, it seems that there are far too many Catholics who have been too afraid or too indifferent to put this into practice. I have to admit, I’ve been neglecting my duties in this area as well. That’s why I felt the need to write a bit of a wake-up call to us all.
I remember back in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriages in the U.S. Back then, the popular word around this topic was tolerance. Whether we agreed with the ruling or not, we were told that we just had to tolerate their lifestyle and relationship decisions. We could still feel free to disagree if we wanted, we just had to make sure we were tolerant. Most people on either side seemed to think that this was reasonable and agreed to the terms fairly quickly. That was when the slippery slope really took off. A short while later, the wording changed again. Everyone needed to be accepting of the LGBT+ community. Not long after, the wording changed yet again. This time, the activists said that they should be celebrated. No longer was tolerance or inclusion acceptable. Along with this came more letters added to the LGBT+ name, and suddenly, new gender types and words I’d never heard of began popping up. There seemed to be so much confusion among many people, especially younger generations, about who they were. Many people were called out on social media for being a bigot or homophobic, and if they disagreed with LGBT causes, they were either canceled or threatened.
This seems to be where we are now. I had to stop and look back. How did we get here? It seemed it happened gradually and at the same time, at an alarming rate. How did we go from tolerance to threats being made if we do not celebrate? In part, it’s because we did not speak up. “Let’s be tolerant,” we said. “Just let people do whatever they want to. We may not like it, but we’ll just look the other way. Just let people live their lives. It’s not very loving if we tell people they can’t live a certain way.” But that could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, to look the other way is not loving at all. When an alcoholic is struggling with addiction, do we say, “It makes them feel good. They seem to be happy. We don’t approve of their decision, but it’s their life not ours. Who are we to judge?” If we truly love them, we certainly don’t. We tell them that their habit could endanger their lives. We beg and plead with them to stop hurting themselves. Why don’t we do this for other vices that can hurt our souls? As Catholics, we know what the Church teaches about homosexual acts. If we don’t, we need to refresh our memory. The Catechism says that these acts are not approved because they close off the sexual act to the gift of life. Here, the total and fruitful aspects are missing from the marriage promises of totally, faithfully, fruitfully, and freely. Once we realize this, we need to speak the truth. To allow someone to celebrate a behavior we know to be destructive, to turn the other way, is to cease to care for our fellow human beings. We cannot continue to make excuses for not telling the truth.
I realize as I write this that it’s more than a little heavy-handed. I don’t want to be insensitive to the fact that many people (myself included) have friends and family that either identify with or defend the actions of the LGBT+ community. Some of our loved ones may struggle with disordered attractions and desires, but the attraction is not wrong. It’s only when they act on these attractions that it becomes a sin. When we feel called to confront them, we need to listen to what they have to say, not just tell them not to do something. We need to lovingly show them a better way, not shout angrily. If we can’t correct them with love, then don’t confront them until you can. I’m also not saying to go around confronting everyone who disagrees with you on this issue. There is a time to confront and a time not to speak up, such as with a stranger whose full story you’re unsure of. When it comes to loved ones though, you presumably have a relationship of trust established, and therefore have a special responsibility to correct them when you feel that they are doing something contrary to what’s best for them. I hear the words I’m writing and shrink back from wanting to live them. Scenarios pop into my head of what will happen the next time I feel the need to engage with a family member, a coworker, or a friend about these things. To tell you the truth though, after reflecting about the slippery slope we’ve been going on for awhile, I’m beginning to get fed up with my cowardice. I’m sure we all have someone in our lives that we know is living a disordered lifestyle in one way or another. We let it slide in order to stay away from discomfort, or feel too lazy or indifferent to tell them the truth. However, if we don’t speak up, it may show that we don’t truly care for them. If we really love someone, we’ll let them know we want what’s best for them. They may not want to hear it. They may get angry at us, or want nothing to do with us. That’s the scariest part. What would be even scarier though, is watching someone harm their soul and realizing we bear some of the blame when we could’ve helped them, and chose to look the other way.