During a recent Republican debate, New Hampshire father JP Marzullo mentioned that he has a gay son. Mr. Marzullo called on fellow Republicans to consider one question when deciding whether to overturn New Hampshire’s marriage equality law: “If you knew your child was gay would you disown him or her?” The underlying assumption: considering marriage as an unmalleable building block of society is at odds with supporting and loving your child with same-sex attraction.
My immediate reply to Mr. Marzullo’s question would be a resounding “Of course not!”
I am a Catholic. I am the father of one son and two daughters. I am also a man who has not always lived his life in the manner willed for me by God. Like most people, there have been plenty of times that I have allowed my desires, passion and pride to lead me down a path that I erroneously thought would make me “happy.” And, I mistakenly chose to believe that certain desires, cravings and passions defined who I was. I was wrong.
That said, I would posit that Mr. Marzullo and his son are wrong, too, if they think a person is solely defined by his sexual attraction or desires. Mr. Marzullo’s son’s life is defined by his God-given dignity as a beautifully created child of God. As such, Mr. Marzullo’s son is indeed entitled to have the “fullest life possible.” But living life abundantly will not come from what he, his son or we—as human persons subject to our human weaknesses—think might be best for his son’s personal happiness.
Love with limits is familiar to any parent. Any loving, caring mother or father knows that we sometimes have to say “no.” We say “no” knowing that our answer may bring our children and us sadness and pain. Our answer may make our children “hate us” or think that we do not “understand” them. But we say “no” to their requested conduct nevertheless, and we say it based on unconditional love for our children.
And so it is with God’s “parenting” of us. Just because we pass from adolescence into adulthood does not mean that we immediately come to know all that is in our best interest. As adults we are continually fooled by desires, passion and pride into thinking that we alone know what’s best for ourselves. Part of being Christian is accepting that God our Father knows what is best for our happiness.
Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality is based on authentic Christian love, rooted in the life-giving, loving Gospel of Jesus Christ. People with same-sex attractions are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite with the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter with their attractions.
And really, this is what we are all called to do: offer up our passion, our desires and our will to God so that we may grow to understand the eternal happiness found in Him alone.
To “disown” a person with same-sex attraction would be gravely immoral and unjust. But most of all, it would be radically contrary to the parental nature of Christian love.