ASK FATHER: Now platonic homosexual couple: one wants to enter Church. The priest says….

From a reader…


A priest I spoke to said that I could not get confirmed or enter the Catholic Church (I was baptised in an evangelical church) as I am living with my same sex partner of 10 years. The relationship is now platonic and chaste. He said that due to near occasion of sin and scandal that it would not be permissible and that I would have to leave him first. Are occasion of sin and scandal grounds for stopping people from entering the Catholic Church or is this a grey area? I was looking at the USCCB pastoral message Always Our Children and it only requires chastity.

I’ll take you at your word.

Let’s be clear about a few things.

There is nothing wrong with a couple of men, friends, living together.  However, I strongly suspect that many people have known about the nature of your relationship.  They know that you were not chaste.   That will surely remain a part of the equation.  The Church – and you – have a responsibility before God not to cause or perpetuate scandal.   This is why so many of the Church’s laws involving administration of sacraments in complex situations specify “remoto scandalo… once the possibility of scandal is removed”.

If you want to enter into the Catholic Church, then you should also want to adhere to everything that the Church authentically teaches.  You should also, by definition, want to adhere to her laws and traditions.  You should, by definition want also to protect the Church and make her ever more and more the visible sacrament of Christ’s love and presence.  That’s one reason why the Church’s pastors – and lay people – if they have their heads screwed on in the right direction, want to avoid scandal. Scandal leads people to think that sin A,B or C maybe really isn’t so bad after all, since, after all, people committing those sins are receiving the sacraments with the seeming approval of her pastors.

Avoidance of scandal is not just the priest’s job.  It is YOUR job, too.  A faithful, humble, devout, well-meaning member of the Church – or catechumen! – would take that as an important element in decision making.

Another question revolves around why you two continue to live together.  If what you have has finally matured into a true friendship that excludes that which does serious mutual spiritual harm, then … well… that’s good.   But the fact remains that what the priest said is true: there are near occasions of sin and the possibility of scandal, because of your past.  Hence, in this case I reject the argument of favorable economics of living under one roof.

I think the priest you spoke with, without knowing more about the conversation, is on the right track and has given you good advice.

Entrance in the Church, for an adult, stems from the desire to given oneself to Christ wholeheartedly.  Therefore, because of that new relationship the Catholic also desires what is truly good for neighbor.  Hence, avoidance of scandal and occasions of sins, not being a scandal to others or, God forbid, an occasion of sin for another person.  True charity means wanting what is the true – not imagined – good of the other person.

If you genuinely want this membership in the Church then the elimination of the near occasion of sin and the elimination of the risk of scandal seems to be a necessary first step.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with something from the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen gentium, on the Church:

14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.

Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.

Your desire to enter the Church, if sincerely, already brings with it certain consequences.

Remember: this is about the salvation of souls.  That’s the long term, the eternal term.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. teomatteo says:

    I have a sibling who has been living with another who is same-sex-arracted, for 25 years. Everyone in our family seems ok with the arrangement but me. I have asked anorher sibling if i began living with a person of the opposite sex and we are both clearly hetero) and we did everything publically together (went to weddings, concerts, mass, communion, out to dinner, family christmass, vacations camping, Would that be peachy? since…you know….no one can tell what we are doing in the bedroom, bathroom, hot tub, sauna, etc. I think not.

  2. thomistking says:

    The question indicates that the questioner does not want to “leave” their friend, which suggests that this is still a romantic relationship. The Church teaches that romantic love is ordered to marriage and to children, and thus is inappropriate in situations where this is not possible (regardless of sex). This is a painful truth to hear, but a necessary one. I will pray for the questioner that he and his friend mature into a friendship that is truly in accord with human nature and ordered to God.

  3. Joy65 says:

    VERY good response Father. You covered it all very well.

  4. Imrahil says:

    Dear Thomistking,

    I happen to agree in this case: they were once homosexual lovers, after all.

    But it is an exaggeration to say that there cannot be any romantic friendship except if ordered to marriage and children. This is certainly true if you replace “romantic” by “sexual”, or possibly even if you replace it by “erotic”; but just romantic, as it stands there? After all, Tolkien was a Catholic, and so (well, not quite, but you see what I mean) was the author of 1 Samuel.

  5. Chuck Ludd says:

    I will not tackle the near occasion of sin part but focus on the scandal because I cannot assess the near of occasion of sin particularities. It may very well be a scandal in the local parish (unless there was an announcement of chastity, which may not be desired or maybe would be desired as a bold and brave move). But if the two people live in an urban area, scandal may be reduced by moving to a different parish on the other side of the city where no one knows them or their arrangement.

  6. bibi1003 says:

    I didn’t understand your reference to Tolkien. Could you elaborate?

  7. AndyMo says:

    Fr. Z covered the bases regarding scandal better than I could, but I’d like to chime in and offer encouragement to this man for stepping away from the sexual relationship. It’s really difficult, in today’s culture, to turn away from that life. God bless, and I’ll keep you in my prayers for your continued journey to holiness (please pray for me, too!).

  8. JSPizzo says:

    I wonder if the reader may have also been wondering how this might differ from, say, a heterosexual situation.
    I presume the answer to that would be that
    1) A cohabitating couple might live as brother and sister for the good of the children but that
    2) A couple without children would be in a similar situation to our reader above. (I suppose the difference here would be in the practicalities of what exactly constitutes scandal)

  9. SanSan says:

    So happy with the response from this man’s priest. And great follow up Fr. Z. Scandal is a scourge on the innocent. Had a “row” with my daughter before she married her husband (both Catholic), she insisted that they were chaste, however, they travelled and stayed in the same hotel rooms and she would spend weekends at his house. His family and I have many teens who saw all this without their declaration of abstinence. Sadden all the parents that we couldn’t get through to them.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Dear bibi1003,

    I thought the reference, coupled with 1 Samuel, was clear. Of course there was nothing indecent, sexual, or erotic in the real friendship of David and Jonathan or the fictional friendship of Frodo and Sam (though the scoffers deny that); but can you bring yourself to say that these friendships had entirely nothing to do with romance?

  11. MissBee says:

    Dear questioner – I am thrilled that you are taking steps to be confirmed into the church and that you’ve asked good questions. This is not the only occasion of sin you will need to turn away from, so continue to pray to the holy spirit – daily and throughout the day – for the graces to do this. You absolutely can with His help. It will not be an overnight process so keep the goal in mind. God bless.

  12. Traductora says:

    Having recently seen a witch-hunt for gays launched by a certain publication – focusing on a conservative organization, and terrifying people who aren’t gay and never have been, but are unmarried and have friends of the same sex – I’d say we’ve got to be careful.

    Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for two people of the same sex to live together in a completely non-sexual relationship, go on trips together, etc., but everything has been sexualized now, unfortunately, so it’s easy to understand why people go crazy on this. However, I think we need to get a grip on this and not go from being cool with drag queens to going to a Catholic version of a witch hunt.

    If this couple was a local scandal, they’d probably be best advised to go to another parish. Chances are nobody even knew about them, and in that case, if the priest is orthodox, people should accept that one or both of them has repented, been reconciled, and is not involved in homosexuality anymore.

    I do want to say, btw, that during a time I went to an Orthodox church, where the priests are allowed to marry (bishops must be never married or widowed), homosexuality was a horrible problem. Women would take classes on catechetics or some such thing at the seminary in order to meet a husband, since priests had to be married before being ordained. The priests, who were carrying on in horrible ways (including, in one case that I know about, breaking into the sacristy to get the vestments and perform a sort of parody, drag “Liturgy”) were simply looking for a “beard,” that is a woman they could marry who would cover up their proclivities. Then they’d rise in the diocese, usually based on who they were sleeping with at the chancery.

    I think the problem is clericalism, and homosexuality is simply one of the things that is a feature of that strange, enclosed world, a world that needs to be broken up as soon as possible. Francis is a prime example of somebody exploiting clericalism to advance his personal – er, friendships – with totally immoral people.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    A woman with a chaste crush might have a romantic friendship. It would be kinda stupid as a situation, but there you go. But generally, romance seems consummation in marriage with a transformation away from the ups and downs of romance, or a breakup. Romance has to move it along. Friendship can be part of the ingredients of romance, but is usually destroyed by unsuccessful romance.

    Sam and Frodo were war buddies who also knew each other from the neighborhood. They were also master and servant, which is to say that they had both ties of employment and professionalism. There was no romance in that situation. There was just depth of friendship. The only reason people talk silliness about this, is that we have impoverished our relationship categories.

    Moving along… Obviously the parish should stand ready to help with advice, if anybody’s conversion causes economic or livelihood problems.Maybe there should be a ministry from the archdiocese with realtors or planners. I have also thought that maybe we need to consider some kind of diocesan beguinage, because lots of people now are growing old without relatives of spouses.

  14. Chaswjd says:

    I think there are two different questions. First, there is the question of whether remaining in the living situation would be an occasion of sin for the writer. I take his word that the relationship is chaste. Whether remaining where he is offers a temptation to sexual contact is a matter of prudence best explored privately with his confessor. It should not be an impediment to reception of the sacraments per se. and there may, as other writers have pointed out, reasons for staying which are not sinful, including economic and the support a now platonic friend can give in life. But again these are matters best explored in confession or spiritual direction.
    There is the second question of scandal. While there is an obligation to avoid giving scandal, there should be a corresponding obligation on the people of the parish of charity. Where we reasonably can, we should assume the best of our neighbors. We certainly should not condemn a person as a sinner where no sin is occurring. As part of his reception into the church, the questioner will publicly affirm that he believes all the church believes and teaches has been revealed by God. Until we reasonably know otherwise, I think we should take the gentleman at his word.

  15. Chaswjd says:

    I note that there are a few typos. I do apologize for them. The IPhone is not the best device on which to write.

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