Blog Bold and Loving by Daniel Glaze The room fell silent as the question was asked, “Raise your hand if you think the Catholic Church hates gay people?” Awkwardness splashed across everyone’s face like a tidal wave flooding the room. As the 250 youth looked around seeing who would be the first to raise their hand, one girl raised her hand, then another and another. About 30 youth eventually raised their hands. “See everyone, there are people who don’t understand Catholic teaching!” was sadly the only response, and the last statement said before the end of the Edge Night. Same-sex attraction is one of the many reasons why youth leave the Church, even as young as middle school. Sharing the Church’s teachings and truth on this topic has become particularly difficult because of the media and current culture trends that do not permit balanced and informed conversations. In addition, many people, especially youth, have personal experiences with knowing someone who has same-sex attraction. It has become challenging to openly discuss the teachings of the Church without a constant bombardment of intolerance, discrimination, and misunderstandings. As many of you probably recognize, the scenario above is definitely not the correct way to approach this topic. We are called to show the true love the Church has for all of God’s children, but how can one teach the truth without sounding combative? How can you address this touchy topic with middle school youth? Here are four ways to help you prepare to guide your youth through this topic: Pray Prayer is so important. Conversing with God about approaching this topic, in teaching or conversation, can help prepare your mind and heart to speak the truth well. It is also helpful to look into different resources, the Catechism, Scripture, a blog post, or a book are all great tools to mold our minds in truth through prayer. Understand no experience is the same Middle school youth experiences with same sex attraction VASTLY differ. Some have never even thought of it, others might have friends who say they are experiencing it, while some might be struggling with it themselves. When you are teaching or conversing about this topic keep in mind the wide array of experiences you are addressing and the different maturity levels. Always use pastoral language This is probably the trickiest part of guiding middle school youth on this topic because one wrong word and you can turn them off from the whole conversation. When discussing this topic ensure you only use uplifting and loving words. Use words and phrases like ‘compassionate’, ‘unjust discrimination’, ‘chastity’, ‘love’, ‘Mother Church’, ‘inner freedom’, ‘friendship’ and ‘grace.’ Stay away from the words ‘hate’, ‘excluded’, ‘wrong’, ‘condemned’, ‘false’, ‘them’, and ‘going’, ‘to’, ‘Hell’. Side note: The language used within the Church is to say that a person is “experiencing same sex attraction”. This may not be language that a teenager is familiar with; they may be more familiar with “homosexual” or “gay.” You may need to begin with these terms. Also saying that a person who is attracted to someone of the same-sex has a disease, or mental disorder is highly offensive and the Catholic Church maintains that the genesis of homosexuality remains largely unknown and a variety of factors may be at play. Remember that we are not defined by our desires and we are all made from God’s design. Truly embrace and understand what the Church teaches Knowing what the Church teaches is the launching pad for all three of the previous tips. You can’t just “talk about it” without truly embracing and understanding the teaching yourself. Same-sex attraction is one of those hot-button topics that everyone likes to discuss, and discussing it with middle school youth is a whole different animal. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you can’t answer questions about Church teaching in an honest and authentic manner, you’ll not only confuse yourself, but anyone you discuss this with. When it comes to issues like this, it can greatly hurt not only your reputation but also the Church and the truth of Her teachings. Middle school youth can tell when you don’t know what you are talking about. So to help you prepare for broaching this topic with middle school youth here is a list of materials you could read on this topic: Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2357 – 2359 Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, USCCB Publication Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine, Life Teen Blog Catholics Care About Gays?: The Myth Debunked, by Christina Mean, Life Teen Blog God’s Divine Design: The Church and Homosexuality, by Fr. Dan Beeman, Life Teen Blog 7 Ways to Love our Brothers and Sisters Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction, by Daniel Glaze, Life Teen Blog Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality: New Paths to Understand, Louis J. Cameli, Ave Maria Press Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, John F. Harvey, Ascension Press Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism, Melinda Selmys, Our Sunday Visitor The Courage to be Chaste, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Paulist Press The Truth of Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful, Fr. John Harvey, Ignatius Press Be brave and bold. Prepare yourself well to enter into an open, honest, and authentic discussion with middle school youth about same sex attraction. Remember to pray and to approach your youth with love – Christ needs you to reach out to those who are most in need to and to guide them into the truth. Do not be afraid, He has a plan and gives you all that you need. Check out a preview of our Edge Night entitled Boundaries on Same Sex Attraction. If you are interested in subscribing to Edge or Life Teen, visit the subscribe page on CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Feature Image via Flickr, CC 2.0, with logo added.