The other day I had a conversation with a few thirteen-year-old girls about homosexuality and the teaching of the Church. Although they were all raised in good Catholic families, some of them were full of doubts and others consciously rejected the Church’s teaching. As I tried to reason through things with them, I realized two things about at least one of these girls (let’s call her Sarah). First of all, she was not interested in understanding what I was trying to explain to her. She wasn’t really listening; she just wanted a bit of controversy. Second of all, and more importantly, her “difficulty” in understanding went a lot deeper than what I initially suspected. She may have just wanted controversy, but I truly did want to help her. As she went on and on repeating phrases she had heard: “Everyone has the right to love whoever they want…” and: “If you have a dream you have to follow it till the end, no matter what…” I started to see where her problem really was.
“Sarah!” I interrupted her ranting and she gave me an indignant stare. I calmly looked into her eyes and asked, “Is there good and evil?”
She, of course, did not lower her gaze. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“Are some actions good and others evil?” She squinted at me warily, suspecting that her response to my question could ruin her argument.
She responded with confidence, “That has nothing to do with this!”
But I insisted, “Actually, it does. If your answer is no, this entire conversation is useless.”
She thought for a minute and said, “Well… I don’t know.”
Had Sarah been more honest, she would have said yes. Why? First of all, because she had been recriminating me the whole time for being judgmental, and second of all, because she was arguing that we should follow our hearts. That means Sarah holds that making a judgment about the actions of another person is itself an evil action, whereas following one’s feelings is itself a good action.
“If you don’t know whether there is good and evil, then before being so certain in your opinions, maybe you need to reflect more.” Sarah insisted that my theoretical questions didn’t matter, and that the matter was much more simple, and she again repeated that no one can tell anyone else whom to love. She clearly did not want to think about it. But a conversation about the goodness or evil of human action with someone who does not know whether goodness and evil exists is pointless.
Another girl was present in our conversation; let’s call her Laura. Initially she had said that she was totally against homosexuality and found the whole idea disgusting. Sarah is a typical teenager, but Laura isn’t much better off. Neither of them was actually thinking. Both of them were letting themselves be led by their feelings: Sarah, by her feelings of pity, and Laura by her natural disgust for unnatural sexual relations.
Though many Christians would say that Laura is closer to the truth, she has two dangers: one, her natural repugnance could cause her to be judgmental and hateful towards homosexuals, or two, she may eventually become accustomed to the reality of homosexuality in society and will end up agreeing with Sarah, because she does not have solid arguments. The second danger is actually what happened right before my eyes. “Now I’m all confused about this,” Laura complained. Just a few catchy phrases supporting the legitimacy of homosexual relations, and a girl who had never doubted the doctrine of the Church started to doubt.
Without going further into how our chat continued, the conversation shed a lot of light on the situation of adolescents today and the importance of a solid formation on these issues. Maybe a few generations ago the “Duh! Isn’t it obvious?” explanation was enough to convince someone that same-sex marriages are not fruitful for society. But today, that is not enough. When working with those who have a common-sense grasp of the truth but do not know why, we must strive to give them a solid formation, while helping them to be loving and open to all. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2357-2359, is a solid start. And with those who have been brainwashed by the world, we have to go back to the basics. Is there good and evil, or is everything relative? Does the goodness or evil of a given action depend on one’s feelings or is there some objective measure? If everything is relative, why are you recriminating me for being judgmental? Why do you hold that being judgmental is evil? Am I really being judgmental? How do you know? Questions like these can help start up a reflection on these issues.