BOOK SHELF - "Mom ... Dad, I'm Gay: How Should a Catholic Parent Respond? The Raphael Remedy"
by David Prosen and Allison Ricciardi
Review by John Morrissey.
"Mom... Dad, I'm Gay: How Should a Catholic Parent Respond? The Raphael Remedy" by David Prosen and Allison Ricciardi. Available from Mrs Marie Mason, Ph (03) 9847 0713. Price $12 includes postage.
David Prosen and Allison Ricciardi, the authors of this manual, are both licensed mental health counsellors with long experience in working with individuals and groups with a variety of disorders and issues. These areas include emotional disorders, pornography and sex addiction, and gender identity, and both carry out their work within the framework of the Catholic Faith. Allison Ricciardi is also a frequent guest on Catholic radio programs. Their advice may help parents accept and respond to this question if it arises.
They concede that there is no quick fix, but urge parents not to panic, or give in to their own emotions, but to reassure their children of their love and make time to discuss the issue rationally, however "in your face" defensive they may be. Parents have to control their own feelings, give the subject their full attention, and avoid preaching at their children. They have to ask questions, try to understand, and educate themselves with the truth - rather than notions of a "gay gene" and the like.
There are some excellent studies available, based on solid research, such as Same-Sex Attraction: A Parent's Guide, ed. John F Harvey, and many more on the www.couragerc.org website, which is Vatican-approved.
Parents are advised to separate the political from the personal. Gay activists, purporting to defend those with SSA, are commonly pushing a wider liberal (in the US sense) agenda. Identifying as gay may be largely looking for a place to fit in, while attracted to the human rights claims of the activists.
Catholic parents are told to prepare for the long haul, to take care of themselves too, and not to assume that their children want to change. However, if they wish to see a therapist, that person must be respectful of the parents' Catholic views, and not neutral or worse, but preferably Catholic themselves.
If the son or daughter is exultant about the freedom of "coming out", parents cannot condone it, but have to be patient rather than condemn the lifestyle. More specific advice includes to pray and never give up; maintain your sacramental life; be honest about your feelings; share your beliefs, without preaching, and perhaps join an Encourage group.
Unless the matter remains confidential, the issue arises of what to tell friends, family and especially siblings. With the latter, it is a matter of age and maturity level, but it can be assumed that teenagers are well aware of SSA, and will probably have some sympathy with the apparent "underdog" and side against the perceived "Judgemental" parent. It is best to have a planned response for others if the subject arises, but to accept help from those close to the child, while respecting his or her privacy.
A final practical problem is the setting of boundaries. This may involve holidays and sleeping arrangements, when there is a gay partner, or if they are living together the implications of visiting them. Parents need to avoid being punitive, but still be clear in their views, and the advice of a "solid" priest would help here. If the partner is to be invited, the ground rules must be set up front.
True love does not tolerate all things - Jesus certainly didn't! It is not easy to love the person without appearing to condone the sin, but with God all things are possible. The authors conclude: "Remember, your primary job is to love your child. It's not your job to save or rescue or change your child. That's God's job. Love your child authentically. This means planting little seeds of truth when you feel led to do so by God."