Workshop raises awareness of Courage program

A copy of his book “The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care” is displayed on a table during a lecture delivered by Father John E. Harvey, OSFS. The lecture was part of day-long workshop on the Courage program which supports people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

BRIGHTON — Almost 60 priests, deacons, seminarians and pastoral associates attended a workshop on Courage, a Catholic ministry to those who struggle with same-sex attraction, at St. John’s Seminary May 12. The daylong event featured Father John E. Harvey, OSFS, Courage’s founder.

Father John M. Sullivan, chaplain of the Boston chapter of Courage, said that the spiritual support group is essential for those struggling with same-sex attraction and desire to live chaste lives.

Those who have a homosexual orientation are not encouraged by society, especially here in Massachusetts, to live a chaste lifestyle. In fact, many people tell them that such a lifestyle is undesirable, unrealistic or impossible, he said.

“We have an obligation to provide this ministry,” he said.

Members of Courage in Boston suggested the workshop as a way to promote education and understanding of the organization. The group, which is based on personal anonymity, has experienced difficulty informing the public about its mission.

“They sometimes feel invisible,” said Father Sullivan.

Father Sullivan said that he first understood the need for this ministry when at his first pastoral assignment, a man teaching confirmation approached him and said that he was gay, he added.

“I had no idea what to do or say,” he said. “I didn’t know how to respond pastorally. I knew Church teaching, but I didn’t know how to apply it.”

Speaking at the workshop, Father Harvey said he knew over 30 years ago that those struggling with same-sex attraction needed support and began holding retreats for them. He was asked by Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York to begin the Courage Apostolate in 1980. Courage now has more than 110 chapters and contact people worldwide.

“Anyone who works with homosexual persons knows the depth of their loneliness,” he said. “I see the whole thing as a miracle of God’s grace.”

Courage members set out five goals to live chastely— develop a life of prayer with Christ, come together, share their struggle with same-sex attraction, forge good friendships and live lives as good examples to others, he said.

“If one is faithful to prayer — and of course going to Mass and confession, spiritual direction, all these other things — you will be able to be chaste,” he said. “Whenever you’re talking about chastity, it’s always God that does it in you.”

Father Harvey began his talk by quoting various passages of the Bible that illustrate God’s plan for marriage and sexuality. He started with Genesis and continued to the New Testament, noting that Christ confirms the teaching of Moses in Genesis.

“From sacred Scripture it is clear that the two purposes of marriage, which always go together, are the union of man and woman and the procreation of children,” he said. “The solid basis for the argument against homosexuality is the teaching on marriage.”

He added that homosexual acts are “seriously immoral” because they are neither ordered toward unity nor procreation.

Father Harvey stressed that Catholics must respond by speaking the truth in love to those with same-sex attraction and focus on their dignity as a person. Catholics should support friends and relatives with same-sex attraction but not support the homosexual lifestyle. For this reason, they should not attend same-sex weddings or allow homosexual couples to share a bedroom in their own homes, he said.

“Pray for God’s grace to stand up for what we believe in,” he added, acknowledging the difficulty of these situations.

Father Jeffrey Keefe, OFM, Conv., a longtime collaborator with Courage, agreed.

“If we are too tolerant, we encourage something that is spiritually destructive,” he said. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the list of known mental disorders after protests from homosexuals, said Father Keefe. This was a socio-economic, not scientific, decision that was based on a majority vote, he added.

The association then asserted that homosexuality is a normal variant in psycho-sexual development, genetically determined and inborn — all of which are untrue, he said.

Father Keefe asserted that twin studies of both identical twins and fraternal twins have shown that identical twins are more likely to both have homosexual orientation, indicating a genetic component. But genetics cannot be the determining factor since less than half of genetically identical twins have the same orientation, he said.

“I think what is inherited here is temperament,” he said.

Those with a homosexual orientation tend to be more sensitive. This can lead them to be more affected by early childhood trauma that can affect their sexual orientation, he said.

“Some adverse incident or incidences occur that in a boy’s case undermine his masculinity and in a girl’s case undermine her femininity,” he said.

Father Keefe added that homosexuality is not immutable and the proof is that some homosexuals have been able to shift their sexuality. A few have even gone on to marry.

“The fact of change proves the possibility,” he said.

While Courage is not aimed at changing orientation, it is ordered toward chastity, which is necessary before any change could occur, he added.

Father Keefe said that he has enjoyed working with Courage and has been inspired by its members.

“They’re in no man’s land, and yet they keep on. I think they’re really heroic,” he said. “You really see miracles if you work in this ministry.”

Three members of the Boston chapter of Courage spoke at the workshop about their experience facing same-sex attraction in the Church.

“It’s very easy in the Catholic Church to find people — priests, people working with priests — who give you half the truth,” one of the men said, urging the priests there to always give the whole truth.

The Catholic Church calls those with same-sex attraction to lives of chastity and helps them to achieve that through the work of Courage and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, he added.

“I’m so glad that I’m Catholic. I’m willing to take the sacrifices. That’s where Christ is real, and I’m learning who He is,” he said.

[Editor’s note: More information about the Boston chapter of Courage is available by calling Father John M. Sullivan at 781-665-0152.]


Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People&rsquo;s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigan&ograve; about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...