July 5, 2013

Court rulings don’t deter ministry to people with same-sex attractions

(Editor’s note: The following article includes comments from a member of an archdiocesan chapter of Courage, an apostolate in the Church that gives support to people with same-sex attractions who want to live according to the Church’s teachings on homosexual behavior. Because of the confidential nature of Courage meetings and the controversial nature of this topic, the individual has asked that his real name not be used.)

By Sean Gallagher

When the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in two controversial cases related to the redefinition of marriage were announced on June 26, members of the gay community celebrated from coast to coast. (Related: Local Catholics disappointed, but not surprised, by court rulings)

That was because the rulings gave significant support to the move to allow same-sex couples to be legally married.

“Charles,” however, took the decisions in stride. He had paid little attention to the news surrounding the cases.

That’s because he does not embrace a gay lifestyle, even though he has experienced same-sex attractions for much of his life. Charles instead strives to live out the Church’s teachings on homosexual behavior.

He receives support in this effort by being a member of a chapter of Courage that is based in the archdiocese. Courage is an international apostolate in the Church that seeks to help people like Charles, and it has chapters in about half the dioceses in the United States, including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“I kind of knew what was going to happen,” said Charles, 43. “The rulings did not surprise me. We are living in this culture of death that is desensitizing people and causing them to turn away from God.”

He is saddened by the trend in the broader culture to accept and even promote the gay lifestyle, but it has not made it more difficult for him to hold on to his convictions.

“The reason why it has not been much more difficult is because of my Catholic faith—the faith that my parents, especially my mother, passed on to me when I was a child,” Charles said. “If I did not have a strong Catholic faith, I would maybe have a tougher time staying away from the gay lifestyle.”

Charles is strengthened in his faith by being an active Courage member. Deacon Stephen Hodges is the chaplain for the Courage chapter in the archdiocese.

Like Charles, he wasn’t surprised by the Supreme Court’s rulings.

Having led the chapter for four years, Deacon Hodges said that the last six months to a year has been more difficult because of challenges that he attributes to the strengthening of cultural trends that support the gay lifestyle.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, to be honest,” Deacon Hodges said. “I’ve had people drop out of the group and other people that have come into the group, come for two or three meetings and not return.”

Despite these obstacles, Deacon Hodges is determined to continue reaching out to people with same-sex attractions to give them support and help them live out the Church’s vision of sexuality.

“There are still people that struggle with this that want to live according to the teachings of the Church. And they need support,” he said. “If there’s just one person that I can impact positively and help draw them closer to Christ, then I’m going to continue in this ministry.”

When Charles learned about Courage 13 years ago, “I felt as if I had won the lottery, except it felt so much better than winning a material prize. A big load had been lifted off my shoulders.”

He recognizes that he is in a unique position to share the Church’s teachings on same-sex attractions and homosexual behavior, but also knows that it is challenging to do this in today’s society.

“It is difficult and dangerous to be open about my SSA [same-sex attractions] struggles due to discrimination and hate,” Charles said. “Most people either think that you are a freak for having same-sex attractions, or that you should be happy by embracing the gay lifestyle.”

He wishes more people knew about Courage.

“There are so many people out there that have no idea about the existence of this type of support group,” Charles said. “Because of that, many think that their only option is to accept same-sex attraction and live that lifestyle.”

(To learn more about the Courage chapter in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, send an e-mail to IndyCourage@yahoo.com.)

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