November 20, 2009

Courage: People with same-sex attractions support each other to live chaste lives

Deacon Steve Hodges, second from left, speaks with two members of the Indianapolis chapter of Courage, an apostolate that gives support to people who have same-sex attractions, but want to live chaste lives according to the Church’s teachings on chastity and homosexuality. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Deacon Steve Hodges, second from left, speaks with two members of the Indianapolis chapter of Courage, an apostolate that gives support to people who have same-sex attractions, but want to live chaste lives according to the Church’s teachings on chastity and homosexuality. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

(Editor’s note: The following article shares the stories of people with same-sex attractions who want to live according to the Church’s teachings on homosexual behavior and seek support through Courage, a Church apostolate that supports these people. Because of the confidential nature of Courage meetings and the controversial nature of this topic, they have asked that their real names not be used.)

By Sean Gallagher


This virtue, also known as fortitude, is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.

“It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions” (#1808).

This is also an apt description for Catholics who experience same-sex attractions, but want to live according to the Church’s teachings on chastity and homosexuality. The Church teaches that, while same-sex attractions are not sinful, acting upon them is. Therefore, people who are attracted to people of the same sex are called to lives of celibacy, as are all who are unmarried, or if they are married, to a chaste sexual relationship with their spouse. They should not be the subject of unjust discrimination (see “Catechism Corner” in this issue).

Courage is also the name of an apostolate in the Church that seeks to give support to such people.

It was founded nearly 30 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York. There are now Courage chapters in several countries around the world and in about half the dioceses in the U.S., including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In the past year, chapters have been started in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

They began through a grassroots effort of people with same-sex attractions who live in or near the archdiocese and sought spiritual support for their attempt to live according to the Church’s teachings. (Related content: Truth and love both needed when discussing same-sex attractions | What the Church teaches about homosexuality)

Courageous friends

“Charles,” 39, had experienced unwanted same-sex attractions for much of his life. He had learned about Courage on the Internet about 10 years ago, but had never met anyone else with same-sex attractions who wanted to live according to the Church’s teachings.

“I didn’t want to live that lifestyle,” he said. “I grew up as a Catholic. And I’ve always known that it was wrong. … I was very frustrated. I felt like I was the only one in the whole world with this problem.”

Eventually, other people within a couple of hours of Indianapolis who shared Charles’ desires came to know each other through the Internet, Courage’s main office in New York and Courage members in Chicago.

Eventually, a chapter was started in Indianapolis more than a year ago.

“It’s just a blessing from God,” Charles said. “It really is. It’s the Holy Spirit. I can see the Holy Spirit working. I never thought that I’d be here with these great people around me, these friends. I never thought this would be possible.”

Charles’ friends in Courage, although relatively few in number at present, are wide in variety.

“Ruth,” 54, had lived a gay lifestyle for more than 30 years before having a conversion experience that led her to the Church and to accept its teachings on homosexuality.

“I think it is the most logical, most compassionate stance there is,” she said.

“Gerald,” on the other hand, at 21 and a college student, has chosen not to follow the same path that Ruth had walked for so many years. But it is still a struggle for him.

“My same-sex attraction has always made me depressed and lonely,” Gerald said. “My life was just kind of bleak, I guess. I knew the Church’s teachings pretty much all along. … They just seemed right.”

“Matthew,” 49, had been a gay lifestyle advocate for many decades and had a long-term gay relationship. But he said it was a series of “epiphanies” and the experience of much pain in his life that led him to turn toward Christ and the Church’s teachings on chastity and homosexuality.

“It was my whole life, really,” he said. “And I was basically happy, I thought, for a while. But I began to think more in spiritual terms when my relationship broke up. I wanted more. I sought love. And I knew that homosexual love is based on sex, mostly. It’s a reduction to sexual identity.

“I didn’t want to be qualified that way. I have different qualities about myself, which I like to express and which I feel are much more prominent than my sexuality.”

Like his other friends in Courage, “Brad,” 53, had found the gay lifestyle unfulfilling.

“I just had to get out of all of that,” he said. “It was just a nightmare.”

Ongoing support

The Courage chapter in Indianapolis meets every other week for a couple of hours. The names of those who attend meetings and what is said during them remain confidential.

Deacon Steve Hodges, the chaplain of the Indianapolis chapter, helps guide the conversations during the meetings.

“He keeps us grounded in the topics that we really need to discuss,” Matthew said. “I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

“It has literally been a match made in heaven,” Ruth added.

The meetings start with prayer. The members then read together the five goals of Courage, which relate to chastity, prayer, fellowship, mutual support and becoming role models for others. They also read and comment on the upcoming Sunday Mass readings. And there is always time given to talking about the members’ personal struggles and victories since the last meeting.

After their meetings, they share lunch and then often attend Mass together.

“It’s not just that we’re here as members of the Courage group, and then we leave and it’s goodbye and that’s it,” Charles said. “We’ve become friends. It’s family.”

Like members of a family, they know they can rely on each other for support at any time. So they frequently call each other when they need help.

“If I need some encouragement to avoid going the wrong way, we’ll talk about it,” Charles said. “We pray over the phone frequently. I pray the rosary over the phone every Saturday with Matthew.”

Ruth was happy when Gerald joined the group because she hopes that Courage can give support to young adults with same-sex attractions.

“We can help them, perhaps, make a better decision about that because, you know, you can’t live long enough to make every mistake yourself,” she said. “Sometimes you have to learn from other people’s mistakes. I was really thrilled when he came.”

For his part, Gerald said the Courage chapter has lifted him up.

“It’s so nice to come to this group,” he said. “It’s so much easier [here] for me to accept myself and love myself and be joyful. I noticed that right away.”

Pressure from many sides

Members of Courage also seek support from each other because they feel pressure from many sides in the broader society.

Some have friends and family who accept and even promote the gay lifestyle, and have difficulty accepting their choice to reject it.

“When I made this decision and I wanted [my family] to know about it, they wanted to commit me, basically,” Matthew said. “All I could hear was, ‘You’re denying yourself. You’re not being yourself. You’re going to end up in a mental institution.’

“If people keep saying stuff about your life, one tends to believe it after a while, especially when there’s no other support available.”

At the same time, some members have co-workers who presume that they are living a gay lifestyle and will taunt them about it.

“It’s frustrating because I’m not doing anything wrong,” Charles said. “I’m not looking for a gay guy to have a relationship with. I’m just doing my job. And every once in a while at work, somebody has to make a smart comment, teasing me, insinuating that I’m gay.”

Ruth hopes that more people will realize that simply having same-sex attractions isn’t a sin.

“I think a lot of people really don’t understand that,” she said. “They think that just by having the inclination that you’re condemned to hell or something. And that’s just not true.”

“They think that all of us are living that lifestyle,” Charles said. “Some people have that kind of attraction, but we don’t like it. We don’t want it.”

Whether it is in dealing with her own personal struggles or with pressure from others, Ruth simply appreciates how Courage and the Church accept her for who she is and provide support in her daily life of faith.

“When I read what the Church taught on homosexuality, I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t have to be attracted to a man to go to heaven,’ ” Ruth said with a laugh. “I don’t have to change. I’m just called to chastity like any other Christian.

“I think we should all be open to what the Holy Spirit has for us. And that may include change for some people. But it may not include change for other people. And that doesn’t make them any less loved by God.”

(For more information about the Courage chapter in Indianapolis, send an e-mail to For more information about the Courage chapter in Bloomington, send an e-mail to For more information about the Courage apostolate, log on to

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