WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Church not only needs to provide pastoral care for those with same-sex attraction but it should also make its teaching “accessible, understandable and compelling for people,” said the director of a church apostolate that ministers to homosexuals.
Father Paul Check, director of Courage for the past eight years, said Catholics with same-sex attraction would be also more likely to “understand what the church teaches if it became more plain to them that they have a place in the church.”
He aims to get that message across through the work of his apostolate, which particularly focuses on providing clergy training, but he said the message still needs to “get to the ground to people who need it.”
The priest, who considers himself “an advocate for an underserved population,” said the church’s teachings on chastity and contraception are not well understood, and added that they are “all part of one tapestry and they include the question, obviously, of homosexuality.”
One way to get this across will be through an international conference focusing on the church’s ministry to homosexuals. The conference, taking place near Detroit this August, is a lead-in to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September and the world Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in October.
It aims to help those in pastoral care ministries gain a better understanding of the church’s teaching on homosexuality as well as insight on how to put into practice the U.S. bishops’ 2006 document “Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” said Father Check.
He said the theme of the Aug. 10-12 gathering is Christian friendship and the importance of building relationships.
The event, sponsored by Courage International, Our Sunday Visitor and the Archdiocese of Detroit, will feature about 30 national and local speakers and will include Courage members “who will tell their stories,” the priest told Catholic News Service in a May 22 interview in Washington.
Father Check, a diocesan priest from Bridgeport, Connecticut, said the conference will answer some of the questions posed in the “lineamenta,” or outline, for the Oct. 4-25 synod on the family at the Vatican, particularly about the church’s response to homosexuality.
Some of those questions included: “How can the Christian community give pastoral attention to families with persons with homosexual tendencies?” and “What are the responses that, in light of cultural sensitivities, are considered to be most appropriate?”
Last year he said Courage took a small step in spreading the church’s message about homosexuality through a documentary movie, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which tells the stories of three people who transitioned from homosexual lifestyles to chastity in accordance with the church’s teachings.
“It’s an easy introduction to the solicitude and care the church has for people,” Father Check said, adding that the hour-long film “doesn’t sound like sterile teaching from the catechism but a lived reality.”
He pointed out that many people do not even know Courage exists, unless they “Google ‘Catholic Church and homosexuality'” and when people “find us eventually” they often say: “We never knew the church had something” like this.
Courage chapters, which currently number about 100, are support groups where people meet confidentially and build relationships. “Isolation is really one of the more difficult problems our members face,” the priest said.
He said word of this apostolate needs to appear in parish bulletins, announcements, pamphlets in church vestibules and should be mentioned in diocesan newspapers and even in confessionals.
Father Check said this ministry has “changed my priesthood considerably.”
He said as a teacher of moral theology and sexual ethics, “this is already my field,” but he has been particularly impacted by “sitting down with men and women for whom this is part of their life.”
“The blessing for me is to get to see the nobility of the human spirit and the efficacy of grace in a lot of lives,” he said before adding: “but there are many challenges, I don’t want to undervalue that.”
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Perhaps the main reason why Church teachings on homosexuality are not more accessible, understandable and compelling is because today’s Catholic Church is mostly silent on the topic. When was the last time you heard a homily on homosexuality that openly and compassionately discussed and explained homosexual temptation and why giving into this temptation and having homosexual sex is such a serious sin? This veil of silence seems to confirm what many Catholics think. That many Bishops and clergy in the Church secretly disagree with or downplay the Church’s homosexual teachings and because of this they are not more openly and aggressively supporting such worthy support programs like Courage.
This once upon a time was a free country….however, Communists don’t allow one to speak their mind. Third party snooping is obvious!
Bravo to Father Check and the good men and women who make up Courage. As someone who believed the lie that the Church does not care about its gay/same sex oriented members, I was estranged for nearly 30 years from my faith. Our local Courage chapter in Philadelphia is made up of a vibrant collective of men who desire to both live in accordance with church teachings, help others, built strong and lasting friendships, and most importantly, serve our God and His people here in the Archdiocese and beyond.
Others may try to distort the message, but true believers clearly know that all men and women are welcome in the Church.
and why do homosexuals feel isolated while the teachings are so difficult to comprehend? does the church really even want to minister to homosexuals? Why is it they can only drum up a handful of homosexuals who find it in any way helpful? If this is so needed why if the church focusing on who should not be married or employed by the catholic church when you say we need ministering?
Is all this attention to someone’s sexual “tendency” healthy for anyone? Is this dignified? Respectful? Is being labeled to have an “objective disorder” “tendencies” toward and “evil act” dignified?
Joe I don’t know anyone in the group who meets at the Courage bi-monthly meeting that chose to be gay or Same Sex Attracted. It is a burden we carry and deal with. The past has brought nothing but shame to those dealing with the disorder. Being married and now widowed I deal with the extra burden of having raised a son and having to deal with my feelings as well. I would rather spend time with a man than a women. Sorry if that bothers you but that is how God allowed me to come into this life and as long as He accepts me I couldn’t care less if how you feel about it. It isn’t my choice. My choice was to marry and although I deceived my wife for the years we were married, we loved and cared for each other. Till she died she suspected but did not know of my SSA. We had a son who I raised after she was killed the day before my 32nd birthday. Our son was 7.
Now my choice is to live as close to a chase life as I can and honor God as He asks. teach my grandsons to love God and to know how important Christ is in our lives.
I can tell you without a doubt that I live under the hand of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
That is who I am and that is the burden I cross I carry.
God Bless you and may God grand you some kindness in your heart so you might see others as no better or less than yourself.
Joe, I believe that many homosexuals feel isolated because they know full well that their moral choices are directly opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches. The Church does want to minister to homosexuals, but that does not mean that the Church will approve of living the same-sex lifestyle. If a person is living in sin, they cannot and should not receive Holy Communion. Therefore, active homosexuals have isolated themselves by not following Church teaching. It is absolutely “healthy”, “respectful” and “dignified” to point out that engaging in the homosexual lifestyle is disordered. In fact, the whole motivation for the Church doing so is genuine love and concern for the salvation of the homosexual person. The Church wants to see the person avoid going to hell, so it must let the person know what they are doing is morally wrong so the person can stop doing it.