WASHINGTON (CNS) — At the opening of the annual conference of a Catholic apostolate to those with same-sex attraction, attendees were reminded not to post photos from the event on social media and not even, while visiting the campus of The Catholic University of America, to announce to others why they were there, other than to attend a conference.

“The Catholic Church can be a very small place sometimes,” Father Paul Bochanski, associate director of the apostolate, reminded the 425 attendees.

Founded in 1980, Courage International’s goal is to help Catholics with same-sex attraction in spiritual matters. It emphasizes chastity.


With joint financial support from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, as well as donations, it has more than 100 chapters worldwide. A partner organization, EnCourage, helps families and friends support those experience same­sex attractions.

In an evening keynote address July 21, Father Paul Check, executive director of Courage International, focused on the sacrifice of chastity using as his biblical text the account in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke of the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple, and the prophecies of Simeon and Anna — the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary and also the first of Mary’s seven sorrows.

“Imagine the grace that floods into the heart of this holy man as he first sees the Lord,” Father Check told the gathering. “He is open to the grace of the Holy Spirit that guides him.”

“The joy of Christ is ours,” the priest said. “God has kept his promise. He has come to his people. He has taken possession of his temple … and he has made us his residence.”

Using the example of Mary, who accepted the death of Jesus on the cross after hearing it prophesied at the temple, he said, “She experienced pain, but not sadness. So it’s not a contradiction. It’s a paradox. Joy and sorrow go together.”

Father Check used Anna, an elderly widow who did not remarry, as an example of denial of worldly pleasures: “To deny the appetite of the flesh is to move closer to God. The body’s senses are an imperfect judge of reality.”

“If you want to hold Jesus in your arms, then live in a state of grace,” Father Check said. “It is not a relationship with Jesus that we seek, but a union.”

Other topics at the weekend conference include dealing with pornography and sexual abuse, and forming chaste friendships.

Speakers included Johnnette Benkovic, host of the Eternal Word Television Network program “Women of Grace”; Sister Miriam James Heidland, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, who speaks widely on the theology of the body; and chaplains to Courage programs in the dioceses of Arlington, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama.