Coming back to the church 10 years ago, after a 20-year absence, Karl Miller found “authentic and true Catholic teaching” about homosexuality, “thanking God for never abandoning me when I was a seeker and wanderer,” he said during witness testimony presented to 151 priests Oct. 4 at their fall workshop, “Clarity and Charity: An Authentic Catholic Response to Homosexuality,” at St. Helena Church, Blue Bell.
“We’re called to be chaste,” he reflected about his same-sex attraction, “so is everyone else.” Chastity is a “universal call in the church,” and “how we can be joyous men in our faith.”
“When someone challenges or condemns church teaching, I offer the accuser, in a loving way, the truth that has been offered to me by many priests, deacons and other faithful Catholics: that a gay man is welcomed and loved by the church as everyone else, and he is called to worship, service and chastity,” Miller said.
Miller wrote of his perspective in his article, “Finding Courage as a same-sex attracted, Catholic man,” published last April in America magazine.
“I’ve fallen in love with the church in the last 10 years,” he noted. “I missed a sense of worship in a community.” While “God’s plans are perfect for all of us,” he asked, “What does the church have to offer me?” He answered his own question in one word, “Courage!” which he called “the best kept secret in the Catholic Church.”
Founded in New York in 1980, the Courage Apostolate provides pastoral care and spiritual support for Catholic men and women who experience same-sex attractions and who desire to live chastely in accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.
With the five goals of chastity, prayer, fellowship, support and good example, Courage teaches that the dignity and identity of a Christian person is not determined by his or her sexual orientation, but by their relationship to Jesus Christ through a developing faith, hope and love.
Father Philip G. Bochanski, a priest ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1999, was named executive director of Courage International in 2017. The organization now includes more than 100 chapters in the United States as well as groups in 15 other countries on five continents.
“It’s transformed my life,” Father Bochanski said at the priests’ workshop, adding he has experienced “what human beings can do when they cooperate with God’s grace.”
Offering presentations on both Christian Anthropology and Providing Authentic Pastoral Care, Father Bochanski advised his brother priests “how to respond when a parishioner comes to you and says, ‘Father, I’m gay.’”
“Say, ‘thank you for putting your trust in me. I want to hear your story,’” he recommended. “Give them the affirmation they need to grow,” he continued. “Expand the vision of what their life can be and be willing to walk with them. Speak honestly about boundaries in relationships. We need to create a place where people feel welcome. First, listen to the desires of their heart. Then, you can speak.” He concluded, “To speak the truth in love actually helps people.”
Father Christopher B. Rogers, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Kennett Square, is chaplain of the Philadelphia Chapter of Courage.
An additional workshop on the same topic was offered to priests Oct. 5.
Father Quindlen is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Plymouth Meeting.
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