By S.L. Hansen
SEWARD (SNR) - At the most recent ‘Priest Study Day’ Nov. 10, the Diocese of Lincoln welcomed Father Paul Check, executive director of Courage International. He instructed the priests on ministering to people with same-sex attraction (SSA) and their families.
“Courage offers hope and support for men and women with same sex attraction who wish to live chaste lives,” explained Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services and chaplain to the Courage apostolate of the Diocese of Lincoln.
Father Kubat said that societal pressures have made navigating the issue of same-sex attraction more complex than ever.
“Our society portrays homosexuality in a positive light, ignoring the damaging aspects spiritually, psychologically and physically for those living ‘in the lifestyle,’” he said.
He also noted that it has become increasingly difficult for Catholics to engage in frank discussions about SSA.
“Many good, faithful Christians are fearful speaking the truth out of fear of being labeled ‘homophobes’ and ‘bigots,” Father Kubat lamented.
Having served Courage locally as chaplain for more than 10 years, he is confident that the faithful must persevere, despite their fears.
“It has been my experience that when persons with SSA find, embrace and live the truth by the grace of God, they experience fulfillment that only God can give,” Father Kubat said. “This is the fruit of Courage.”
Educating clergy in how to minister to people with SSA is one of the missions of Courage. During the study day in the Diocese of Lincoln, Father Check equipped diocesan priests with ideas and tools for presenting the truth in love and charity.
For example, “Father Check made the distinction between pleasure and fulfillment,” Father Kubat said. “The former is transitory and the latter is long-lasting.”
Founded by Father John Harvey, O.S.F.S. (1918-2010), Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., and others in 1980 at the request of the late Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York (1968-1983), Courage was endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the family in July 1994.
Father Paul Check, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport (Connecticut), became executive director upon Father Harvey’s retirement in 2008. Father Check speaks regularly about the issues surrounding SSA for conferences, retreats and Catholic radio programs.
Courage now has more than 100 chapters around the world. Thousands of people have received assistance through fellowship, prayer, and the sacraments. Its founding members created five spiritual goals for themselves, which are now practiced by all members. These are read at the start of each Courage meeting:
1. Chastity: To live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
2. Prayer and Dedication: To dedicate our entire lives to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
3. Fellowship: To foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with one another our thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.
4. Support: To be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life; and to encourage one another in forming and sustaining these friendships.
5. Good Example/Role Model: To live lives that may serve as good examples to others.
A companion apostolate, EnCourage, was formed specifically to minister to the parents, friends and family members of those who are burdened with SSA. EnCourage focuses on helping its members deepen their own spiritual development in order to achieve peace and complete trust in God’s providence and love.
Like Courage, EnCourage is a faithful witness to the Church’s teaching on human sexuality while maintaining an abundance of charity and compassion for those with SSA.
An example of this charity and compassion is the Courage statement on what it means to accept a person with SSA.
“Sometimes love requires us to make our disagreement known,” the Courage website states.
It continues, “We have many opportunities to reach out and show love and concern for others. The more time we spend in prayer and striving to grow in our relationship with Christ, the more the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with love, understanding, and patience. Our own example of love and acceptance may draw those around us to the joy of salvation we have found in Jesus Christ and in the teachings of His Church.
Ultimately, Father Check’s instruction at the priest study day was to show genuine love while standing firm on the truth about human sexuality.
“There is no love without truth,” Father Kubat said.
Anyone who bears the cross of SSA is encouraged to reach out to a priest in the diocese for spiritual guidance. For more information about Courage and EnCourage, consult a parish priest or visit www.CourageRC.org. There are many resources available for free on the Courage website, including printable brochures and videos.