Courage apostolate helps Catholics seek identity as God’s children
Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - One of the most devastating realities about society’s push to accept alternative sexual orientations is the pressure a person faces to be defined by a label such as “transgender” or “gay” or “lesbian.”
In his book, “The Name of God is Mercy,” released for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote,
“…[P]eople should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all His creatures, and we are destined to receive His infinite love.”
Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services (CSS) worries that these labels and secular attitudes about sexual orientation are misleading youth.
“Young people get lies in school, movies, music, and media that this is just normal, that ‘God made you this way,’” he lamented. “That’s not true at all. God made us in His image and likeness.”
Father Kubat said CSS offers help to any person, adult or youth, who is carrying the cross of same-sex attraction (SSA) or gender dysphoria (not identifying with the gender of one’s natural body). Trained professionals can offer guidance on a path of health and holiness.
Also active in the Diocese of Lincoln is Courage, an international Catholic apostolate for those with SSA. Courage was founded in New York in 1980 with leadership from the late Father John Harvey and Cardinal Terrence Cooke. Endorsed by the Holy See, there are more than 100 chapters of Courage around the world.
Father Philip Bochanski is associate director of Courage International. He said Courage provides important support for Catholics who want to live a chaste and holy life, regardless of SSA.
“If you are a priest or religious brother or sister who has committed to a celibate life, you have 2,000 years of tradition, accountability, and structure to help you through,” he said. “If you are a single person in this world trying to live a chaste life… that is much more difficult.”
He added, “The reality of a person will include strong things as sexuality or sexual attraction, but we don’t limit a person by that one part of themselves.”
Lincoln’s Courage chapter meets every other week. Each session includes an opportunity for confession, followed by Mass and a time of personal sharing and encouragement to live according to the apostolate’s five goals. These goals are the foundational truths that guide the apostolate and each of its members on a daily basis.
The first goal is chastity. An anonymous member of Lincoln’s Courage chapter explained, “What happens for a lot of us is, because society and information you get, you tend to equate sex with love…You can trick yourself into thinking that it feels fulfilling.”
The second goal in Courage is prayer and dedication, which includes frequently receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attending Mass as often as possible. It is an important goal for those who strayed from the Church for a time because they saw Catholicism as incompatible with their sexual orientation.
The anonymous Courage member said, “I got a lot of conflicting information about the real teaching of the Church. So when I found out the real teaching, of course I didn’t like it at first, but now it has become such a blessing.”
The third goal is fellowship.
“The so-called gay community at large is all about acceptance, but not for people like me,” said the Lincoln Courage member, who lost friends when he chose to stop acting on his SSA. “Every new person [who joins Courage] says it’s just so reassuring to know there are other people out there like them.”
Courage’s fourth goal is support via chaste friendships.
The Courage member who spoke to the Southern Nebraska Register said, “Being chaste, you need friendships. You need human connection. You need the intimacy of sharing thoughts and feelings and ideas.”
He laughed when he remembered that there was some concern when the Courage chapter was launched in Lincoln about friendships among members turning into a near occasion to sin. However, he said, just as people with heterosexual orientation can have healthy, non-sexual friendships with those of the opposite gender, people with SSA can have healthy, non-sexual friendships with those of the same gender.
“It can be a lonely life, a very challenging life,” acknowledged Father Bochanski. “A person might be renouncing one type of love, but they are supported by chaste friendships that enable them to love more deeply.”
The final goal is to become a role model for others.
“I don’t feel like I am necessarily a good example,” said the anonymous Courage member, “but I know I have made the choice to live how God wants me to live. I guess that by itself is an example. In our society today, it’s not just people with SSA who need that example, but everybody. Everybody is called to chastity.”
In 1992, Courage International added a second group, EnCourage, for parents and other family members of those who feel SSA.
“In most cases, their loved one is not participating in Courage and not participating in the full life of the Church,” Father Bochanski said.
Often, Catholic parents are being told to choose between their children and the Church.
“Not just by society, but from their children themselves,” said Father Bochanski.
“I would love to start an EnCourage chapter in the diocese,” Father Kubat said.
He reiterated the Church’s teaching that homosexual orientation and gender dysphoria are not sins in and of themselves.
“We make the distinction between somebody’s behavior and their personhood,” he emphasized.
The anonymous Courage member realizes the importance of this.
“I happen to have this attraction, but first and foremost, I’m God’s son and Christ’s brother,” he said. “To identify yourself by some attraction is really belittling yourself in a way, not acknowledging your full value.”
He wants people to know that Courage is, “100% Catholic, 100% in line with the Magisterium… and we’re pretty normal people. Obviously, we have problems, but everybody does. We’re struggling, we’re good people and we’re probably your friends.”
Any Catholic person who experiences SSA can contact Father Kubat at (402) 474-1660 for compassionate help. Parents and siblings can also reach out to CSS for support.
More information about Courage and EnCourage is available at www.couragerc.org. Online resources include chat rooms and a documentary, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” which recounts the stories of three individuals with SSA who found fulfillment and freedom from sin in the Catholic Church.