Reverend Paul Check, the executive director of Courage, a Catholic outreach group that helps people with same-sex attraction to live in accordance with the Church’s teaching on chastity, said the gospel and the Catholic Church welcome and accept homosexuals but not homosexual behavior, which is “contrary to their own good.”
He also stressed that the Catholic Church is not going to change any of its teachings on chastity and sexual morality, adding that his hope is that Courage will become “better known” so that people with same-sex attractions can know that “the Church has a place for them to help them understand themselves in the light of grace as children of God who can live the virtue of chastity.”
In an interview, CNSNews.com asked Fr. Check about the October 2014 Synod on the Family and some of the apparently contradictory messages about homosexuality that were published in the synod documents.
The midterm report from the synod said, “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
That portion of the report, however, was removed from the final document.
Fr. Check said, “I think there was confusion in and around the Extraordinary Synod from last year and perhaps confusion was created in people’s minds about what the fathers [bishops] of the Church there were telling us.”
“There isn’t any question that the gospel is a welcome to all people, an acceptance of all people,” he said. “But the terms welcome and acceptance require a little further clarification so that we distinguish the person from any sort of behavior that would be contrary to their own good.”
“There’s not going to be any change of the Church’s teaching on anything related to chastity in the upcoming synod,” said Fr. Check.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality “remains largely unexplained,” and “[b]asing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
The Church also teaches that people with homosexual inclinations are called to a life of chastity, and that they can control any disordered passions by living a virtuous life in accordance with the gospel and through reception of the sacraments.
Fr. Check continued, “But I think also there’s this question of cause and effect here, and that’s to say, the gifts that are clearly present in men and women with the homosexual inclination where do they come from? Do they come from the fact that they have the homosexual inclination or do they come from the fact that they are children of God and they are living a virtuous life and that they are cooperating with God’s grace? I think that question of cause and effect might have gotten muddled for some people.”
“It’s not the homosexuality itself that’s the seat of the gift,” he said. “When I say homosexuality there I mean the homosexual inclination. The seat of the gift or the cause of the gift is the humanity of the person, and their cooperation with grace and their striving for virtue. That’s where the gifts come from. So I think there was some confusion there and there will be more conversation about this to clarify it and to help people understand.”
CNSNews.com asked if there was something Fr. Check hoped to see coming out of the next Synod on the Family this October 2015.
“Well, I think one thing that our apostolate offers in particular is something you spoke about a moment ago, which is the importance of friendship or fellowship and the importance of community life,” he said.
“I think one thing that can come out of the synod is a greater commitment to building a proper community that doesn’t have any confusion about identity, that isn’t going to put people in a box,” said Fr. Check. “The Pope says, who am I to judge, which is a form of categorizing people and putting them in a box and that’s not right, but does give them a proper embrace of their identity and gives them the gift of the gospel so that they are part of a vital Christian community.”
“I think one of the reasons why we lose a lot of people to the faith and from the Church -- men and women with the homosexual condition and young people especially -- is that there appears to be out there a community that recognizes them and welcomes them and says to them we know who you are, we will give you friends, you will find contentment and happiness here and so on,” said Fr. Check.
“Let’s call that the gay community, it’s not my terminology,” he continued. “If the Church does not have something that appears to be equally vital and life-giving, then it’s understandable why people are going to go over there and say there’s a community of those, of like-minded individuals.”
“That voice of people for whom homosexuality is not first a cultural issue but is a lived reality, that voice is very much the voice of Courage in the Church,” he said.
“Our hope is to make that voice better known so that others who have same-sex attraction, have homosexual attractions, would know that the Church has a place for them to help them understand themselves in the light of grace as children of God,” he said, “who can live the virtue of chastity but not just the virtue of chastity, all of the human virtues which are proper to all of us, of course, and to find peace and fulfillment in the light of the gospel.”
“Courage, following the mind and heart of the Church, proposes chastity as a virtue,” Fr. Check said.
“We have more loneliness because one of the effects of promiscuity is division, separation, disposable encounters, disposable relationships, disposable people and that leaves people lonely, unfulfilled, and sad,” he said.
“Chastity is the virtue which guards us against that kind of thing and not only does it restrain us from things that are false,” said Fr. Check, but “it makes possible for us that which is good in keeping with our nature, which is that self-giving love which in the spousal realm depends upon the complementarity of the sexes and fulfills the sexes and gives life.”
Courage was founded in 1980 by Fr. John Harvey, with the help of Rev. Benedict Groeschel. Courage has more than 100 Chapters worldwide and more than 1,500 people participating in its program. It’s main office is in Norwalk, Conn., and can be contacted through e-mail: NYCourage@aol.com.