Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Catholic and Homosexual
Courage/Encourage provide for Catholic gays, families struggling with same-sex attraction
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Raised a Catholic, Peter (not his real name) wanted Church-based support for his struggle with same-sex attractions but none was available.
"I had some understanding of the Church's teachings on homosexuality, and I struggled with it through my teens, my 20s. I just didn't know where to turn, and I found some support outside of the Church," said Peter, who is married and has a family.
He got involved with Edmonton's Homosexuals Anonymous in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, seeking support that he could not find within the Catholic Church.
After hearing about a support group called Courage that was available in other major cities, mostly in the United States, Peter contacted the pastoral office about forming a Courage support group locally.
The group, endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family, formed in 2004. Ever since then, Peter has been attending meetings at St. Joseph's Basilica, which involve prayer, spiritual readings, sharing each other's personal struggles and helping the men lead chaste lives.
"What it's helped me learn more than anything is to accept that same-sex attraction may be a struggle, but that doesn't mean it has to control my life. Where it helped me more than anything is to realize that sexuality is a part of who I am, but it's not who I am entirely," said Peter.
He told the WCR that Courage has given him a sense of belonging that he otherwise wouldn't have.
PLACE TO BELONG
"You go through life feeling that you don't belong. This is a place where you can belong, and you don't necessarily have to embrace that lifestyle," said Peter.
"Before the group came along I was still attending Mass, and there were priests and people in the Church that I talked to. But I can't say that I was really looking for answers in the Church."
The families are also impacted, so a similar group, Encourage, was started for the spouses and parents of people with same-sex attractions.
This group appealed to Anne and her husband, who, three years ago, found out that their son is attracted to other men. This was a startling revelation for the family. Over the weeks that followed, they were in a constant state of grief because they did not believe that their son's life was going according to God's plan.
"If a person has a same-sex attraction, it's usually a problem for them and it's usually a problem for those who love them," said Anne.
The family has been attending local Encourage meetings and has also been to four international Courage conferences in the U.S. Anne said Encourage is a wonderful group, and they have met endearing people both in the Edmonton group and through the conferences.
"Like any other problem in life, it's always nice to know that there are other people who are in the exact same situation," said Anne.
As many as 10 people, some from as far away as Red Deer, have attended the monthly meetings at St. Anthony's Church.
"It's been a painful experience, but at the same time we've been able to put things more in perspective and place our trust in God. The Church is trying to be compassionate and it's teaching us to have compassion for our loved ones.
"No matter what attractions we have, we're all struggling to live a chaste life according to our situation," she said.
Encourage promotes a spirit of compassion and acceptance among the members so that they may share with one another their thoughts and experiences and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexual loved ones alone.
Members foster the practice of service to others, meditation and frequent attendance at Mass. Father Ray Guimond offers spiritual direction to the members.
"There is sort of a struggle if you are a practising Catholic and you believe the Catholic teachings because you have a great empathy for people who have this struggle," Anne said.
"If you know they are acting out on their attractions, it is very hard to deal with. It causes them a lot of grief in the end," she said. "We want to encourage them to live a chaste life."
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