By Brigid Curtis Ayer
(For the Catholic Moment)
CARMEL — Same-sex attraction is an issue that “touches people’s hearts, homes and families very deeply,” says Father Philip Bochanski, associate director of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate assisting those with same-sex attraction live chaste lives.
Bochanski, from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, discussed ways we can respond the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex “marriage.” We need to recognize that many in secular society and even in the Church believe that whatever government endorses is good and no longer open for discussion, he said.
It’s important to have an honest conversation about the issue both inside the Church and in broader society, Father Bochanski said.
His presentation, titled “Welcoming Our Brothers and Sisters Who Experience Same-Sex Attractions: Clarity and Charity,” offered participants an overview of Catholic teaching on the gift of human sexuality and how to deal with real-life situations.
Father Bochanski said that Pope Francis and the Catechism of the Catholic Church uphold the dignity of every person.
“All people are children of God,” he said. “Attractions can be good or bad, depending on where they lead a person, and actions can be good or bad.
“When we talk with people with same-sex attraction or about this issue, we must first always consider the human person, their dignity and accompany them using the Holy Spirit as our guide,” Father Bochanski said. “We are wasting our time if we don’t first talk about God’s love. Then we can talk about doctrine and morality.”
He explained that the Church has an exalted view of human sexuality. Discussing Christian anthropology, beginning in Genesis, he said that God created order out of chaos, and he created male and female to reflect the Trinity, complementarity and total self-gift. Woman was made for man, equal as a person, yet complementary and different. Male and female complete each other, build each other up, and their love is intended to be fruitful. All of God’s creation is marked by order and purpose.
Free will is a gift from God, and a choice is good when it follows God’s will, he said. A disordered desire is a desire outside of God’s will. Father Bochanski said that by their very nature, some passions are disordered. Church teaching lists examples of disordered sexual passions, including the use of contraception, fornication, adultery, masturbation and same-gender sexual relations.
“They are disordered to the ordered plan of God” for the gift of human sexuality, he said.
A same-sex relationship cannot make one flesh; it lacks complementarity, and lacks the male and female total self-gift as ordered by God.
“The Courage ministry is not out to change, solve or ‘fix’ people. It is designed to help and encourage them live a chaste life,” Father Bochanski said.
“We live in a culture that is saturated with hedonism,” he said. “The choice of chastity according to one’s state in life is the goal. One always has the choice to live a chaste life. If one gives into their passions, one will never be happy.”
Diane Conover, who attended the presentation, said, “I know what our culture says about same-sex attraction, but I wanted to hear the Catholic perspective. Father Bochanski’s presentation emphasized to me that if we don’t love the way God intended us to love, specifically for sexual relationships — freely, a life-giving, self-gift that is permanent —we won’t be truly happy and at peace. God didn’t design sexual relationships to be between people of the same gender, because it is not life-giving.
“The lie our culture perpetuates is if you have same-sex attraction, then you are gay, and won’t be happy unless you have sex the way you want it,” she said. “But the truth is a reversal of this — first, you are God’s beloved child, made in his image, and nothing can change that. Second, we all are called to chastity — love that is free of lust and selfishness — and having this love is what makes us truly happy.”
Father Richard Doerr, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, said that “about 99 percent of the time, people in our culture, including Catholics, get their information and formation on this topic from the secular media. I’ve found that there are very good practicing Catholics who have a very erroneous idea about Catholic teaching on this issue.”
He said that they either think someone is automatically going to hell if they have a same-sex attraction, or they think living out a homosexual lifestyle is OK.
“The Catholic Church teaches neither of these,” Father Doerr said.
A Courage member who attended the presentation and wanted to remain anonymous said he was never “out of the closet” officially, but was meeting men secretly to have sex for years. He said he had to hit rock bottom before he knew there had to be something more to life than what he was doing.
Through the Courage ministry, he has been living a chaste life for three years and has found a great deal of peace and joy, he said.
Father Bochanski said that many Courage members have expressed similar feelings to him.
He fielded questions from the group, including “How do I respond if I’m invited to a same-sex wedding?”
“Our faith tells us a same-sex ‘marriage’ is not something to celebrate,” he said. However, he said, the conversation with the couple should focus on the love of God and the Church, while explaining God’s design for human sexuality.
To learn more
For more information about Courage International and a ministry called EnCourage, for family members of someone with same-sex attraction, go to www.couragerc.com.
For more information about Courage and EnCourage ministry in the Lafayette diocese, call Father Adam Mauman at 765-473-5543 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.