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HARTFORD – The cold March wind on March 18 did not deter more than 200 people from testifying at the third Connecticut public hearing in as many years on the attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state of Connecticut.

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Courage_Logo-ONLYBLOOMFIELD – Men and women living with same-sex attraction often feel neglected and despised – by their families, their heterosexual friends, even the Catholic Church.

Deacon Robert Pallotti, director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate of the Archdiocese of Hartford, wants to do something about that.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell has given Deacon Pallotti’s office the go-ahead to start a chapter of Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to persons with same-sex attraction (SSA) – the group avoids using words like "homosexual," "gay" or "lesbian" as nouns, saying they appear to lump individuals into categories.

Courage was founded in 1980 by Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father John F. Harvey, under the direction of New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke. It is now headquartered in Norwalk and under the direction of Father Paul Check, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport. There are more than 100 Courage chapters in at least 35 states and many more overseas.

Deacon Pallotti said that he recognized a few years ago that there was a pastoral need in the Hartford Archdiocese for the Church to reach out to men and women living with SSA.

"We had begun to hear about different organizations, and Courage being the Roman Catholic one that the Vatican supports, it’s the one which we are able to utilize," he said. "Hopefully, this will meet at least some of the needs of the people we’re trying to minister to. And not only people with same-sex attraction, but friends and families."

Father Check joined the interview by speakerphone and said, "The goal of the Courage apostolate is to help men and women with same-sex attraction to live a chaste life, trusting that the Church teaches us what is true in terms of our humanity and then guides us into an intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is the charism of Courage."

The "Five Goals of Courage," briefly summarized, are to live chaste lives, to dedicate one’s life to Christ, to foster a spirit of fellowship, to acknowledge that chaste friendships are possible and necessary, and to live exemplary lives.

"The Church is careful to make a distinction," Father Check said. "[It] distinguishes the person from the inclination, from the action." Since everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, it is the inclination, not the person, that is disordered, he said. "It cannot be fulfilled in a way that is in keeping with our human nature. That’s not a moral judgment or a moral condemnation – this disorder – but rather, is a look at the appetite itself, the desire itself."

Homosexual acts are only one category of sexual acts that put us at cross purposes with ourselves and our human nature, he said. "Adultery, fornication, contraception, pornography, masturbation, in vitro fertilization, cloning, artificial insemination – all of these things are in some way contrary to that design or order of human intimacy and love," he said.

But, he said, "People with same-sex attraction have a particular struggle. We are going to do everything we can to understand it and to respect their human dignity and treat them as individuals. At the same time, we, in looking at human nature, know that [for them] to act out on that inclination or desire is to put them at cross purposes with themselves."

People who come to Courage for help are often surprised that the Church understands their struggles, he said. "We think that someone’s dignity is far more complex and rich than their sexual inclination," he said. "You’re a human being; you’re a person; you’re a child of God …."

Father Check was careful to explain that the causes of homosexuality are not fully understood. He said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2357, states, "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained." That is not to say that it can never be explained, however. "What we could say, I think reasonably, is that there are patterns that tend to repeat themselves into the profiles of men and women with same-sex attraction, and that kind of information could be useful to consider," he said.

As to whether a person’s sexual orientation is inborn or acquired, he said, "We can’t make any conclusion on that because it’s not a matter of divine revelation…."

Deacon Pallotti echoed Father Check’s compassionate tone. "Intellectually, we can say that we love ourselves," he said. "Emotionally, below the surface, are all kinds of little messages telling us otherwise. We pick those up from society or from our parents or from whatever."

The formation of a Courage chapter in the archdiocese is part of a four-pronged program of workshops dealing with human sexuality, bioethics and marriage preparation that Deacon Pallotti proposed to Archbishop Mansell several years ago.

Biweekly Courage meetings in a confidential location will be led by at least one of seven deacons who have undergone specific training to understand the emotional difficulties persons with SSA experience. "One of us will always be there, so they’ll always feel safe because they’ll get to know us," Deacon Pallotti said.

Catholics who are struggling with same-sex attraction and who desire to live according to Church teaching may contact their pastors or Deacon Pallotti at (860) 761-7446.

All calls are confidential, as are all meetings. More information on Courage is available online at couragerc.net or by calling Courage headquarters at (203) 803-1564.

 

 

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