Conference: Aim for truth with love to help those with same-sex attraction

Fr. Paul Check, who just finished his tenure as executive director of Courage International, delivers the keynote address following the opening dinner of the Truth and Love Conference Jan. 9. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
Courage International

Info: couragerc.org

Diocese of Phoenix Chapter

Info: Fr. John Greb, priest director, (480) 775-5200 or frgreb@diocesephoenix.org

For Courage member Daniel Mattson, the intersection of his life with the gay rights movement caused “all hell to break loose.”

“I willfully turned my back on God,” he said, “and took the forbidden fruit.”

With the love and support of his brother, Fr. Steve Mattson, he left behind his homosexual lifestyle and found that the “good news is chastity. It has brought me peace and tremendous freedom.”

The brothers were part of a panel of faith and human science leaders that presented at the Courage International “Truth and Love Conference” at St. Paul Parish Jan. 9-11.

Attendees at the Truth and Love Conference listen to Susan Selner-Wright talk on “Christian Anthropology and the Gift of Chastity” Jan. 10. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

Fr. Steve conceded his discussions with his brother felt more like “apologetic whac-a-mole” but he knew he had to faithfully speak on the Gospel call to chastity and authentic love.

“The Church is obsessed with love, true love. We don’t want to offend unnecessarily … but if we don’t offend, we can’t share the truth,” Fr. Steve said. “When we’re not talking, they have a steady diet from the culture and not from us.”

Sponsored by the Diocese of Phoenix and Courage International, Inc., more than 200 clergy, religious and lay faithful heard practical and pastoral advice on sharing the Church’s teaching to men and women with same-sex attraction at the three-day conference.

EN ESPAÑOL: Acoge la Iglesia con amor a los homosexuales

Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles, and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the homily for the opening Mass for the Truth and Love Conference at St. Paul Parish Jan. 9. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
Dr. John Cuddeback, author of “True Friendship: Where virtue becomes happiness,” delivers the talk “Forging true friendships” about giving special attention to the role of virtue and chastity in forging friendships. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

The theme of “welcoming and accompanying our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions or confusion regarding sexual identity,” was clear to state human beings should not be categorized by their sexual inclination, but rather as a “child of God.”

Tuesday’s keynote speaker Fr. Philip Bochanski, Courage’s executive director, said the apostolate is a confidential, spiritual support system for people with SSA who desire to live a chaste life — which everyone is called to — through five goals: chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support and good examples.

“We need to speak honestly about sin but speak how Jesus did with the woman at the well — with compassion,” Fr. Bochanski said. “People with same-sex attraction want to know where they fit in in the Church. We help people to gently know who they are so we can show them who they can become. We’re in the hope business.”

Fr. Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, addresses those attending the opening Mass for the Truth and Love Conference at St. Paul Parish Jan. 9. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

Bishop James S. Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, was involved with Courage as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Phoenix.

The bishop said he came in support of the conference because of the value to address “God’s gift of human sexuality” grounded in Christian understanding of the human person.

“Some people can feel alone or on an island. We can support them by loving and accompanying them, walking with them to a genuine and authentic encounter with Jesus Christ and His Church,” he said, adding, “We need to speak the truth to them — always in charity.”

Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, discussed “Understanding the Sexual Revolution” by stating the “heartache was airbrushed out” of the glamorized excitement of sexual freedom. Heartache has included children of divorce, post-abortive women and men, pornography addiction and gay lifestyles. She called Pope Paul VI a “prophetic voice” when he wrote his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, on the moral degradation contraception and abortion could pose.

Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, talks to guides her audience through the “Sexual Revolution” and the consequences that have occurred as a result. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

Morse, an author and speaker who specializes in the area of marriage and family and who played a prominent role defending traditional marriage in California’s Proposition 8 campaign, said the “contraceptive ideology” has led to the family breakdown.

“The sexual revolution is just as great of a spiritual and political crisis as the Arian crisis, but we can make a difference. Never underestimate what you can do in your personal relationships,” she said.

Patty Juarvic from Portland, Oregon, attended her first conference on behalf of her daughter. She is also a member of the apostolate’s counterpart for family and friends, EnCourage.

Juarvic explained how she took a photo of the priests on the altar during Mass to send to her daughter back home.

“I’m going to say, ‘Look at all the priests that are here to learn how to minister to their parishioners who are SSA. I have learned you are in no way thought of as a second-class citizen.’ They love her and they want to know how to pastorally care for her. She’s part of the fold.”

For Daniel, who is also featured in the video, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” he learned who he is by being in healthy, loving and chaste relationships with others.

“I have begun to see all of my life through the lens of God … who brought out the greater good,” Daniel said. “He knew I wouldn’t know how much I would need Him if I didn’t suffer. When I feel lonely or have sorrow I can offer it up, and there is joy in uniting it to the sacrifice in the Lord’s cross.”