Fr. Paul Check, the national director of Courage, an apostolate that seeks to minister to those with same-sex attraction, will visit Phoenix Oct. 11 to address members of the Catholic Physicans Guild and clergy.
Fr. Check will be the homilist at the guild’s annual White Mass and the speaker at the dinner afterward.
In an interview with The Catholic Sun, Fr. Check said the Church does not keep those with same-sex attraction at arm’s length nor condemn them, but rather “embraces them with maternal solicitude and also with great understanding of this question and its delicacy and personal character.”
Appointed as director of Courage by founder Fr. John Harvey in 2008, Fr. Check said he is a parish priest by training who also teaches moral theology to seminarians, religious and candidates for the permanent diaconate.
Fr. Check said one of the principal works of Courage is to instruct clergy in the pastoral care of persons with same-sex attraction as well as the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
“I think that one of the things institutionally in the Church we have to address is whether we — particularly priests and permanent deacons — whether we are convinced that chastity is part of the Good News,” Fr. Check said.
The Church as an institution, he said, clearly communicates that mercy, peace, justice and eternal life are part of the Good News.
“The teachings of the Church are quite plain, but institutionally, are we committed to the idea that people can live their whole lives — lives that lead to flourishing, insofar as intimacy and love are concerned — if they live chastely, both before marriage and in marriage?” Fr. Check asked.
It’s a question he said needs to be addressed because to some, the Church appears too severe in condemning homosexual behavior, while treading lightly on the widespread practice of cohabitation and contraception and the use of pornography.
“If we are going to be consistent and coherent, and we are going to be faithful to the fullness of what the Church teaches about chastity, then all of those things must also be treated properly in our schools, in our [marriage preparation] programs, from the pulpit, in all the instruction that we do,” Fr. Check said.
While estimates vary regarding the incidence of homosexuality in the United States, Fr. Check said he believes there are several factors that will lead to its increase: greater acceptance of homosexuality as a normal variant of the human condition; the deterioration of the traditional family structure; promiscuity; and young people experimenting at earlier ages and receiving little formation with regard to the virtue of chastity.
Chastity, Fr. Check said, is meant to “give us that self-possession such that the sexual appetite is under the direction of right reason and does not betray the gift and design of human intimacy that is imbued in us by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God.”
Every human being, he said, has a deep desire to love and be loved, to know and be known. These desires were placed in us by our Creator and yet, because of our fallen human nature, they can sometimes be misdirected.
The Courage apostolate has chapters in 37 states, including Arizona, and several foreign countries. Meetings are based on the 12-steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Andrew,” who has been attending regular Courage meetings in the Phoenix Diocese as well as national conferences since 2001, said that organization’s emphasis on chastity has been key.
“At the time when I started wrestling with the whole issue in my life, there was a lot of shame and fear attached to it,” Andrew said. Once he started attending meetings, he saw that “if I could develop that virtue of chastity, it would bring some peace and stability in my life that I could begin to build on.”
Courage, Andrew said, doesn’t focus on changing one’s sexual orientation but rather calls members to practice the virtue of chastity. Andrew said he’s developed a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with others who are dealing with same-sex attraction.
Fr. John Greb, parochial vicar at St. Timothy Parish, oversees the monthly Courage meetings in the Diocese of Phoenix. He said meeting times and locations are kept confidential and encouraged those interested to contact him directly for more information.
The local meetings begin with the Our Father and the Serenity Prayer as well as a recitation of the 12 Steps, Fr. Greb said. That’s followed by discussion and a regular program. The meetings close with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the opportunity for confession.
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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will celebrate the Catholic Physicians Guild’s annual White Mass at 6 p.m. Oct.11 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center chapel.
Info: (602) 799-9629
Courage is an outreach for individuals with same-sex attraction. It promotes the Church teaching through prayer and chastity. Courage has been endorsed by the Holy See.
“In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Church’s teachings, especially in the area of chastity, Courage extends the Church’s invitation to a life of peace and grace,” according to their website. “In chaste living, one finds the peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity.”
To learn more about Courage in the Diocese of Phoenix, contact Fr. John Greb, (480) 775-5200 or FrGreb@diocesephoenix.org