On April 27, 2001, the members of Courage Seattle met with then-Seattle Auxiliary Bishop George Thomas (now the Bishop of Helena, Montana). Before his consecration as Bishop, Fr. Thomas played an instrumental role in encouraging the creation of a chapter of Courage in Seattle. With the Chapter up and running, he graciously consented to meet with us to see how things were going and to encourage the ministry.
In preparation for Bishop Thomas’s visit, we prepared the following Fourteen Point summary of the approach to ministry we had adopted in Courage Seattle.
† CHRIST THE CENTER We place Christ at the center of our existence, subordinating all other aspects of our lives and pledge fidelity to Him without counting the cost.
† CALLED TO HOLINESS We seek to heed the Church’s universal call to holiness and recognize in it a moral dimension requiring interior chastity and forbidding an uncritical surrender to the world and its questionable values.
† BEYOND SELF ACCEPTANCE We refuse to equate our identity with our sexual orientation and to view self-acceptance, and acceptance by society, as ultimate goods. On the contrary, we believe with St. Augustine that, “to be pleasing to God, we must be displeasing to ourselves.” The life of faith and its demands constitute our highest concern.
† CONVERSION AND REPENTANCE We affirm that conversion and repentance form an ongoing process by which we can lay aside the sins and follies of a self-destructive past and confidently ask forgiveness, healing, and “return to our Father’s house.”
† THE CROSS We accept the Cross and strive, day by day, to cheerfully bear whatever sufferings our commitment to chastity may entail as among the costs of discipleship.
† THE CHURCH’S MAGISTERIUM We accept the paramount role of the Catholic Church’s Magistrium in the formation of a sound conscience and reject the idea that each person is a sovereign arbiter of his or her own morality.
† PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH IN LOVE We desire that the Church’s authentic teachings regarding the necessity of chastity for persons with same-sex attraction be proclaimed clearly, forcefully, confidently, and repeatedly to counter the current amorality afflicting our society. We are concerned that ambiguous popular notions of “tolerance” and “diversity” may be misused to mislead people regarding the Church’s teaching about homosexuality.
† THE POWER OF COMMITMENT We believe that chastity demands a clear and emphatic commitment resulting in a spiritual plan of life designed to re-orient our entire existence. Mere half-hearted wishes are not equal to the ferocity of enemy forces within ourselves and outside us.
† CHASTITY AS VIRTUE We assert that, contrary to popular belief, chastity for persons with same-sex attraction is both possible and highly desirable. It is a virtue which, by continual acts of the will and persistant incremental steps, in time can become “second nature” (St. Augustine, again), yielding true freedom and much joy in this life. Through grace, we can transform the pursuit of chastity from a sterile burden to a joyful adventure in self-understanding and self-discipline.
† SOURCES OF GRACE We understand that, in striving for chastity, God has not abandoned us to struggle alone, but has given us a readily available wealth of grace-filled resources to help us progress in holiness. While the most powerful assistance is afforded by the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, we can use many others (e.g. prayer, ascetical practices, devotions, spiritual reading, spiritual direction), according to temperament and need. Furthermore, the communion of the saints ensures that those who have gone before us in faith and triumph stand ready to offer potent examples of frail humanity perfected in grace, and to intercede on our behalf.
† THE NECESSITY OF FRIENDSHIP We regard friendship as a necessary element in the establishment and preservation of chastity. Genuine friendship among those striving for chastity is a powerful source of advice, example, and mutual support.
† THE NECESSITY OF SERVICE We acknowledge the importance of service to the Church and to others in need in the development of the authentic Christian life. Involvement with others helps those pursuing chastity to set aside (even if only temporarily) exessive concern with their personal struggles and refocus in a healthy way on other people.
† ALL ARE WELCOME We extend an invitation to anyone experiencing same-sex attraction who respects chastity as an integral aspect of the Christian life, no matter how distant or impossibly difficult the attainment of this virtue may at first appear. Those considering or newly determined to extricate themselves from sinful habits will be received with understanding, not judgement, and will be given help to heal their spiritual wounds.
† GRATITUDE We respond with profound gratitude for the light we have been given to see God’s true way and for the grace by which we may, even in our weakness, continue to “gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Chastity and Homosexuality,” #2359).
Ron Belgau is completing a PhD in Philosophy, and teaches medical ethics, philosophy of the human person, ethics, and philosophy of religion. He can be followed on Twitter: @RonBelgau.
Amen to ALL of this!