Where do people suffering from unwanted same-sex attractions turn for help? There are a number of support organisations, most of them run by churches.
One of the longest-established is the Catholic Church’s Courage, which is made up of men and women who struggle with same-sex attraction, but who seek to live out their lives in fidelity to church teachings. They generally use a version of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the core program for managing their condition.
Australians will have a chance soon to meet and hear the international director of Courage, Father Paul N. Check, when he arrives in Australia in September for a speaking tour (see details below).
Father Paul Check, international director of Courage
Fr Check served as an officer in the US Marines before he entered the priesthood, and has been working in the pastoral care of those with same-sex attractions for 10 years.
He describes these people’s personal dilemma: “The choices that men and women with same-sex attraction are faced with, or think they are faced with, are sometimes reduced to two.
“One is radical isolation, in which the person thinks, ‘Tell no one, say nothing’, even to people who are very close to them, to family members about their feelings, about their struggle. That is even worse than loneliness; it’s more than loneliness. It’s isolation.
“The other choice they think they have is to declare themselves, ‘gay’, ‘homosexual’ or ‘lesbian’, and enter into the lifestyle and live that life.
“Courage says neither of those alternatives is good, neither of them is healthy. It says, ‘Look, you have to have friendships, you need people who understand this.’ Courage gathers men and women together under the care of a priest, and with the guidance in the mind and heart of the church, helps them to understand themselves a little better, as we all must — to understand that Christ loves them and that their struggle is not outside God’s providence and that the friendship of other members of Courage can help them to live chastely and to grow in all Christian virtues.”
American psychiatrist, author and adviser to Courage, Dr Richard P. Fitzgibbons, has observed from his own clinical experience: “Generally, the histories of men engaging in same-sex behaviours reveal a history of cumulative problems: significant peer rejection, low self-esteem, a distant father, an overprotective or controlling mother, victimisation by bullies, or sexual abuse.”
He says that women who are sexually abused or raped as children may find it “almost impossible to trust men”. Instead, they may turn to a woman for affection.
Courage was founded and directed for many years by the late Father John Harvey, a priest and psychologist, who started a support group for same-sex attracted men in 1980 in New York at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke, then Archbishop of New York.
The organisation is endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family. Branches exist in more than half the Catholic dioceses of North America and in numerous dioceses across Australia.
Alongside Courage is its sister organisation, EnCourage, a Catholic ministry dedicated to the spiritual needs of family and friends of those with same-sex attractions.
(Non-Catholic organisations in Australia for people struggling with same-sex attractions include Exodus, Living Waters, Mosaic Ministries, Roundabout Ministries and Setting Captives Free).
Courage director to visit Australia
The US and international director of Courage, Fr Paul Check, will be visiting Australia in September and speaking in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
People struggling with same-sex attraction, their families and friends, and people ministering to them, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are welcome to attend.
For details of times and locations of Father Check’s talks and seminars, please contact one of the following Courage/EnCourage representatives:
Courage/EnCourage coordinators Marie and Alan Mason
P: (03) 9847 0713
Chaplain Fr Laurie Leonard, SJ
P: (03) 9854 8189
P: (02) 9746 5711
Chaplain Fr Peter Joseph
M: 0418 136 785
National Courage chaplain
Fr Gregory Jordan, SJ
P: (07) 3876 0757
Courage website: www.cam.org.au/courage