The Archdiocese of Hartford is implementing a local chapter of COURAGE, a national Roman Catholic apostolate which ministers to people with same-sex attraction.
The purpose of the ministry is to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings. Deacon Robert M. Pallotti, director of the Office of Diaconate, has been working on the development of the program for the archdiocese for over four years.
“These are people in the Catholic Church who need our care and love. In some cases, they have been rejected by society,” Pallotti said. “They need to be accepted, affirmed and supported as Roman Catholics trying to remain faithful to Church teaching.”
COURAGE makes a distinction between homosexual attractions or feelings – and – the behavior of acting on these feelings. It recognizes that the feelings in and of themselves are not a sin, but that the homosexual acts are.
“COURAGE will not reduce a person’s identity to their sexual desire; they are people with full human dignity not defined solely by their sexual desire,” continued Pallotti.
The formation of the ministry was challenging, said Pallotti. There were several meetings at which deacons serving on the committee had conflicting views, and robust discussions took place. Initially, some believed that COURAGE was condoning homosexual behavior, but eventually came the realization that its mission is quite the opposite.
“Through support and spiritual intervention, we can help people with same-sex attraction lead moral and fulfilling lives,” said Pallotti. “These people are hurting and so are their families. Doing nothing would be a lack of compassion.”
COURAGE as a national organization was founded in 1980 by His Eminence, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York. He saw a need for a spiritual outreach ministry that would support people struggling with same-sex attractions. Endorsed by the Vatican, COURAGE has over 100 chapters across the United States. At one point, Pope John Paul II stated that, “COURAGE is doing the work of God.”
The current director of the COURAGE apostolate is Father Paul Check, a priest from the Diocese of Bridgeport, who sums up COURAGE in this way:
“The Courage apostolate is that maternal solicitude on the part of the Church to people who have a unique struggle, an often difficult and vexing one, and who want to know that the grace of Christ and his Cross is available to them in concrete and practical ways…It is a desire to express the Church’s care and affection for a group of people who often feel isolated. I don’t just say lonely, but isolated. They’re uncertain about where they can find assistance, who really takes an interest in them and who has a love for them. The Church does.”
The deacons of the Archdiocese of Hartford have prepared to serve in this ministry by attending workshops on human sexuality and pastoral ministry. In many cases, their wives accompanied them.
“This has been an incredible journey for many of us. Several deacons have told me that they have been changed by the experience. They see things differently and are anxious to offer help to those who want it,” said Pallotti.
Those interested in attending meetings of COURAGE should call the Office of Diaconate at: 860-761-7446. Their identity will be kept confidential and the locations of the workshops will only be disclosed to them.
To access more information visit: couragerc.org or contact the COURAGE Central Office in Norwalk, CT at 203-803-1564.