A Challenge to “Courage”: Take the Catechism Seriously.

At the world meeting of families in Philadelphia, major organizations representing LGBT Catholics and their parents have not only been refused accreditation at the main event, they’ve also been barred by the local archbishop from using a friendly Catholic parish church as a venue for their own fringe event. (Not to worry: they have found a suitable alternative, and the resultant publicity has ensured that their event is now far better known than it would otherwise have been).

I leave it to my American readers to reflect on the ironies of this exclusion in the city of “brotherly love”, and the famed liberty bell – is that a crack I see in it?

Philadelphia's "Liberty Bell"
Philadelphia’s “Liberty Bell”

The organisers insist that it is simply not true that lgbt Catholics are not represented. They are there – provided that they live “in accordance with Church teaching. This is how “Faithful America” reports it, in email correspondence:

Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families, and the local conservative archbishop is hijacking the event to promote his own right-wing agenda — by inviting advocates for anti-gay conversion therapy to give speeches, lead workshops, and sell their books and other materials.

Here’s the problem:

These advocates tor what Faithful America calls “advocates for anti-gay conversion therapy”, and the WMOF more sympathetically calls simply “gay Catholics” in practice are not as they believe, in full accordance with the Catholic Magisterium on sexuality, but only on one small sliver of it; and moreover represent only a tiny proportion of the vast spectrum of LGBT Catholics.

The essence of the “Courage” apostalate, is to live fully in accordance with what they fondly perceive to be “Church teaching”, which is that any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is illicit; that is, they endorse total sexual abstinence for gay men and lesbians. And indeed, they are correct, in believing that precept is “Church teaching”.

However, they simultaneously ignore many other important elements of “Church teaching”. These are:

The Catechism requires every one of us, whether our natural, God -given orientation is to the opposite sex, or to the same – sex, to accept our sexual identity, and integrate it fully into our human personality.

Church teaching requires us to pay proper attention to the findings of science, both natural and social science. Natural science shows that same – sex orientation is entirely natural and non- pathological, and occurs not only among humans, but also among all branches of the animal kingdom. Social science and history show that human homosexuality has been part of every human society throughout history, and in every region of the world.

Natural Law, the foundation of much of the Magisterium on moral theology, is defined in part as that which can be deduced from pure reason. Pure reason, properly informed by the findings of science, must surely conclude that for some people with a natural same – sex orientation, same – sex relationships are both natural, and beneficial for both physical and mental health. Empirical research has also shown that for gay Catholics, embracing their sexual identity, as required by the Catechism, in a loving and committed marital relationship in law, is beneficial for the individuals concerned, for the children they are raising, and for the society at large. On the other hand, empirical research has also shown that all too often, the attempt to force one’s life into loneliness and externally opposed celibacy, can lead to solitary emotional sterility, mental illness, or even suicide.

(I have no objection at all to anyone who embraces voluntary sexual abstinence as a virtue. This is regularly done by priests, and other religious men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual. If they find it helpful to their spiritual lives, good for them. Where I take issue, is with those who decree that it is the only possible option for any one group of people, whether priests, or gay men. It is definitely not an option that I would accept).

My other concern, is simply statistical. I don’t believe that the trophy “gay Catholics” that will be on public display in Philadelphia will represent more than a tiny fraction of real — world gay and lesbian Catholics. I have no way of assessing their numbers in the USA, but I do have some information for the United Kingdom, where the relative proportions are likely to be at least broadly similar.

We have here four major groupings of LGBT Catholics.

There’s Quest, which has a formal membership of a few hundred, and many more who attend local events without actually signing up as members

There’s the LGBT group meeting at Farm Street parish twice a month. Their email list includes many hundreds of names.

There’s the “Young Adults Group (YAG). My guess is that their total membership is now also somewhat greater than a hundred (if not, it must be pretty close).

There is a degree of overlap between those, but taken together they probably represent something of the order of one thousand people.

What of Courage / encourage?

As far as I can tell, their total membership is no more than a handful – a dozen could well be an optimistic estimate.

Even more disturbing, is the reports I’ve had, that the leader of the group is so heavily closeted, that he will not allow his real name to be used in connection with his activities with Courage /Encourage (or previously, Quest).

In what possible world is this “accepting one’s sexual identity, and integrating it into our human personality”, as demanded by the Catechism?

There’s the challenge for members of Courage / Encourage:

Have the courage to accept the whole of the Catechism (not just the few lines promoted by the homophobes), and the words of Scripture:

“Speak the Truth in Love”


“The Truth will set you free.”




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