A Catholic Archdiocese in Connecticut has created a pro-abstinence group specifically to help counsel gay worshippers struggling with the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality.
Dubbed “Courage,” the ministry group launched by the Archdiocese of Hartford would offer confidential services to those trying to reconcile their sexual identity with Catholic teaching.
“The Archbishop asked the deacons to begin this chapter,” said Deacon Robert Pallotti of the Archdiocese of Hartford in an interview with The Christian Post, noting that other chapters of the Courage group can be found at other churches.
“This group was started as a result of a four-year process in which the deacons of the Archdiocese of Hartford were involved in continuing education for the ministry to people who are gay and lesbian and their families.”
Pallotti also said that although “Courage” would not include professional counseling per se, “if someone should need counseling they will be referred to a professional.”
According to Pallotti, the ministry will work under the assumption that sexual orientation is probably unchangeable and something people are born with.
“We are not looking to change people. We want to accept and serve people for who they are. If there is some confusion about their own orientation we will refer them to a professional therapist,” said Pallotti.
“We accept that the person may have a same-sex orientation and that is who they are. We offer support so that they can live as people faithful to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Religion and Faith Program for the gay rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, told CP that she considered the Archdiocese’s group “harmful.”
“I think that the stance of the Courage group is harmful. It assumes that people cannot be authentically who they are and faithful Catholics,” said Groves.
“No one should ever have to choose between their faith and who they are and the Courage group is asking people to make such an inauthentic choice.”
Groves added that “many people of faith, most mainline Christian and Jewish denominations,” and most Catholics believe that “our religious homes should not put people in the position of making such a spiritually damaging choice.”
Pallotti commented, “We also want to do all we can to help their family members to accept them as God's children like everyone else – with full human dignity and rights.”
“We do not function on shame but on affirmation and support.”
Paul Guequierre, deputy press secretary for HRC, told CP that he agreed with the “Courage” program’s assumption that sexual orientation was unchangeable.
“This theory has been debunked by all major mental health and medical associations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association,” said Guequierre.
“These organizations have determined that so-called ‘reparative therapy’ not only doesn’t work, but can be harmful.”
Jeff Johnson, a social policy analyst with CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, told CP that he disagrees with the view that sexual orientation is unchangeable.
“I don’t believe people are born with same-sex attractions,” said Johnson, who has a background in ministries for those with “unwanted same-sex attractions.”
“Many people with same-sex attractions choose not to identify as gay and choose not to act on their attractions.”