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It Takes Courage

Aim for truth with love to help those with same-sex attraction

By Gina Keating, Catholic News Service

For Daniel Mattson, the intersection of his life with the gay rights movement caused “all hell to break loose.”

“I willfully turned my back on God,” he said, “and took the forbidden fruit.”

With the love and support of his brother, Father Steve Mattson, he left behind his homosexual lifestyle and found that the “good news is chastity. It has brought me peace and tremendous freedom.”

The brothers were part of a panel of faith and human science leaders that gave presentations at the Courage International “Truth and Love Conference” at a parish in Phoenix, Ariz., Jan. 9-11. Courage is a Catholic Church-approved apostolate for those experiencing same-sex attraction.

Father Mattson admitted that his discussions with his brother felt more like “apologetic Whac-A-Mole,” as he explained the Gospel’s call to chastity and authentic love.

“The Church is obsessed with love, true love. We don’t want to offend unnecessarily ... but if we don’t offend, we can’t share the truth,” Father Mattson said. “When we’re not talking, they have a steady diet from the culture and not from us.”

Sponsored by the Diocese of Phoenix and Courage International, more than 200 clergy, religious and laypeople heard practical and pastoral advice on sharing the Catholic Church’s teaching to men and women with same-sex attraction at the three-day conference.

The theme of “welcoming and accompanying our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions or confusion regarding sexual identity” was clear to state human beings should not be categorized by their sexual inclination, but rather as a “child of God.”

Keynote speaker Father Philip Bochanski, Courage’s executive director, said the apostolate is a confidential, spiritual support system for people with same-sex attraction who desire to live a chaste life – which everyone is called to – through five goals: chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support and good examples.

“We need to speak honestly about sin but speak how Jesus did with the woman at the well – with compassion,” Father Bochanski said. “People with same-sex attraction want to know where they fit in in the Church. We help people to gently know who they are so we can show them who they can become. We’re in the hope business.”

Bishop James Wall of Gallup, N.M., was involved with Courage as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Phoenix.

The bishop said he came in support of the conference because of the value of addressing “God’s gift of human sexuality” grounded in Christian understanding of the human person.

“Some people can feel alone or on an island. We can support them by loving and accompanying them, walking with them to a genuine and authentic encounter with Jesus Christ and his church,” he said. “We need to speak the truth to them – always in charity.”

© Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.