We know that, in this life, we have numerous choices. Many hold very heavy implications, and many are seemingly without an effect one way or the other. Unfortunately, sometimes we can make choices between two things as if they don’t matter, and in all reality, they matter far more than we realize.
One thing that has become apparent, especially recently, is that there is a heavy amount of confusion about how the Catholic Church is supposed to approach those that identify as someone who struggles with same-sex attraction. What is the Church supposed to do? What does Christ want for us to do?
To answer that question, it seems to present itself as a choice- in some real way- between two different apostolates\ministries. First, there is the well-known apostolate known as Courage (A Roman Catholic apostolate for Chastity for those who experience same-sex attraction). This organization works hard with those who come to them to help them to live out the Christian Life to the best of their abilities- through support of each other, through support of direction, and through the support of the sacraments. Second, there is a ministry, called New Ways Ministry, which boasts “35 years of ministry to the LGBT Catholic Community.” Are these two organizations one and the same?
No, and there is quite a stark contrast between the two. In fact, it seems that this difference can illustrate well what the Church’s ultimate call to those with SSA is. What is the ultimate goal of New Ways Ministry? It seems that it is inclusion of those with SSA into the Catholic community. The Courage apostolate is slightly different. Courage wants them to be included in the community as well- but there seems to be an important caveat- they should be seeking to live a chaste life- something that it seems that New Ways Ministry doesn’t necessarily concern itself with.
Why is this important? It is important because our entire earthly Christian life is a journey of changes- because we are seeking to ultimately conform ourselves to Christ, and the Image of God in which we were created. This requires that we let go of all of those things that distort that image in us. This can require that we let go of any number of things- an inordinate desire of material goods, a habit to gossip, the want of power, habits toward viewership of pornography, or any number of things, no matter how big, nor how small. This has a twofold impact on us as Catholics- First, we certainly cannot close our doors on anyone who struggles with any particular hindrance or sin to the fullness of Christian life. We are called to be heralds of the Gospel to others. Second, we must be open to amending our lives, no matter what it is, nor what the cost is.
This is the approach that Courage wants to take with those with SSA. They know that the Christian Life is concerned with more than sexuality by itself- but we do need freedom. New Ways Ministry, as their website reads, is about acceptance. Acceptance is good- in that Christians are able to help each other in community to pursue the Christian life; acceptance of behavior contrary to the Christian life is not. Again, we each have things that hold us back in the Christian life- and we have to let go of these things. We don’t accept sin as a way to help others- we accept others as a way to help with sin. For us to be a part of the Church- we have to desire that we are wanting to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ ourselves. For anyone to want to be accepted into the Christian community should mean that they themselves want to accept the Gospel message- no matter the implications that it has for them.
This is why it is important for Catholics to promote the Courage Apostolate. It is striving for conformity with the Church’s teachings- and has been doing so for 37 years. Those with SSA absolutely must be allowed in the Church, as we all must be allowed in the Church- but that is so that we are supported and fed on our journey, and able to let go of those things that hinder us from freedom, and the authentic Christian life. We should not be confused by the choices we have to make. It seems that, by what New Ways is doing, there is undue confusion, and also improper application of what the Church’s mission is all about. We are to accept others into the community of the faithful, yes, but that means that they must be ready to join us in reforming our lives to the Christian life, no matter the vice, nor the virtue that we may lack. Will we all have the courage to admit our own faults and weaknesses, and admit our dependence upon God? Will we each have the courage to reach out to others in our similar state- and help each of us reach our ultimate goal of heaven?