An Unapologetic Apology for Courage

Just the other day I posted a link to Fr. Check’s recent interview in the Catholic forum  of a website dedicated to Christianity and all things homosexual.  The majority of people there have reached a point where they believe that God blesses and endorses same sex relationships, basing this belief on gay “theology.”  The minority are people who have embraced traditional teaching about sexuality and have chosen to live a life of abstinence.  I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that though there is a great divide between the two, one thing they share in common is that they generally view the Courage Apostolate  with great disdain.  Being rather stubborn, naturally contrarian and inclined to speak my mind, occasionally I’ll post things about Courage to see what bubbles up from to the surface. It’s always a fascinating exercise, and I’m never sure exactly what angle the reaction will take, but I know it will generally be critical.

I always enjoy it when someone there resorts to saying that I must have a miserable life, or when someone there says things similar to what I was actually told there, “no one would ever want to be you.”  I always grin when I read these sorts of silly comments, and my internal answer to that is well, that at least I want to be me, so that theory goes out the window.  There’s at least one person who wants to be me.

People there on both sides of the issue seem to find it inconceivable that a person could actually believe everything the Catholic Church says about homosexuality, accept it, embrace it and yet still be psychologically healthy and lead a fulfilling life.   I’ve always left those interactions shaking my head and wondering why they think as they do.  This most recent round of comments though provided me with an epiphany of sorts:  the vast majority of criticisms of Courage are based on straw men.

I’ve found the criticism there (and elsewhere) tends to come from two extremes.  On the one hand, you have the people who have chosen to live the way they want to live their lives, and get angry that the Church still clings to Natural Law when thinking about sexuality.  They don’t like Courage because we believe what the Church teaches on homosexuality.  On the other hand are those who also embrace Catholic views on sexuality, but in opposition to Church teaching, have chosen to embrace a gay identity, and get angry that the Church uses language like “objective disorder,” or that the Church is disinclined to ordain people like me to the priesthood.  They tend towards viewing homosexuality as something to be celebrated in their lives, as if it’s the component of their life which makes them so interesting and fascinating, and to which they seem to attribute so many traits in their life that they find admirable, which I’ve always found to be very strange.  The first camp views Courage as self-righteous prigs.  The second camp views us as repressed men and women filled with self-loathing and shame.  I address both angles in my post, and I figured since I took the time to write a response there, I might as well post it here:

It’s always a fun game to read criticisms of Courage.
On the one hand, we’re told that we’re all filled with spiritual pride, and that we think we’re more virtuous than other people, that we all think we’re wonderfully spiritual and well balanced individuals, and then on the other hand, we’re told that we are filled with shame and self-loathing, that we’re an organization that serves a purpose for those who are sex addicts (with the tacit assumption that we are all addicted to sex). I’ve been told that we’re all living very unbalanced and unhealthy lives, that we have bizarre psycho-sexual views of the world and of our own sexuality, and in essence that we’re repressed and chronically depressed people.When it comes, criticism of Courage is always done in extremes, and the entire Apostolate is painted with one broad brush. Where the paint bucket comes from however is from either end of the bell curve: either we’re Pharisaical self-righteous holy rollers with an authoritarian fetish, [something I’ve been accused of there] or pathetic, mopey people with miserable lives who have a “sad vision” of human existence [another accusation leveled against me there].It’s always entertaining to see what criticism comes next. In the meantime, we keep sharing the good news of the Church, and the Apostolate continues to grow, well, because of course, Courage actually embraces everything that the Church teaches, about everything. No existential angst about identity, or the unreasonable demands of chastity, or disliking the Church’s language and teaching about homosexuality or worrying about what the world thinks about the Catholic Church and sexuality, since, well, the Holy Spirit’s in charge of all of that. In the meantime, we just live our lives with an honest acknowledgment of our need for God (God forbid: some meetings actually start with one of the 12 steps–though depending on who you ask, that’s a sign of A). that we do it out of a self-righteous false humility, or B). because we’re unbalanced sex addicts barely holding it together) and then try to help our fellow members lead the lives they’ve chosen to live for themselves. We pray for each other, and then we go get a beer and enjoy each other’s company. It’s just awful what the Courage Apostolate is and does in people’s lives.In all of my talks where I speak and promote the Courage Apostolate, one component that I particularly take great relish in is disabusing people of both sorts of criticisms, which is easy to do, since they’re both so extreme in nature to be easily seen as caricatures.

What I’ve come to realize about most criticisms of Courage is simple:  the emperor has no clothes.
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15 thoughts on “An Unapologetic Apology for Courage

  1. Very good post. Thanks for sharing this. We do have shame, as Christians. We are ashamed of our sins. Meanwhile, those who rejoice in homosexuality rejoice in “pride.” That is “gay pride.” At the same time, we understand that our dignity is far greater than even we ourselves could grasp, because it comes from God. They rejoice in what they call “dignity,” as they believe “dignity” comes from the acceptance of other people. Since Christ was rejected to the point of crucifixion, their idea of “dignity” is precisely the opposite of what dignity actually is. If “dignity” comes from other people, then objectively, victims of genocide have no dignity at all. Any who are rejected, in their view of dignity, have no dignity. How sad it must be to live that way, to believe that your dignity comes from being accepted by other human beings instead of from the Creator of all. There is no equality, either, in the idea that dignity comes from the acceptance of others, as they can never accept you as you are, hence, by their logic, you have no dignity. How could you when they cannot accept you and when they believe dignity comes via acceptance? It appears to me that the miserable existence is what they are living themselves. They have no shame. Only pride. They offer no possibility for equality with you, because they deny your dignity from within themselves, not being able to accept you as you are. It’s all a self-refuting abyss of nonsense. God, help them all to see that there is a more excellent way.

  2. I also get accused of being both self-righteous and self-loathing just for being Catholic. And I’m a heterosexual woman. I always wondered how one could both hate and revere one’s self at the same time. But I think, particularly on the internet, people make assumptions based on preconceived notions. Plus, there’s a notion in modern society that everybody has animalistic sexual urges that must be set free. People especially talk that way about teens, saying it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll have sex. They ignore the fact that humans are rational and spiritual beings.

    • Yes, Amanda, my friends and I (also heterosexual women) have experienced the same criticisms. It goes with living the Catholic Faith. The Apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for the Name of Jesus. We should count ourselves blessed when folks mock and ridicule us, for Jesus said our “reward would be great in Heaven.” I thank God for Christians like you and Mr. Mattson, and all who try to shine the light of Christ in our darkened world! God bless you all!

  3. Dan, yours is a voice of sanity in a world gone mad! You exude the joy of Francis of Assisi! (The joy to be found in the midst of suffering when in union with Christ.) God be with you, my brother!

  4. Brother I also encourage the Courage Apostolate at my blogsight: Jean’sBistro2010’s blog @Wordpress. Thank You for your insights and we love you. We love your witness in a humble way. Thanks for all you do and I will pray for your life in Christ. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a favorite story of mine as well and very symbolic of our times. It is a story which always renews itself at every moment of Salvation History. God Bless. See me at Jean’sBistro2010’s blog.

  5. Heavens. What ever happened to “don’t worry, be happy” and “live and let live” and the hundred other aphorisms my grandmother used to help her get through a long and satisfying life . . . there’s certainly enough to do in choosing our own path to truth, toward the light that we needn’t expend energy in trying to superintend other people’s journey. May we each have the courage (or Courage, as the case may be) of our convictions.

    And as for the emperor? Perhaps he’s onto the idea that nudity is the royal road to freedom . . . 🙂

    • Well, I’d say that the Church recognizes the freedom of everyone to direct his or her own life, so in some sense, this boils down to “live and let live,” but She has the obligation to show us what the a peaceful and Christ-like life looks like. As St. Clement of Alexandria tells us, it is the Commandments that point us to the Blessed Life. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. for those who find Courage to be helpful, that is great. but it is not for everyone. i have known
    courage chapters in major cities, and they have a very regular turn over and the core group is often small, older and still struggling with chastity in their lives. there are many reasons for this, and i had talks with the founder about this while he was alive. i told him that a different pastoral style might help. the use of the 12 steps is not helpful for everyone. But Fr Harvey told me the 12 steps were essential to Courage. people struggling with gay sexual addiction can find help with
    SA, which has a good success rate. i do not think that courage struggles because of its mission, or its message, i think it has to do with the style and rigid adherence to the 12 steps which is for addictive behaviors. there is a big difference with addictive acting out and learning to value and live a chaste life. the best way to get people into your group and to grow is by the power of attraction. for those who find that chastity is a real gift of the holy spirit and a source of joy, vitality, and healthy engagement in life will have something that attracts and draws others. just some thoughts on the topic…..

    • Thanks for writing, but I have no interest in becoming “gay to straight,” since I don’t buy that I’m “gay” anyway. I’d rather spend my time on living my life, than worrying about trying to change my sexual attractions, and leave that up to God. On the other hand, for those who are interested in seeking to find a spouse of the opposite sex, I do believe help and assistance can be found. I’m 43, and have decided to embrace the single life, and quite frankly, the idea of sharing my life with a woman at this point is very unappealing, so I’m not sure why I would want to try and work to change my state. Besides, I’ve got more time to write about Christianity and homosexuality as a single man than I would if I was married.

      The whole language though that the “feelings are treatable” is odd to me. Feelings I don’t think are things we treat, as if they’re medical conditions. I’d say instead that some people can benefit from tapping into their God-ordained sexual orientation towards their sexual complement, and sometimes, for some, attractions for the opposite sex can become strong enough to bring about a fulfilling and rich marriage. It’s a different, and I’d say, more true, and more helpful way of talking about it.

      • I most certainly agree with you……I’d rather carry this “balsa wood cross” then spend thousands of dollars wasted time and false hope on pseudo-psychological healing……..my brothers, prayer and grace are free gifts……of course this is just my personal experience…ha! ha!

  7. Very well thought out composition on two sides of the same coin. The pro-gay agenda certainly has a lack of comprehension of Divine Supernatural Grace that sustains the pro-Courage side of the coin. Psychology is a useful tool, but what did Freud know of supernatural grace? He was an Atheist. It seems everything he wrote is somehow related to sex. I’d love to read Freud ‘ s assessment of Mother Theresa if he were alive today.

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