Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Can someone please explain to me how Courage & Spiritual Friendship differ regarding ministry to homosexuals?

That question answered here.

I'm especially grateful for the following two clarifications from Ron Belgau regarding the Newman and St. John friendship, as well as the writings of St. Aelred on spiritual friendship:

For example, if we discuss the friendship of Bl. John Henry Newman and Ambrose St. John, or Newman’s writings on friendship more generally, we are not suggesting that there was anything sexual about their relationship. We are looking to their chaste and holy intimacy as a model for Christ-centered spiritual friendship. The key here is that we think that virtuous, Christ-centered friendships are a basic human good, an essential part of a flourishing human and Christian life. Lust or homosexual activity corrupts this good, while the virtues—particularly chastity—preserve, protect, and nurture this love, which is an important icon of the love of God.
When we look to Aelred of Rievaulx, we are not trying to read him through a quasi-romantic lens, as if he were a medieval Charles Ryder or Sebastian Flyte. We look to him because he does a good job of distinguishing disordered carnal friendship from rightly ordered spiritual friendship, which is important if we are to overcome temptation and cultivate chaste spiritual friendships. - Ron Belgau

Works for me.

It's a good essay which hopefully answers many questions.


The priest, Fr. Schneider, who originally asked the question, might do well in asking people like Fr. Check, Fr. Paul Scalia, Deacon Russell, and other clerics who work in this ministry as well.  If one knows what Courage is, and hopefully he does, one knows that there are counter movements.  Movements which may applaud Courage, but reject it as the only apostolate available.  What Courage is not is an AA, SAA, group - despite the fact critics claim it is.  Sometimes critics sound a bit like the Pharisee who thanked God he was not as bad as the Publican.  "I'm not some pervert porn actor - I'm a virgin who happens to be erotically attracted to handsome men and I do not identify with such low life.  I just want a friend."  I'm being slightly facetious, however, if you read comments on the SF site, you will understand my point.

Courage offers a spirituality based upon traditional Catholic spirituality and ascesis, helping people with same sex attraction issues to sanctify their lives, live chastely, and integrate into Catholic communities-parishes, if and when they find that difficult.  Yet more importantly, it helps people live a faithful, chaste, Catholic life.

Not everyone is attracted to 'groups' or 'movements' yet Courage is a trusted resource for spiritual direction in accord with solid Catholic teaching.  You don't have to join anything - everything is available online.  Just live your life, pray, frequent the sacraments, and don't pretend being gay makes you God's gift to man, woman, the Church, or the world.  It's pretty straight forward.  Straight single men and women do it all of the time.

It really is consoling to know that Ron Belgau and company are so well grounded in Catholic teaching and spirituality, yet a project such as Spiritual Friendship does not rise to the level of a pious association, third order, or school of spirituality such as Carmelite, Benedictine, Franciscan and so on.  It's not l'Arche, it's not Catholic Worker, it's an intellectual project, a gay movement - a gay-Catholic movement.  Courage Apostolate on the other hand is recognized as a Catholic apostolate, as the Courage webpage explains:

With the endorsement of the Holy See, Courage now has more than 100 Chapters and contact people world-wide, over 1500 persons participating in its ListServs, and hundreds of persons per week receiving assistance from the main office and website. It has become a mainstream Catholic Apostolate helping thousands of men and women find peace through fellowship, prayer, and the Sacraments. - About Courage

Spiritual life is about conversion - opening one's heart to the Gospel, to Christ.  It's not about a change in doctrine, a compromise of Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, an accommodation of Catholic teaching to suit an idiosyncratic spirituality based upon dubious concepts of sexuality or gender identity, no matter how intriguing it may be to debate such issues.  A person - a soul - needs Christ - not a movement - and never an ideology.

The ordinary means of sanctification are available to all in the Catholic Church - no special clubs or academic degrees, no intellectual prowess necessary... just resolute determination to repent and to sin no more.

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