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Ex-Gay Group Courage Continues to Push Heterosexual Marriage as the Goal

Timothy Kincaid

October 29th, 2008

I have mixed feelings about the Catholic Church’s ex-gay group Courage. On one hand they do make a place for same-sex attracted people who wish to live celebately in accordance with their faith without expectation of miraculous reorientation. They tend not to highly politicize their agenda or publically demean those who don’t “become straight”. And yet, on the other hand, they continue to perpetuate the myth that orientation is maliable.

From an LA Daily News article about how Catholic priests are feeling pressured to comply with the Church’s anti-gay marriage campaign, some light is shed on the attitudes of the Los Angeles branch of Courage:

Harrigan oversees the Los Angeles chapter of the Roman Catholic-based Courage support group, modeled after 12-step recovery programs, for men and women renouncing gay and lesbian lifestyles. If they continue to feel homosexual attraction, members receive help in living celibately.

“In some cases, members finish the program and go on and marry members of the opposite sex and have children,” Harrigan said. “As for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, I do hope members of the Catholic Church step up and vote.”

Personally, I think it is the height of irresponsibility to encourage same-sex attracted persons to marry someone of the opposite sex and concieve children. The pressures on any marriage are great, and when one’s primary sexual, emotional, and romantic attraction is naturally directed towards the same sex, the likelihood of long-term success is low. And to bring children into a such a relationship is rash and callous.

To set up marriage and children as an accomplishment, the “finished” stage of “the program”, is cruel. It sets a goal that will be unacheivable for most “stugglers” and which will be disasterous for many, if not most, that reach it.



October 29th, 2008 | LINK

I understand perfectly your dislike of the group’s professed expectations, but it makes little sense to try changing someone’s orientation just for a lifetime of celibacy. These people genuinely believe that marriage is the best way to sexual fulfillment and a happy life. It would be hypocritical of them to wish anything else on ex-gays.

So it is a quandary for them. I think they deserve our compassion.

Is there any counselling available for people who want to get over unwanted homophobia?

October 29th, 2008 | LINK

I’m suspicious of the LA Daily News reporter’s use of the term “gay and lesbian lifestyles.”

And the bottom line is that psychological research does not support the ex-gays’ conviction that you can change your sexual orientation at will.

October 29th, 2008 | LINK

Fr. Harrigan’s comments are scandalous and ignore Catholic teaching. Marriage is a sacrament and without the ability to FULLY commit oneself to their intended spouse, it is invalid. Homosexuality is such an impediment for a heterosexual union. This isn’t something one prays away no matter how much the good priest may think otherwise. How many young men and women has he led into fake marriages which make a mockery of the sacraments? Irony or ironies here given that “sanctity of marriage” he claims to support…

Regan DuCasse
October 29th, 2008 | LINK

Stuck on strange….
Okay…so, if you’re attracted to the same sex, faith communities try to convince you that celibacy, while surrounded by people having sex lives is a MUCH more fun and fulfilling thing?

So if prayer and deprivation doesn’t work, then the OTHER cure for homosexuality is SEX with the opposite sex.

Well, of COURSE it’s CHOICE.
Between being set on fire, and an acid bath.
Or a rock and a hard place…
Chicken or turkey.

Either choice ISN’T what a GAY person would choose, but what a hetero person wants and also knows THEY’D NEVER choose for themselves.

That inconvenient commandment about treating someone the way you’d want to be treated sure fails in the final analysis, don’t it?

This sex with THEM, thing. Very much like the segregationists who looked down their noses at the ‘morally depraved sexual monkeys’ they thought blacks were.
Yet, once the shades were down, found them so sexually compelling at the same time.

Same groceries.
Gay people are shown the backs of hands in the light of day, but after sundown, straight folk’s real intention is wanting to have sex with them.

Believe me, I get a perverse kick out of seeing how fast they run from THAT little nugget of truth.

Lynn David
October 30th, 2008 | LINK

Many Catholic priests I have known are fairly certain that to have a homosexual orientation is not changeable. But then some of them have been gay themselves.

But Courage was founded by Fr John Harvey, who up until his retirement was one of the more strident anti-gay persons in the American Church. Courage seems to follow the Catholic Medical Association guidelines anyway, and that is almost Nicolosian in scope as you can see in their publication, Homosexuality and Hope. The first paragraph under ‘The Role of the Priest’ reads:

It is of paramount importance that priests, when faced with parishioners troubled by same-sex attraction, have access to solid information and genuinely beneficial resources. The priest, however, must do more than simply refer to other agencies (see Courage and Encourage in the Appendix). He is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction. He must, of course, be very sensitive to the intense feelings of insecurity, guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sadness, and even fear in these individuals. This does not preclude him from speaking very clearly about the teachings of the Church (see CCC, n.2357 – 2359), the need for forgiveness and healing in Confession, the need to avoid occasions of sin, and the need for a strong prayer life. A number of therapists believe that religious faith plays a crucial part in the recovery from same-sex attraction and sexual addictions.

So you can see what a priest is to expect, someone who has shame and guilt. That messed up my cousin, the priest, when I came out to him, I was happy! The second paragraph continues:

When an individual confesses same-sex attractions, fantasies, or homosexual acts, the priest should be aware that these are often manifestations of childhood and adolescent traumas, sexual child abuse, or unmet childhood needs for the love and affirmation from the same-sex parent. Unless these underlying problems are addressed, the individual may find the temptations returning and fall into despair. Those who reject the Church’s teachings and encourage persons with same-sex attractions to enter into so called “stable, loving homosexual unions” fail to understand that such arrangements will not resolve these underlying problems. While encouraging therapy and support group membership, the priest should remember that through the sacrament, he can help individual penitents deal not only with the sin, but also with causes of same-sex attraction. The following list, while not exhaustive, illustrates some of the ways in which a priest may help the individuals with these problems who come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

Homosexuality and Hope then goes on to describe that “persons experiencing same-sex attraction” – “almost always carry a burden of deep emotional pain;” they experienced “early sexual experiences and sexual trauma;” they “suffer from sexual addiction;” they will “often abuse alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs;” the “overwhelming majority … report a poor relationship with their fathers.”

In other words, the classics. Which is why there is a very vocal and strong fundamentalism in the Catholic Church concerning homosexuality. Though when I was a kid in Catholic school, the only place I heard about it was from taunts on the playground.

Joe the Old Phart
October 30th, 2008 | LINK

I guess now that I am too OLD (and impotent) to perform and am now “celibate,” I would be welcomed by the “church” Hey, I can even say I am an “ex-gay!” (Unless someone can record this old man’s thoughts and dreams!)

quo III
October 31st, 2008 | LINK

Lynn David,

Part of what you describe as “the classics” is a perfectly accurate view of homosexuality. Having a “poor relationship” with one’s father is certainly a factor in the development of homosexuality.

Timothy Kincaid
October 31st, 2008 | LINK

quo III

It’s funny. No matter how many people stand up and say “I did not have a poor relationship with my father”, some folks will choose to believe that lie. It’s what they WANT to believe and they care far less about truth, facts, or honesty than they do about repeating their chosen dogma.

Nonetheless, here goes:

I did not have a poor relationship with my father.

Jim Burroway
October 31st, 2008 | LINK

Same here, quo.

I think you need to start listening to real people and their real experiences instead of repeating ad nauseum something you read from discredited “experts” who also refuse to listen to real people and their real experiences.

October 31st, 2008 | LINK


What about the millions of men who’ve had bad relationships with thier fathers and still “turn out” straight?

quo III
October 31st, 2008 | LINK

I wonder why no one is complaining that this is turning into an off-topic discussion.

Lynn David
November 1st, 2008 | LINK

You’re the one that pushed to topic into the off-topic realm, quo…. the rest of us are just stating that we’ve had good relationships with our fathers.

Jim Burroway
November 1st, 2008 | LINK


He’s right. You’re the one who pushed the topic in this direction. You’re normally better than this. This is beneath you.

November 1st, 2008 | LINK

I too had a good relationship with my father. My apologies for continuing the off-topic discussion, but there’s something that I’d like to say to quo III.

I have a friend whom I haven’t now seen for years, since he moved away to another part of the country, although we’re still very occasionally in touch by e-mail and telephone, and we still exchange Christmas cards.

He is homosexual (as I am). I say “homosexual” because “gay” would imply that he had a positive attitude to his sexual orientation – and at the time that he was living near me he certainly hadn’t. At university, back in the late ’60s / early ’70s, he had minored in psychology, and he had absorbed all the “classic” theories about homosexuality. He regarded his homosexuality as a developmental aberration, for which he blamed his parents, and his father in particular.

I once asked him exactly why he thought that his parents had caused his homosexuality, but he could give no specific explanation, except that he did once, when pressed, relate to me an incident which occurred when he was quite a young boy: he and his brother had been unjustly (i.e. mistakenly) and harshly punished by their father for something for which they were not in fact responsible. He could not explain logically how that incident had caused (or even partially caused) his homosexuality, nor could he explain why it had not had a similar effect on his brother. Clearly he had swallowed the “classic” theories that he had been taught as if they were infallible dogmas, and dogma overrides reason.

He was by then living several hundred miles away from his parents, and it was obvious to me that he had built a wall between himself and them. He often went back to the part of the country where they lived, but he avoided going to see them. He once told me that he felt that life would be easier for him if his parents were “out of the way”, and he also wanted to make sure that they didn’t know that he was “queer”, as he put it. He even had his mother one evening in tears on the telephone saying, “We’re getting old now. Please come and see us!” They did once come down to see him and he invited me to meet them for a drink and a meal. Frankly, I was appalled at the way that he spoke to his parents: not rudely, but with a dreadful, cold politeness of the sort that one might display towards rather tiresome strangers. His parents seemed to find it easier to talk to me, whom they had never met before, than to him. That invisible wall that he had built was going to stay in place! I later suggested to him that life might be better for both him and them if he came out to them. I said, “Even if they are absolutely horrified they’ll get over it eventually, but if they think that you don’t love them they’ll never get over that.” He said, “I don’t want them to have to think of me as their queer son, thank you very much.”

By the time that he had begun to re-think his attitudes his mother was already dead, and his father was on the way out.

So why am I telling you all this, quo III? I know nothing at all about you, and what I’m saying may not be relevant to your situation at all. But just in case it is – and even if it isn’t, it may be relevant to someone else who reads this blog – here’s what I’d like to say:

Are your parents still alive? I hope they are. If so, do they know about your sexual orientation? If not, then for God’s sake tell them. And don’t blame them for it, because there’s nothing to blame anyone or anything for. Let go of all the superannuated theories about the “cause(s)” of homosexuality. Don’t let enlightenment come too late, as it did for my friend.

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