Virginia Stephenson of Soulforce Albuquerque provides a first-hand account of her group’s encounter with Courage, a Catholic organization that promotes chastity among same-sex-attracted individuals.

Courage does not call itself "ex-gay." But:

  • Courage favors NARTH reinterpretations of current science;
  • Courage misdefines "gay" as a “socio-political position,” encouraging people not to identify as same-sex-attracted, instead advising these people to move "beyond" homosexual attractions;
  • Courage asserts that homosexual and Christian identities are separate and distinct, with homosexuality representing incompleteness.
  • Courage’s founder blames the Catholic sexual abuse scandal on gay priests generally, while expressing measured tolerance for priests who abused teen-agers in the distant past.
  • Courage asks that the antigay Catholic pastoral letter "Always Our Children" be made more strident in its condemnation of the "homosexual lifestyle."

With all that in mind, here is Soulforce Albuquerque’s account of its challenge to Courage:

Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage, the Catholic group, led a seminar July 16-18 at the St. Clement Church in Los Lunas, N.M. Flyers and advertisements appeared in the Albuquerque papers for the seminar. Three Soulforce volunteers attended the meeting. There were about 100 people in attendance and Fr. Harvey began the meeting by speaking for about 40 minutes on the Catholic Church’s stand on homosexuality.

About 15 minutes into the talk, after calling homosexuality a "vile sin," and sharing a comment from a Mother who said that "the parts don’t fit," the three of us stood in silent protest.  We were sitting 5 rows from the front of the Church, and our standing up seemed to throw him a little, he looked like he was not sure what to do.  So, he decided to do nothing and we stood silently for the next 20 minutes or so while he finished his speech.  At the end of the talk he said he would take questions for 15 minutes, so the lifelong Catholic (Peter) in our group raised his hand and told of his 18-year gay relationship which he not only considered a blessing from God, but also believed the spiritualness of his union with his partner was a blessing to God as well. He then said to Fr. Harvey, "What is it you would say to me?"

Fr. Harvey answered him with the Catholic Church’s official moral stance, to which Peter replied that the Church’s stand was "spiritual violence" against him.

In the question-and-answer period another gay person (not with Soulforce) stood and spoke eloquently also on the untruth spoken by the Church. We remained standing for the question and answer session as well. At the end of the meeting we all talked with people who came up to us, some to support and some to criticize.

As a result of our silent vigil, we met members of Milagro and Dignity, two pro-GLBT Catholic organizations, who were very supportive, and future allies of Soulforce in our area.

All in all it was extremely successful, as we three certainly felt it was our place to be there, and we felt our protest caused some people to re-consider the truth of the Church’s stance. All of us felt humbled and excited by the experience.

Soulforce Albuquerque

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