New ministry supports families of people with same-sex attraction

By | March 31, 2010

Want to learn more?

To learn more about EnCourage and the church’s teaching on same-sex attraction visit the following Web sites:

• “Always Our Children,” a pastoral letter from the USCCB’s Committee on Marriage and Family. The letter can be read online in its entirety.

• For more information about “EnCourage: Catholic Faith in Action,” visit their Web site and click on EnCourage.

To learn more about EnCourage ministry in the Green Bay Diocese, Fr. Doerfler can be reached in complete confidence by calling (920) 272-8180 (days) or 920-432-4348, ext. 211 (evenings).

“There’s often a concern to bring their loved one to conversion,” Fr. Doerfler notes. “They might start blaming themselves. They might feel isolated.”

He says the value of the apostolate is that it provides a confidential and supportive venue for parents and others to interact, share practical advice, live out Scripture and understand the critical difference between SSA and acting it out.

“Jesus dined in the homes of sinners,” Fr. Doerfler explains. “He didn’t condone their sinful behavior, but rather called them to conversion.”

Jim and Katherine — fictitious names to protect the identity of actual parents from this diocese — are two such members. They were mystified to find their own daughter challenged by SSA a few years ago.

“We were shocked. The disbelief and tears were excruciating,” recalls Jim. “Then we thought — just maybe — we were exaggerating, or that she’d grow out of it, or that we could re-double our efforts to insulate her from the prevailing culture, or that things could change by saying things enough over and over.”

“You look at popular television shows, movies, music. … This lifestyle is being presented — even celebrated — as mainstream culture,” Katherine notes. “Clubs and festivals are normalizing same-sex attraction. To a large degree, it has become fashionable. All of this is inviting people to accept SSA as an appropriate choice.”

“We’re committed to following the teaching of the church, fully conforming to the call to be loving while upholding morality,” Jim says. “Look at the great emphasis our culture presently places on tolerance and diversity. More and more the message is that everything is OK. Do whatever you like.

“That’s partly why this ministry needs to be so sensitive,” he says. “Today’s more permissive culture makes it clear that we need to protect the anonymity of everyone involved. It affects the whole family.”

Both parents agree that their ability to faithfully live out the moral teaching of the church has been powerfully supported by other concerned participants they’ve met through “EnCourage: Catholic Faith in Action.”

“Together, we are studying and learning. We’re praying for our children. We share the same struggle,” says Katherine. “It’s love and morality; compassion and truth. We understand that, for a person with SSA, remaining chaste and not acting out is a cross to bear.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexual acts are contrary to Scripture and the natural law, and that “they close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” [2357]

The catechism also states that persons do not choose SSA. For most it is a trial, it says, and that such persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every kind of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter in their condition.” [2358]

“We can look at our own lives and, if we’re really honest with ourselves, admit that we experience desires to do things that are sinful,” Fr. Doerfler says. “We all have to work to resist various desires so as not to act out in a sinful way. Those with SSA have a particularly difficult cross to bear. As a people of faith, we are called to walk with them in bearing that cross to live a chaste and holy life.”

Katherine acknowledges that, while the convenience and avoidance of conflict can present an easier and therefore attractive option, the difficult search for understanding found through church teachings has been “very much a great help for us. I’ve learned through life that when the church’s teaching makes me uncomfortable, I have the option and responsibility to search for truth and understanding,”

“Always Our Children,” a concise pastoral message to parents of children with same-sex attraction from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family, addresses people who feel they are beyond the church’s circle of care.

The message “urges families to draw upon the reservoirs of faith, hope and love as they face uncharted futures. It asks them to recognize that the church offers enormous spiritual resources to strengthen and support them at this moment in their family’s life and in the days to come.”

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