“Courage is doing the work of God!”
– Pope John Paul II
Courage is the Catholic version of Exodus International, minus the miracles and promises of “healing.” The organization is a support group for gay people who have been shamed into abandoning their natural sexuality for a lifetime of celibacy. Courage says that, “by developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete one in Christ…In chaste living, one finds the peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity.”
With referrals from the Catholic Church, the organization boasts “110 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.” Courage’ presence is strongest in the New York metropolitan area and receives a portion of its funding, according to its website, from the Archdiocese of New York.
Courage endorses all official teachings of the Catholic Church that condemn homosexuality and urges gay Catholics to strictly conform to the edicts of the Vatican. Courage agrees with the Rome that:
“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
Statements such as this lead to intense feelings of shame and self-loathing. Indeed, this can be seen on many of the testimonials offered on Courage’ website. For example, one story, by a man identified as “John,” is typical of the turmoil caused by Courage.
“How could people understand that I had something inside of me that I hated?” asked John. “I despised being sexually attracted to men, especially my own peers.”
Compared to Exodus, Courage has a relatively low profile. Without holding out the possibility of a cure or heterosexual marriage, Courage has failed to capture the imagination of the public and has generated little media interest. The organization has also tended to focus more on ministry than politics, ceding the spotlight to ex-gay organizations with a greater desire for visibility and larger ambitions. Whereas Exodus promises “Freedom from homosexuality from Jesus Christ,” Courage urges client to “experience the freedom of interior chastity.”
Courage relies heavily on the theories of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality to explain the causation of homosexuality. They believe that a distant same-sex parent, combined with an overbearing opposite sex parent is a recipe for a child to turn out homosexual. Like other ex-gay ministries, Courage relies on outdated stereotypes and even has a sports camp (for $275) to help gay men become more masculine. According to the group’ website:
“Childhood memories of many men with same sex attractions are filled with embarrassment and trauma. We offer a safe and supportive environment for men to learn the rules, practice their skills and compete with their teammates in softball, flag football, and basketball…Saturday night after the Sports Camp championship…join us, as we celebrate with cigars and cognac.”
Courage believes that keeping its clients busy and productive will help them remain celibate. The group urges members to, “dedicate ones life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
While more honest and realistic in their expectations than Exodus, Courage still stigmatizes GLBT Americans, forces people to choose between their faith and sexual orientation and perpetuates prejudice in society. For Catholics looking to come out and experience their sexuality in healthier ways, please visit Dignity USA. (www.dignityusa.org)