Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
This past week the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) held their annual meeting in Phoenix. This is a group of counselors, mental health providers, social workers, pastoral counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists that offer a form of counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity issues who want to sort through the issue and live a chaste life. This type of counseling has been banned for minors in both California and New Jersey. Needless to say NARTH has many detractors and some who will go to any length to shut them down. In fact as is becoming increasingly clear anyone who disagrees with those who promote same-sex attraction will incur their wrath.
Because this is such a hot button issue NARTH has done extensive research and clinical studies showing that their therapy does not in fact cause "harm" which is one of the objections that NARTH often encounters. (Just visit their website NARTH.com) Neither does NARTH claim to have a "cure" for same-sex attraction but simply helps those who find themselves wanting to live without a predominance of same-sex desires. NARTH also fights for a client's right to access this type of therapy. NARTH also presents counter views to many issues regarding homosexuality that too often go unchallenged and that are presented as fact even though they often lack any substantial research to support a position. NARTH is never countered with the same level of research but only by slogans and accusations of bigotry and homophobia.
I point this out to you so that you can know that there are many counselors and therapists who dedicate themselves to their clients who want to deal with the issue of same-sex attraction and not just acquiesce to their desires. Sadly anyone today not promoting same-sex attraction is sure to pay a price. The level of animosity towards groups like NARTH and the Catholic Apostolate of COURAGE (which is a support group for those who experience same-sex attraction but want to live a chaste life according to Church teaching) has risen to the level of outright terrorism. For example, we often keep the identity of COURAGE members anonymous because they are often the target of harassment. Additionally, many of the attorneys who have argued in court for support of traditional marriage now need personal bodyguards.
My own experience and those of others I know bears this out. Since I am listed on the COURAGE website as a priest who is willing to help someone sort out this issue I frequently receive not so loving communications. While I respect someone's right to disagree and present a counter argument. I reject the labels that are often thrown at others and me: labels that include being accused of being part of a hate group, domestic terrorist group, compared to a member of the KKK, or being no better than a racist.
The threatening tactics and the stifling of dissent of many of the promoters of SSA and same-sex marriage have the full endorsement of our federal officials, by way of federal policies that are almost to the point that not being a promoter is almost a criminal offense. We are seeing this played out vividly in our military where every supervisor has been told to make sure it is known that they support same-sex marriage, by having signs and symbols in their office that demonstrate their support and likewise not having signs and symbols that speak otherwise. Federal policy is a big hammer that is quickly becoming a coercive force on this issue. But as Paul tells us in our second reading today,
" Pray… that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith."
I expect things to get a whole lot worse before sanity returns. Hence for our purposes it is important to remember that helping those who wish to refrain from same-sex behaviors or try to lessen the grip they have on a person is not motivated by hate but quite the contrary by love. The Church's teaching here is not based on bigotry but only on authentic love. The type of love that wills the true good of another.
Over the years of having assisted many same-sex attracted persons they have repeatedly said how grateful they were that the Church continued to present another point of view. Even though they had the sneaking suspicion something wasn't quite right within them everyone in society seems to have been saying to them to get over it and embrace it. So though it might be increasing unpopular, even among Catholics, the Church needs to remain a sign of contradiction.
Pray for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Unraveling the issue on a personal level can be difficult and lengthy but in the end love will win out.
Love, Fr. John B.