Increasingly, gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction are lived realities for some people, most especially in Western countries. The prevailing attitude is that these attractions and a LGBTQ+ lifestyle should be embraced. However, Father Bochanski from the Courage apostolate believes that living a chaste and fulfilling life is a very real possibility with support.
The world embraces, celebrates, and promotes the “transitioning” of men and boys to women and girls. Families made up of two mothers or two fathers are increasingly common. So-called Pride months and Pink Shirt Days all work toward an acceptance of lifestyles that are contrary to the dignity of the human person and each person’s call to chastity and love.
In the eyes of the world, a person’s identity is wrapped up in attractions and feelings. But is this a true understanding of identity and who each person is created to be?
Father Philip Bochanski, the President of Courage International, an apostolate that encourages and supports people who experience same-sex attractions to live chaste lives, stresses there is a different way to approach the lived experience of same-sex attraction.
In a talk presented to FLI conference participants, he addressed the issue of identity explaining “the church does not believe that the experience of same-sex attraction or any other experience is able to define the person. To say, ‘because I feel this, this is who I am.’”
“If we want to understand human identity of course we have to begin at the beginning and remember what a great privilege it is to have faith in a plan.”
God’s plan for the human person
Bochanski takes listeners through a journey of understanding God’s plan for the human person. He discusses the complementarity of men and women and how they are orientated towards each other, to building a family, and to being a reflection of God’s love to the world.
“If we consider the plan,” Father Bochanski says, “then what we realize is that if the Church has to say no it’s always to help people to say a bigger yes.”
Understanding God’s plan in light of same-sex attraction requires a “consideration of the human person, of that person’s attractions, and that person’s actions,” he reveals. “We have to speak the truth in love about all three of those things if we’re going to help our brothers and sisters who are living with same-sex attractions to understand and follow God’s plan for them.”
Answering serious questions about same-sex attraction
In the talk, Father Bochanski discusses the answers to serious questions people who experience same-sex attraction and their family and friends have including:
- What do I do if someone comes to me and says I think I’m gay?
- Does feeling this way and having these desires make me a bad person?
- Is there a place for me in the community of the Church?
- Do I have to change who I am?
- What does the Church want for people who are living with same-sex attractions?
The place of sexual intimacy and chastity
Remaining faithful to the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality, marriage, and sexuality, Father Bochanski carefully addresses the right order of sexual intimacy.
Addressing the often-misunderstood term “intrinsically disordered” he explains that it is “the actions, the sexually intimate actions that are part of a same-sex relationship [that] lack those marks of the properly ordered sexuality: unity, complementarity, openness to life.”
“We believe that the ordering of sexuality makes people happy and we have to speak honestly about things that aren’t part of that plan.”
Bochanski makes the point that “God makes each of us with an orientation towards the opposite sex,” and believes that we have “an obligation to propose to our brothers and sisters, a change in behaviour.”
This change in behaviour is to grow in virtue and practice chastity, which every person is called to. Chastity, he says “is the way to live authentically as who you are, and not be led around by this or that or the other experience or desire.”
Father Bochanski is quick to clarify that chastity is not what some would think of as “repression.”
“Passions do not simply have to be repressed for us to act morally. What we’re talking about is not dodging the feelings, but considering them in the light of who a person is.”
Welcoming people in truth
Fundamental to being a human is the need to “belong to somebody else,” he says.
“We have to find ways to create places in our parishes, in our communities, that are welcoming.” This, Father Bochanski says, is done “by sharing the whole teaching.”
He disagrees with people who believe that the Church has no right to speak. He also disagrees with those who shun people who experience same-sex attraction. He believes we must “be a safe and welcoming place for people whatever their struggles may be.”
Courage: an apprenticeship in friendship
The Courage apostolate was founded in 1980 by Father John Harvey in order to provide support to people living with same-sex attraction and who wanted to live chaste lives. Encourage is a support group for family and friends of those who experience same-sex attraction.
There are Courage and Encourage groups throughout the world, as well as online forums for members.
Father Bochanski says he thinks of a Courage group as “an apprenticeship in friendship.” He says “once they see what God sees in them and they’re strengthened and encouraged by it, they can go out and make good friendships in the rest of their lives.”
Father Bochanksi leaves his listeners with with these inspiring words:
“…remember this, God’s plan for us is meant for our happiness. God’s plan for our bodies, for our sexuality, for our relationships, God’s plan for each individual human being of the human race, in general, is meant to draw us closer to him and to our ultimate fulfillment. We have the privilege as Catholic Christians to speak that word to one another in love. To welcome one another in the name of Christ and to accompany one another along that path of holiness.”