Maine Catholic bishop starts ministry to support people attracted to the same sex

Posted Feb. 02, 2012, at 12:16 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 03, 2012, at 9:34 a.m.
Bishop Richard Malone
Joel Page | AP
Bishop Richard Malone

PORTLAND, Maine — Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, announced Thursday the formation of a new ministry to support people with same-sex attraction.

Malone announced in a press release the establishment of a local chapter of Courage, a worldwide spiritual support group based in Norwalk, Conn.

The Rev. Kevin Martin, who serves St. Michael Parish in Augusta, has been appointed the chaplain for the ministry.

“This service is being initiated in response to requests from people who desire the church’s assistance,” Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese, said in the press release.

Courage was founded in 1980 in the Archdiocese of New York. The organization now has has more than 100 chapters and more than 1,500 people on its electronic mailing list worldwide, according to information on its website. The program is patterned after 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Courage offers hope and encouragement to men and women who desire to live in accordance with the church’s teaching on homosexuality — specifically that the dignity and identity of every person is not determined by their sexual attractions, but by their relationship with the Lord and their striving to live the virtues of faith, hope and charity,” Bernard said.

The Rev. Mark Doty, pastor of Hammond Street Congregational Church and a gay man, said Thursday in an email that he was offended by “the notion that ‘persons with same-sex attraction’ would require a support group.

“In my view, it is presumptuous and wrong-headed to equate homosexuality with addictive behavior,” said Doty, who was ordained by the United Church of Christ. “Same-sex loving people reflect an orientation, a way of viewing the world. To my mind, what takes genuine courage is for people to love and serve God and openly acknowledge that they are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. I’m convinced that the cloak of anonymity of this ‘ministry’ seeks to protect heterosexuals from imagined evils and does no favors for the LGBT community, their families or society in general.”

The five goals for Courage participants are to:

• Live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

• Dedicate their lives 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.

• Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.

• Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life and in doing so provide encouragement to one another in forming and sustaining them.

• Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.

The group follows the moral teachings and spiritual practices of the Catholic Church but is open to people of all faiths, Bernard said in the press release.

Courage support groups practice a policy of anonymity and confidentiality. The local chapter will meet where there is a need and the locations will be disclosed only to those who plan to participate.

For information about participating, call Martin at 592-5332 or email courage@portlanddiocese.org.

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