In a country where gay marriage has gained widespread acceptance – both culturally and legally – in the past several years, it can be difficult for pastors or others in ministry to stick to the Church’s teachings on the subject without feeling like a bigot or a hater.
Difficult, but certainly not impossible, said leaders at the Truth and Love conference this week in Phoenix.
The conference was co-hosted by the Diocese of Phoenix and Courage International, the Church’s ministry to people who experience same-sex attraction. Pastors and others in ministry positions from throughout the country came for talks and resources on how better to teach the Church’s truth with love.
“The idea of these conferences is to provide resources, perspective and vocabulary for people in ministry. These are specifically for clergy, diocesan parish staff, or those in fields like psychology or social work – people that are going to be on the frontline of the field hospital,” Fr. Philip Bochanski said, referencing an analogy from Pope Francis, who called the Church is a type of field hospital.
“These are the people who are going to be doing pastoral first-aid and spiritual triage, they’re that first point of contact for people,” Fr. Bochanski told CNA.
Fr. Bochanski has worked with Courage for a number of years, and was recently appointed executive director of the ministry after the previous director, Fr. Paul Check, was assigned as rector of St. John Fisher Seminary in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
This is the second time the ministry has hosted a conference specifically for clergy and those in ministry, Fr. Bochanski said. By and large, these people have good intentions but are unsure of how to share the teachings of the Church on homosexuality with love.
“I think the problem is that the culture says that on this issue, you can’t do both – that somehow being faithful to the Church’s teaching makes you a bigot or a hater, or an unreasonable person,” he said.
“But the culture promotes a misplaced compassion, where pastoral ministers can be afraid to say the wrong thing, and so they don’t say anything, or they speak ambiguously or incompletely,” he said.
Fr. Bochanski said the apostolate has seen a significant increase in interest for local chapters particularly since the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015. Since then, about 20 new dioceses have expressed interest in starting new local chapters of Courage.
“From a secular, cynical perspective, it would be easy to say the legal issue is decided, the cultural issue is closed, Courage and the Church can just go away,” Fr. Bochanski said.
“But from the perspective of the Church, we’re realizing that it’s becoming impossible not to speak up about this, and I think bishops are realizing the Church cannot just be a church that says ‘no’. And if at times we do have to say no to behavior – never to people – it’s in order to help them say a bigger ‘yes’,” he said.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.