Therapists are not the only ones involved in helping homosexuals who want to change their sexual orientation.
A group called Courage, founded by Terence Cardinal Cook in 1978, provides support to homosexuals who want to lead chaste lives and who want to enhance their spirituality.
Father John Harvey, of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, was a full-time college-level professor when another priest, Father Benedict Groeschel CFR, recommended him to Cardinal Cook.
Father Harvey began meeting to counsel homosexuals on a part-time basis. By 1983 he abandoned teaching to concentrate virtually full time on counseling and supporting the group.
Courage, he said, is a 12-step program that gives homosexual men and women a serious chance to progress to a life of chastity, in accordance with Church teachings.
“There is a group support system in which we encourage our members to leave their homosexual lifestyle,” he said. “However, we don't make this a condition of membership. We can and do refer them to psychologists in New York, but our main objective is to provide meaningful spiritual direction and promote chastity.”
Courage is not without its detractors. Father Harvey said, “Our enemies want us out of business. Ironically, most of them are other Catholics.”
Father Harvey noted there is a sister group called Encourage. It is solely for parents of homosexuals and also provides a support mechanism for those struggling with their child's homosexual lifestyle.
Also working intensely in the Courage organization is Father James Lloyd, a Paulist priest in New York. He holds a doctorate in psychology and taught on the graduate level for many years.
Father Lloyd meets with about 15 homosexuals every week, all men. They range in age from 23 to 72 and run the gamut of professions. The group includes a rabbi, an Orthodox priest, and even a couple of married men.
“I work with them on a spiritual, social, and psychological basis,” Father Lloyd said. “It's very inspiring to see them progress. They have a tremendous struggle in their lives, but they learn to overcome it through daily Mass, spiritual readings, and other spiritual exercises.”
Father Lloyd pointed out that he does not try to change the men from homosexuality to heterosexuality; rather, Courage helps them contain their symptoms and lead a chaste life, while building up new and lasting friendships through their efforts in the group.
“One man, a brother in a religious order, told me he gets more out of our meetings spiritually than he does from his own order,” Father Lloyd said.
When someone joins Father Lloyd's Courage chapter, he is cautioned that Courage “is not a debating society or a round-table discussion.” Members speak of their experiences voluntarily and are not pressured in any way to participate, though most do.
Father Lloyd said he is enthusiastic about Courage and its success rate in helping homosexuals lead chaste lives. “These guys are hurting, but they're nice people, looking to solve their problem and live within the teachings of the Church,” he said. “They pay a great price in a way, but they know it's worth it.”