STATEMENT: Message from Courage’s executive director regarding the documentary on Pope Francis

October 22, 2020

 

Dear Members and Friends of Courage International,

In the last couple of days a number of you have written to me to ask questions or express your concern about what has been reported in the secular and Catholic press regarding the documentary film Francesco and some quotes from Pope Francis. What a privilege it is for me to serve you in this apostolate, and to know that you look to me and to your chaplains for guidance in striving for our Goals and for faithfulness to the Lord and His Church. In this spirit, I am writing to share a few thoughts regarding the controversy that has emerged in the press and on social media.

First, and most importantly, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body, and the Spouse of the Church, which is His Bride. He has promised never to leave us abandoned (cf. John 14:18), to give us the Holy Spirit to teach and remind us what He has said (cf. John 14:26), and always to give his grace to Saint Peter and his successors so that they teach the rest of the Church clearly (Lk 22:32). When one of those successors expresses his opinion in interviews and in similar ways, we ought to listen carefully and strive to understand and respect his judgment as our Holy Father. The pope knows, of course, that such comments are not the same as what is called the Magisterium, that is, the authority and responsibility to teach definitively on matters of faith and morals that the Lord Jesus entrusted to the pope and to the bishops in communion with him. Our faith is firm that, when the pope and the bishops exercise the Magisterium and teach definitively, the Holy Spirit always guides them and prevents them from teaching erroneously. This is as true on the subject of sexuality, marriage and family as on any other topic of faith and morals. When and if the pope speaks more definitively on these issues, we rely on the Holy Spirit to ensure that he shares the truth clearly and consistently.

That truth — that God has established a unique context for the total gift of self that is reflected in sexual intimacy — is rooted in the nature of the human person, in the revealed Word of God, and in the consistent teaching of the Church. That sexual relations are only morally good in the context of a permanent, faithful marriage between a man and a woman whose relations are open to having children is a teaching that cannot and will not be changed by anyone. The moral consequences that flow from this truth are clearly enunciated in the sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that speak of the creation of man and woman (nn. 355-384), the sacrament of matrimony (nn. 1601-1666), and the sixth and ninth commandments (nn. 2331-2400; 2514-2533). I urge you to read and meditate on the beautiful teachings that are expressed there, which Christ has imparted to us through His Church.

The Church also has a principled, clear rationale for its judgment about civil arrangements to protect or bestow rights on people who live together in a same-sex relationship. These principles are expressed concisely in the 2003 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the office of the Roman Curia entrusted with the responsibility of assisting the Holy Father in teaching the faithful and responding to questions or doubts about the truths of faith. This document, which was prepared by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), and approved by Pope St John Paul II, is available to everyone on the website of the Holy See. Please take some time to read this letter carefully, as it will shed light on the necessary limits on the types of legal arrangements that Pope Francis alluded to in his interview.

We should not forget, however, that the Holy Father did not just mention these legal arrangements, but in fact began his remarks by insisting that people who experience same-sex attractions must never be rejected or excluded by their own families. We know that this is true because it is at the very heart of our EnCourage apostolate. You parents, spouses, siblings and friends who pray so hard for your loved ones, and for the grace to keep the faith while keeping your families strong and intact, are already living in a heroic way what the Holy Father is asking of the whole world. Likewise, you members of Courage who make so many sacrifices as you strive for chastity, prayerful fellowship, and authentic friendship are a heroic witness to the world that a person doesn’t need to be in a sexual relationship in order to give and receive love that is sincere, loyal and fulfilling. I know that the media chatter over the last few days has left you feeling anxious, unseen and even rejected, but nothing could be farther from the reality. The teaching of the Church on these important matters is embodied and made clear in your daily lives. The Pope’s remarks about loving and protecting our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attractions don’t detract from your sacrificial, heroic witness — they depend on it!

The Carthusian Order bears the insightful motto, Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis — “The Cross stands steady while the world goes around.” In our fortieth anniversary year, we have many opportunities to reflect on how the world, inside and outside the Church, has changed in the last four decades, and it seems that things are moving and changing faster than ever. But “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8). The Word of God that He has entrusted to the Church, and the teaching that flows from it, is unchanging, and “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). Most importantly, the love that we share in our apostolate is as strong as ever, and each challenge that we face together makes it stronger. We are built on firm foundations, and we need not fear the storms that come from the world around us.

Know that you are in my prayers and in my heart in these days. Please join me in praying earnestly for the Holy Father, for the bishops who share the teaching office with him, for our members and our chaplains, and for all who have experienced so many powerful emotions in these days. May God bless you and your loved ones with a deep knowledge of His love, and a deep commitment to His truth.

Yours,
Father Philip Bochanski

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:   

Background on Courage International and EnCourage   

Courage International, Inc. is an apostolate of the Catholic Church which offers support to persons experiencing SSA who have chosen to live a chaste life. It was founded by Fr. John Harvey, OSFS at the request of the late Cardinal Terence Cooke. The first Courage chapter meeting was held in New York City in 1980, and it was this initial group which developed the Five Goals of Courage: Chastity, Prayer and Dedication, Fellowship, Support, and Good Example. Fr. Harvey was succeeded as executive director by Fr. Paul Check, who held the position from 2008 to the end of 2016. Fr. Check was then succeeded by Fr. Philip Bochanski in January, 2017. Today, Courage has more than 150 chapters in eighteen countries. Courage and EnCourage received canonical status in the Roman Catholic Church as a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful on November 28, 2016.   

EnCourage is an apostolate under the Courage umbrella which provides support for families and friends of persons who identify as LGBT, and aims to teach them how to reach out to their loved ones with compassion and understanding. The group was first formed in 1987 by families in search of guidance for supporting their loved ones who experience SSA. In 1992, this group adopted the name EnCourage. Currently, they have more than seventy-five chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Italy, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.    

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Media contact:
Ann Schneible, director of communications
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