September 20, 2020

Have a Little Courage

posted on: Thursday April 3, 2014

by Matthew Henry Smith ’16
Guest Opinion

Friars, we have been invited to hear another academic speaker on queer issues. The event description reads as follows, “Two representatives of Courage International, the Catholic Church’s outreach to persons with homosexual inclination, will examine the personal, ethical, and theological dimensions of the Church’s teachings.”

It has been a queer year at Providence College. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the events that unfolded. It hasn’t been pleasant. It hasn’t been a celebration of students or ideas. It has been divisive.

That said, I am writing this to encourage you to join me in listening to this speaker.

Sure, you might find the event title, “Clarity and Charity,” to be a little condescending. You might worry that the event description’s terminology, “homosexual inclination,” is dismissive of identity. You may be cautious about the motivations of the event’s persistent sponsor.

All of these are valid, logical concerns. What these concerns have in common is that they have only to do with how this event was presented—not the event itself.

Courage is a group that seems to be doing some quality work. It’s not a NARTH. It’s not a Westborough Baptist situation. Put plainly, it’s an organization that provides gay men and women who wish to live within the Church’s sexual ethics teachings with a faith-based support system, service opportunities, and spiritual guidance.

That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? That’s because it isn’t.

This is a completely appropriate event for the philosophy and theology departments to be promoting. On a Catholic campus, it is perfectly unobjectionable to have a representative from Courage come to talk about services. Students, especially those who are totally committed to the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics and who are gay, are likely to find this event crucially valuable.

But where does this leave a person like me (and maybe you) who isn’t totally on board with the Church’s sexual ethics teachings? Well, I’ll tell you that if I had a gay friend who wanted to live within the Church’s teachings, I would not chastise him. I wouldn’t tell him he is foolish or try to convince him to come around to my perspective on the matter. I would respect his choice and probably recommend that he seek out a support system like Courage. I think that’s what friends do and I think that’s what religious tolerance looks like.

Give this thing a chance. Join me on April 8 to learn about how to support someone who may be discerning a connection with this organization. There is certainly no threat present in this instance. I know that we have all been bruised in some way by the events of the past year, but this is a chance for people of diverse ideologies to sit side by side. Let’s be there, Friars. Have a little Courage.

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