by Gina Keating
PHOENIX (CNS) — For Courage member Daniel Mattson, the intersection of his life with the gay rights movement caused “all hell to break loose.”
“I willfully turned my back on God,” he said, “and took the forbidden fruit.”
With the love and support of his brother, Father Steve Mattson, he left behind his homosexual lifestyle and found that the “good news is chastity. It has brought me peace and tremendous freedom.”
The brothers were part of a panel of faith and human science leaders that gave presentations at the Courage International “Truth and Love Conference” at St. Paul Parish Jan. 9-11.
Father Mattson conceded his discussions with his brother felt more like “apologetic Whac-A-Mole,” but he knew he had to faithfully speak on the Gospel call to chastity and authentic love.
“The church is obsessed with love, true love. We don’t want to offend unnecessarily . . . but if we don’t offend, we can’t share the truth,” Father Mattson said. “When we’re not talking, they have a steady diet from the culture and not from us.”
Sponsored by the Diocese of Phoenix and Courage International, more than 200 clergy, religious and laypeople heard practical and pastoral advice on sharing the Catholic Church’s teaching to men and women with same-sex attraction at the three-day conference.
The theme of “welcoming and accompanying our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions or confusion regarding sexual identity” was clear to state human beings should not be categorized by their sexual inclination, but rather as a “child of God.”
Keynoter Father Philip Bochanski, Courage’s executive director, said the apostolate is a confidential, spiritual support system for people with SSA who desire to live a chaste life — which everyone is called to — through five goals: chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support and good examples.
“We need to speak honestly about sin but speak how Jesus did with the woman at the well — with compassion,” Father Bochanski said Jan. 10. “People with same-sex attraction want to know where they fit in in the church. We help people to gently know who they are so we can show them who they can become. We’re in the hope business.”
Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, was involved with Courage as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Phoenix.
The bishop said he came in support of the conference because of the value of addressing “God’s gift of human sexuality” grounded in Christian understanding of the human person.
“Some people can feel alone or on an island. We can support them by loving and accompanying them, walking with them to a genuine and authentic encounter with Jesus Christ and his church,” he said, adding, “We need to speak the truth to them — always in charity.”
Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, discussed “Understanding the Sexual Revolution” by stating that the “heartache was airbrushed out” of the glamorized excitement of sexual freedom. Heartache has included children of divorce, post-abortive women and men, pornography addiction and gay lifestyles. She called Blessed Paul VI a “prophetic voice” when he wrote his 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” on the moral degradation contraception and abortion could pose.
Morse is an author and speaker who specializes in the area of marriage and family and who played a prominent role defending traditional marriage in California’s Proposition 8 ballot campaign in 2008 to define marriage as between one man and one woman. She said the “contraceptive ideology” has led to the family breakdown. (Voters approved Proposition 8 but it was overturned by the courts; the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that same-sex marriage was legal.)
“The sexual revolution is just as great of a spiritual and political crisis as the Arian crisis, but we can make a difference. Never underestimate what you can do in your personal relationships,” she said. Morse was referring to the Arian heresy denying Jesus’ divinity.
Patty Juarvic from Portland, Oregon, attended her first conference on behalf of her daughter. She also is a member of the apostolate’s counterpart for family and friends, EnCourage.
Juarvic explained how she took a photo of the priests on the altar during Mass to send to her daughter back home.
“I’m going to say, ‘Look at all the priests that are here to learn how to minister to their parishioners who are SSA (same-sex attracted). I have learned you are in no way thought of as a second-class citizen,'” she told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Phoenix Diocese. “They love her and they want to know how to pastorally care for her. She’s part of the fold.”
For Daniel Mattson, who also is featured in the documentary “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” he learned who he is by being in healthy, loving and chaste relationships with others. The film focused on two men and one woman sharing what it is like to be a Catholic who experiences same-sex attraction and chooses to life chaste lives in accord with Catholic teaching.
“I have begun to see all of my life through the lens of God . . . who brought out the greater good,” Daniel said. “He knew I wouldn’t know how much I would need Him if I didn’t suffer. When I feel lonely or have sorrow I can offer it up, and there is joy in uniting it to the sacrifice in the Lord’s cross.”