A post to the National Catholic Register has reminded me of the exploitation by the Church, not only of gay people, but of their families. The Catholic Church’s Courage Ministry is modeled after the pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous which is premised on the notion that being gay is somewhere between a bad habit and a pernicious addiction.

AA has Al-Anon for the families of alcoholics. The Church has  EnCourage for the families of people who have, what they insist on calling “same-sex attraction.”

Believing that one has an affliction if a son or daughter is gay causes adult and minor children unnecessary stress. That belief is toxic to the family dynamic and it is noxious self-absorption.

The post in question was written by Bernie S. (who has adopted the AA/Al-Anon form of first name-last initial). Bernie is clearly ashamed of his son. The post is titled “Loved One With Same-Sex Attraction? Come to EnCourage.” Translation: I’ll encourage other parents to be ashamed of their children.

About 12 years ago, my wife and I received a letter from our son, who was then about 30. … He informed us that he was attracted to persons of the same sex, which he first noticed when he was in his late teens.

In other words, he felt the need to keep his sexuality secret ( from the two people he needed the most) for 15 years or so (perhaps half his life) for fear of angering them. Bernie owes his son an apology for making his teen years dreary.

But about nine months later, he formally “came out” and told us that he would seek a partner. He has since had two partners and has recently separated from the second, after a seven-year relationship during which they were “engaged.”

All kinds of emotions and thoughts took over immediately: shame, fear and worries for his salvation and physical and spiritual well-being.

It sounds to me like Bernie’s first thoughts were about Bernie and his shame for having a gay son. Being ashamed of offspring because of their sexual orientation is backward, ignorant and superstitious. Bernie has put his religion above the best interests of his son. He should give that some thought. Sadly, Bernie found no joy in his son’s engagement — only additional shame. In doing so he surely caused his son discomfort. Bernie needs to find the equivalent of AA for people who are addicted to their religion.

Our initial focus was largely inward: Where had we gone wrong in raising him? Did we dare share this “shameful fact” with anyone? What would family and friends think of us? What kind of relationship should we seek to maintain with him and a partner? What would this mean for his future life, for his career and for his membership with the Church? What would we do if he decides to get “married?”

The Church causes Bernie to believe that he is responsible for his son’s sexual orientation. There is an abundance of virulent shame; not to mention enough stupidity to fuel a Sarah Palin run for president.

A couple of years passed, and then we saw a notice in our diocesan paper for EnCourage, an apostolate related to Courage, the Catholic ministry to persons with same-sex attraction (SSA). EnCourage serves the spiritual and relational needs of parents, siblings, children, spouses and other relatives and friends of persons with SSA.

To our great comfort — and initial surprise — we heard many stories like our own: of children raised in traditional Catholic households who, despite having attended Catholic schools and being taught about chastity as the path to holiness, identified and lived as “gay.”

We were not alone, after all!

Yeah, it’s all about you and your wife Bernie. Bernie’s son hasn’t made bad choices. It is Bernie and his wife who have made all the wrong decisions. About 40% of the population have a close family member who is gay. Why the hell is the word gay in quotes. Bernie uses “SSA” as if it were in the DSM.

We heard parents talk about their children in a calm and loving way, with obvious sorrow for their attraction and choices but filled with hope for their eventual salvation. Over the years, we’ve since seen many persons come in filled with anger and anguish about their children, often admitting to raising their kids in rocky and tumultuous, if not dysfunctional, environments. And, with time and the support of the EnCourage community, we have seen the anger fade, replaced with hopeful love, and relationships mend.

Being sorrowful over the sexual orientation of one’s children is spectacularly stupid. “Hopeful love” means hope that their child will become heterosexual or idiotically chaste. That is not the unconditional love that parents should provide.

Meetings are built around EnCourage’s five goals:

  1. To grow spiritually through spiritual reading, prayer, meditation,
    individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the
    frequent reception of the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist.
  2. To gain a deeper understanding of the needs, difficulties and
    challenges experienced by men and women with same-sex attractions;
  3. To establish and maintain a healthy and wholesome relationship with their loved ones with same-sex attractions;
  4. To assist other family members and friends to reach out to, with
    compassion and truth and not rejection, their loved ones with same-sex
    attractions; and
  5. To witness to their loved ones by their own lives that fulfillment is to be found in Jesus Christ through his Church.

Step one that these people need to do is to reconcile science with their faith. If they want a healthy relationship with their gay children they should first be intellectually honest with themselves and then with their sons and daughters. That requires the intellectual curiosity to learn the truth about sexual orientation.

Too often these folks refer to the teachings of the Church as truth. However, scientific truth — real truth — is based on evidence.

Step two is to commit to never, every using the term same-sex attraction again. It is an expression of ignorance.

Step three is to maintain a healthy relationship with the partners and spouses of their sons or daughters. Alienating them is alienating their children.

Our basic advice is: Don’t go it alone! Please do not suffer in silence.

The very idea that have a gay child causes one to suffer is moronic and self-serving. It is no different than suffering if one’s daughter has red hair. It is absurd and damaging to sons, daughters and the relationship that one has with them.

Also ask your confessor to be a mentor or to suggest one. Then ask
the mentor whether he knows other persons who would be interested in
joining a group. Most confessors undoubtedly are asked to counsel people
who have loved ones with SSA, and they might be willing to convene a
group by asking people who come to them whether they’d be interested in
meeting others in the same situation for mutual support under the
EnCourage banner.

A priest is not qualified to competently counsel anyone regarding sexuality. He lacks the training and experience.

While the pain of our situation has not gone away, we found something new.

The joy of Our Lord’s love and the compassion and support from our new friends are crowding out the pain and have even given us greater hope for our son.

Come with us on this journey. It will change your life.

Your pain. Just how self-centered are these people? How much pain have they inflicted on their children? The very fact that their son had to hide his innate sexuality which is at the core of who he is is troubling. On reflection (if these imbeciles are capable of introspection) that should cause pain.

This post really pissed me off. The damage that this thinking does to teens in unconscionable. It is a form of child abuse and they have done violence to their sons and daughters.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.