Welcome, readers from The Catholic Register. For an overview of the blog, we recommend the "Best of the Sheepcat" links in the left sidebar, including an account of The Sheepcat's rage at his parents when he found they were praying for him to leave a gay lifestyle and our three-part engagement story.
We're looking forward to blogging again on a more regular basis. Loyal readers of The Sheepcat will know that for the past year we've been preoccupied with a serious illness in the family; we're happy to report that the family member in question is now settled in a nursing home very close to our home and parish.
Our improved family circumstances have allowed us to proceed at last with the long-time invitation to co-facilitate a Toronto chapter of EnCourage, which had not been active for many years. EnCourage offers peer and pastoral support for family and friends of persons with same-sex attraction. It and Courage are the only Church-approved apostolates dealing with SSA. We plan to begin monthly meetings of EnCourage Toronto in the fall, and in the meantime we've been accepting referrals to speak with affected individuals. To be clear, our blog represents our own views and not necessarily those of the Courage Apostolate.
A separate and more recent initiative has been the founding of the policy group Reclaim the Rainbow – Toronto, which consists of Toronto-area Catholics who have experience of SSA either in themselves or among their loved ones, and who are loyal to the Magisterium. We have been lobbying our local Catholic school trustees to provide authentically Catholic support at the level of home, parish, and school.
We greatly appreciate the excellent new document from the Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) entitled "Pastoral Ministry toYoung People with Same-Sex Attraction." Without compromising on any of the hard teachings, our bishops offer compassionate guidance to the Catholic community at large, priests and pastoral workers, parents, educators, and especially young people themselves. Ottawa's Archbishop Prendergast explains to Canadian Catholic News, "If we are going to be Catholic school boards and we are going to try to have equality and equity in our outreach to young people then we need to be clear about what the Church’s teaching is." Rightly the document warns, "Avoidance of difficult questions or watering down the Church’s teaching is always a disservice. Such attitudes could lead young people into grave moral danger." LifeSiteNews has responded with grateful coverage, while an editorial from The Catholic Register commends the letter.
The choice of Monday as the document's release date was significant. This is Pride Week in Toronto, a time when increasing numbers of people affected by same-sex attraction and seeking an alternative to a gay lifestyle have been seeking the support of Courage or EnCourage. It also marked six months since the death of Courage co-founder Father John Harvey, at the hour of mercy on the feast of his namesake, the Beloved Disciple.
Readers of The Sheepcat may recognize part of a photo we used in our post memorializing Fr Harvey in today's Catholic Register profile of The Sheepcat. In media interviews and public appearances we consistently reiterate our position that we can't operationalize the unmerited grace The Sheepcat received as he discovered heterosexual attraction. Sometimes parents of a same-sex-attracted child hear our story and hope we can offer some program of change for their child. That's not our message; Courage is for chastity, not marriage, and we surrender the particular outcome to God. For parents faithful to Church teaching and hopeful that their child will leave (or be preserved from) a gay lifestyle, our message is this: Pray without ceasing, never giving up on your child, and make sure he or she knows that no matter what he or she does, you and God will always, always love him or her.
We can and do testify to the powerful experience of unconditional love, therapy, support groups, the Rosary, and Eucharistic Adoration; not to do so would be for The Sheepcat to be one of the nine lepers who didn't go back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). We're also honest in explaining that The Sheepcat continues to experience a degree of same-sex attraction, which is no barrier to our joyously living out our vocation to married life. As compelling as The Sheepcat's story is, though, the stories of our faithful celibate friends with SSA are even more compelling. We're eager to include their voices along with ours as, with the help of your prayers, we continue to proclaim the truth about God's design for our sexuality.