One of the world’s leading experts and ministers in the area of homosexuality made an appearance in Toronto Jan. 19 to outline some of the basic facts about the condition that have been lost amidst public debates in recent years, as well as to reiterate orthodox Christian – specifically Catholic – teachings on the issue.
Father John Harvey is a professor of moral theology and a counsellor to individuals with homosexual tendencies, but is best known as the co-founder of Courage, a Roman Catholic ministry founded 29 years ago through the impetus of Terence Cardinal Cooke of the Archdiocese of New York. Courage is a spiritual support group of Catholic lay men and women who aspire to live chaste lives in accord with their church’s teaching on homosexuality.
Harvey spoke at a luncheon for priests sponsored by Campaign Life Coalition.
He began by noting that homosexual activity is wrong in the eyes of the church because it is unnatural. It is unnatural because in no way does it achieve the purposes of human sexuality – a perfect physical and spiritual union of a man and woman and the hope of children. “These sexual acts are completely out of order. They’re not what sex ought to be,” he said. “Man and woman are complementary to one another. They complete one another.”
Those attracted to persons of the same sex, he said, suffer from a psychological defect whose causes can be varied. “I began to realize very early on … that the homosexual person has many real problems. The biggest problem of all is that he feels inferior to his own sex. That’s the psychological beginning of it. Homosexuality as a tendency is not merely in the body. It’s in the mind. It begins in the mind and ends up in the body.”
Harvey suggested the biggest characteristic of a homosexual person is loneliness. Therefore, one of the five goals of Courage is fellowship, so that no one faces the problems of homosexuality alone. The endpoint is to have people live a “chastity of the heart” or an “interior chastity.” This is not a matter of having a strong will. Humans are not driven; they make choices and can learn to will something, he said.
As far as the factors that cause homosexuality, Harvey indicated the principal one is the lack of a proper relationship with the parent of the same sex. But this factor and others depend greatly on how a person reacts to them. In general, however, environmental, not innate, factors are chiefly at play.
Christians should always respond to persons experiencing same-sex attraction with charity, he said: “Always be charitable toward them and let them know what the church teaches and why it teaches it. One of the best things you can do is let them know we don’t regard them as evil. We see this as a psychological defect.”
Nonetheless, Christians cannot regard actions that are sinful as genuine love. “The act itself is objectively evil, although the person may think it’s right from his point of view … You can’t have full love … if the act is against God. It’s sinful love.”
Courage is active in 95 dioceses in a number of countries around the world, including Canada. It has a website at www.couragerc.net, which gives information on local chapters and how to contact them.