Courage International

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Not to be confused with Courage UK.
Courage International, Inc.
"Move beyond the confines of the homosexual label to a more complete identity in Christ."
Founded 1980 (1980)
Founder Fr. John F. Harvey, OSFS
Type 501c3 Nonprofit

8 Leonard Street

Norwalk, CT 06850
Mission "In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Church’s teachings, especially in the area of chastity, Courage extends the Church’s invitation to a life of peace and grace. In chaste living, one finds the peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity."

Courage International, also known as Courage Apostolate and Courage for short, is an approved apostolate of the Catholic Church. It "ministers to those with homosexual or same-sex attractions".[1]

The group consists of laymen and women usually under anonymous discretion, together with a priest, to encourage its members to abstain from acting on their sexual desires and to live chastely according to the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. Courage also sponsors an outreach program, Encourage, which ministers to relatives and friends of gay people by providing help by "supporting one another and their loved ones through discussion, prayer and fellowship."[2] As a means of guiding homosexuals to a life of penance and chastity, the ministry uses the pastoral letters issued in 1986 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who was serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,[3] and those issued in 2006 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[4]

The apostolate was endorsed the Pontifical Council for the Family in July 1994 through the statement of Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo.[5][6] Its goals are primarily grounded on chastity, piety and the promotion of compassionate and charitable works.


Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York, conceived the ministry in the early 1980s as a spiritual support system which would assist gay Catholics in adhering to the teachings of the Church on sexuality and sexual behavior.

Cooke invited the moral theologian Fr. John F. Harvey, O.S.F.S., to come to New York to begin the work of Courage with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. The first meeting was held in September 1980 at the Shrine of Mother Seton in South Ferry.

Courage faced resistance from its establishment from conservative Catholics who did not believe any such organisation should be directing its attention fully towards supporting openly gay and lesbian Catholics. However, Courage maintained a number of endorsements from senior bishops of the Church.[7]

In 2003, it became a member of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality.

Courage has developed a program based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,[8][9] and describes its goals as "Chastity," "Prayer and Dedication," "Fellowship," "Support" and "Good Example".[10] The steps were adapted with the permission of the Alcoholics Anonymous, but without further participation from the latter.[8]


Courage has chapters in many American cities and several foreign countries, and has official recognition from the Church hierarchy, having the endorsement of the Roman Curia.[11]

It is financially supported by the Archdiocese of New York and by donations. Individual chapters are self-supporting and exist with the permission of their diocesan bishop. Courage was recommended as a support group for gay Catholics in the 2006 document by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care".[12]

In 2005, Courage formed a Hispanophone branch based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, called Courage Latino. It currently extends to seven countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, and Venezuela.

The current head of the US branch is Rev. Paul Check. He states the program does not support conversion therapy. He has at times been asked to comment on the group experiencing protests from those who object to its belief homosexual activity is sinful.[13][14]

Courage and Ignatius Press organized a Pre-Synod conference, "Living the Truth in Love", which took place in Rome on 2 October 2015 to address the pastoral needs of gay Catholics. The conference featured George Cardinal Pell and Robert Cardinal Sarah, and Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, among other speakers; it also heard the testimony of Catholic homosexuals who followed the doctrine of the Church on sexuality.[15]

Criticism from other Catholic LGBT groups[edit]

Courage has faced criticism over the years in its approach from Catholics who disagree with Church teachings on same-sex marriage and argue that the organization promotes "mandatory celibacy for gays and lesbians”.[13]

Hostility has at times broken out between the groups working with these communities. Harvey has set Courage in opposition to DignityUSA and has publicly criticised New Ways Ministry on a number of occasions. Both DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry have suggested that having a lesbian or gay identity is a blessing from God, and that Courage is therefore being "anti-pastoral" in its work. They have called for a stronger attempt at reconciliation with gay Catholics and recognition that stable homosexual relationships may be a good thing.[16]

The leaders of New Ways Ministry, Jeannine Gramick, SL, and Fr. Robert Nugent, refused to recommend Courage to Catholics with whom they worked because they fundamentally disagreed with the approach of Courage; particularly because Harvey insisted that homosexuality was an illness or sickness.[17] The executive director of DignityUSA said in 2014 that "Courage is really problematic and very dangerous to people’s spiritual health. And we have been very concerned about it for a lot of years".[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Welcome to the Courage Community". Courage. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  2. ^ "Encourage". Courage. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Williams, Howell, Homosexuality and the American Catholic Church: Reconfiguring the Silence, 1971–1999, Florida State University, 2007, p118
  8. ^ a b "The Twelve Steps of Courage". The Twelve Steps are reprinted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, Inc. Permission to reprint and adapt the Twelve Steps does not mean that A.A. is in any way affiliated with this program. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism - use of the Twelve Steps in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but which address other problems, does not imply otherwise. 
  9. ^ National Catholic Reporter
  10. ^ Catholic
  11. ^ "Courage: Pastoral Care for Homosexual Persons". EWTN. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  12. ^ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care", released at the November 2006 bishops' meeting. Courage and Encourage are mentioned on p. 22 n. 44.
  13. ^ a b Detroit Free Press
  14. ^ The Toronto Star
  15. ^ Courage International to Hold Pre-Synod Conference in Rome, National Catholic Register, 14 September 2015
  16. ^ Williams, Howell, Homosexuality and the American Catholic Church: Reconfiguring the Silence, 1971–1999, Florida State University, 2007, p. 119.
  17. ^ Williams, Howell, Homosexuality and the American Catholic Church: Reconfiguring the Silence, 1971–1999, Florida State University, 2007, p. 118.
  18. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Belgau, Ron. "Sodom and the City of God." New Oxford Review, June 2003. The author, spokesman for Courage in the Archdiocese of Seattle, criticizes the use of stereotypes and hate-speech directed against gay people [1]
  • Harvey, John F., Rev., O.S.F.S. The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care. Ignatius Press, 1987. ISBN 0-89870-169-4. Harvey is the founder of Courage International.
  • Holton, Robert. "Homosexuals With the Courage to be Different". Our Sunday Visitor, vol. 81 p. 21, August 30, 1992. Profile of the group.
  • Jacquet, Louis F. "Courage: a support group for Catholic Homosexuals". The Liguorian, vol 77, pp. 16–20, May 1989.
  • Kenny, Joseph. "Catholic Church Has Room for Those Struggling With Homosexuality." Catholic News Service, August 9, 2006. [2]
  • Morrison, David. Beyond Gay. Our Sunday Visitor, 1999. ISBN 0-87973-690-9. Morrison is the founder and moderator of "Courage Online", an online support group sponsored by Courage International.
  • Nugent, Robert. "Courage Curbs Gays". National Catholic Reporter, vol. 21, p. 10, January 18, 1985. An article critical of Courage.

External links[edit]