John F. Harvey

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John Francis Harvey OSFS (April 14, 1918 – December 27, 2010) was a priest of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a moral theologian of the Catholic Church, and the founder of the DeSales School of Theology in Washington, D.C. He wrote about homosexuality and Roman Catholicism[1] and founded Courage Apostolate, which is a Catholic organization that advises gay and lesbian Catholics to be abstinent from sex.[2][3]

Early life and ordination[edit]

John Francis Harvey was born on April 14, 1918 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of four children of Patrick J. and Margaret (née Harkins) Harvey. Patrick Harvey, a devout Catholic, was a native of Ireland. Margaret died when John Francis was an infant.[4]

John Francis attended St. Columba Parish School, and after graduating from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1936, he entered the Oblate Novitiate in Childs, MD, making his first profession of vows on September 8, 1937, and his perpetual vows on September 8, 1940.[5] After earning his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 1941 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he continued his studies at that institution, earning a master’s in psychology and philosophy, a licentiate in theology and, ten years later, a doctorate in moral theology.[6] He was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1944, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia by Hugh L. Lamb, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia.

Harvey was a lifelong and ardent fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies.[7]

Priestly ministries[edit]

Educational and ministerial background[edit]

After ordination Father Harvey's served as a High school teacher at Northeast Catholic High School from 1945 to 1947. After this he became a Graduate student at The Catholic University of America, which he attended from 1947 to 1951. This further education lead to his becoming a Professor. He became a Professor of moral theology at Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross and worked there from 1948 to 1973. He also acted as Professor of moral theology at DeSales Hall School of Theology, Washington, D.C. from the somewhat overlapping period of 1949 to 1987. He served as that school's president from 1965 to 1977. In addition he held a role as a professor of moral theology and President of Cluster of Independent Theological Schools, Washington, D.C. from 1980 to 1983.[8] He also served as a visiting professor at several institutions, including Catholic Theological Union, Sydney, Australia, St. Joseph Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York, and Seton Hall University.[9]

From 1990-2010 he was Professor of medical and sexual ethics at the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (since 2001, DeSales University) where he lived at Wills Hall, student residence.[10] Additionally, he took on teaching duties at the Oblate House of Studies at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. until it was closed in 1997 due to a dearth of priestly candidates.[7]

Courage Apostolate[edit]

Harvey is best known for urging the Catholics he called "same-sex attracted" to be chaste. The term "same-sex attracted" is often preferred by Catholics like him because they feel "gay" or "lesbian" is defining a person by their orientation in a way that is inadvisable.[11] In November 1978, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R, recommended him to Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York, to start a new ministry for this purpose.[12] Harvey started Courage Apostolate, a support group with five members. It had its first meeting on September 26, 1980, at the Church of St. Joseph in New York.[13]

Harvey retired as Executive Director of Courage in 2008.[14]


In his writings, Harvey defended the traditional Catholic position, while strongly contending that same-sex attracted or LGBT Catholics deserve compassionate pastoral care.[15] In 1987, he published his best-known book, The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care. In it, he critiqued the views of those theologians who argue that the Church’s longstanding prohibition of same-sex acts is wrong. Among others, he also wrote two other books, The Truth about Homosexuality, and Homosexuality and the Catholic Church. Paul D. Scalia writes that no collection of works "provide an authentically Catholic examination of the issue with such depth and breadth. He not only presents the Church’s teaching clearly, but also examines the opposition with notable accuracy and fairness. And yet, for all that, his tone always remains placid and serene, presenting challenging truths and engaging the opposition without rancor or bitterness." [16] Of the foregoing books, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke said that they "have been of inestimable assistance to all who want to understand homosexuality and respond in a Christ-like manner to brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction."[17]

Retirement and death[edit]

Harvey retired to Annecy Hall, a retirement community for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Childs, MD, in January 2010. He died on December 27, 2010, the feast of St. John the Evangelist, at Union Hospital in Elkton, MD, and was survived by his sister, Margaret Smith, and many nieces, nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews. He was predeceased by his siblings, Catherine Egan and James Harvey. The Mass for Christian Burial for Harvey was celebrated on Friday, December 31, 2010, at Our Lady of Light Chapel, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD.[18] He is buried at the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales Cemetery, in Childs, Cecil County. MD.[19]


Harvey's approach won the endorsement of the Pontifical Council for the Family. This endorsement was an indication they saw it as achieving the proper balance between orthodoxy (correct belief) and orthopraxy (correct conduct, both ethical and liturgical) in his apostolate.[20] Pope John Paul II said of this ministry, "Courage is doing the work of God!"[21] In 2011, at the 31st Annual Courage Conference, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, then the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, gave a tribute to the work of Harvey.[22]

Those who disagree with the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality have been more critical toward his legacy. Timothy Kincaid, referring to an interview of Harvey's, once said "some statements in his interview that are odd – and in some instances comical – and which demonstrate the Church's schizophrenic approach to gay issues."[23] That stated on Harvey's death Mr. Kincaid stated of him, "And while I disagree with much that Harvey espoused over the years, I do think that he was a man whose intents were compassionate and who sought neither political power, prestige, or personal advancement through his ex-gay endeavors."[24]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Other recognition[edit]

  • A chair in moral theology at DeSales University is named after Harvey.[25]
  • A residential building for juniors and seniors at DeSales University was named for Harvey.[26]

Selected works[edit]

  • Harvey, John F. (2009) [1951]. Moral Theology of 'The Confessions' of Saint Augustine (Doctoral thesis). Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-1606084236.
  • Harvey, John F. (1977), John R. Cavannagh, ed., Counselling the Homosexual, Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, ISBN 978-0879737610
  • Harvey, John F.; May, William E. (1978), On Understanding Human Sexuality, Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Press, ISBN 978-0819907202
  • Harvey, John F. (1979), A Spiritual Plan to Redirect One's Life: For Today's Homosexual, Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, ISBN 978-0819869326
  • Harvey, John F., ed. (1987), The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-0898701692
  • Harvey, John F.; DiIenno, Joseph A.; Smith, Herbert F. (1989), Homosexuality: The Questions; Scriptural, Church & Psychiatric Answers, Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul, an imprint of Pauline Books and Media, ISBN 978-0819833327
  • Harvey, John F. (1996), The Truth about Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-0898705836
  • Harvey, John F.; Bradley, Gerard V., eds. (2003), Same Sex Attraction: A Parents' Guide, South Bend, IN: St. Augustine Press, ISBN 978-1587317514
  • Harvey, John F. (2007), Homosexuality & the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions, West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, ISBN 978-1932927627
  • Harvey, John F. (2007), Fr. Gabriel B. O'Donnell, O.P., ed., Same Sex Attraction: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice (PDF), New Haven, CT: Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, ISBN 978-2-35389-402-4

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eamonn Keane, "Difficult questions on homosexuality and gay 'marriage' answered by Fr John Harvey, OSFS," Renew America, June 20, 2010. [1] Retrieved 2015-06-30
  2. ^ About Courage Retrieved 2015-06-29. See also USCCB documents on "Abstinence and Chastity." [2]
  3. ^ Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Batule, "In Memoriam: Rev. John F. Harvey, O.S.F.S. (1918-2010)," The Catholic Social Science Review, 16 (2011), pp. 365-366.[3] Retrieved 2015-06-29
  4. ^ Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, "The Memory of Fr. John Harvey, OSFS and the Future of Courage and EnCourage," keynote address at the 31st Annual Courage and EnCourage Conference, held at the University of St Mary of the Lake in the Archdiocese of Chicago, July 29 - August 1, 2011. [4]
  5. ^ Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, DeSales World, Vol. 23, No. 2, Fall 2010/Winter 2011, p. 2 [5] Retrieved 2015-06-30
  6. ^ Obituary, Reverend John F. Harvey, The Morning Call, Dec. 29, 2010. Retrieved 2015-06-29
  7. ^ a b William E. May, "In Memory of Father John F. Harvey, OSFS," Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Vol 34. No. 1, (Spring 2011), pp. 12-14. [6] Retrieved 2015-06-30
  8. ^ "The Church and Father Curran," Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 4 (September 1986), p. 8. [7]
  9. ^ Wipf and Stock Publishers, "John F. Harvey," 2014
  10. ^ Jamie Rankis and Jenna Turner, "Retired from DeSales, Rev. Harvey was 'A Blessing for us All'," The Minstrel, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2010. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2015-07-02.
  11. ^ "'Gays,' 'Queers,' Homosexuals and Same-Sex Attracted By Their Labels Shall You Know Them?" by Janet Smith at National Catholic Register
  12. ^ Steve Weatherbe, "Remembering Father John Harvey," National Catholic Register, January 5, 2011.[8] Retrieved 2015-06-29
  13. ^ Courage International, "Twenty-Eighth Annual COURAGE Conference, July 30-August 2, 2015."[9] The official Courage website, however, states that the meeting took place at the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Lower Manhattan. (Courage International, "About")[10]
  14. ^ Matthew A.Rarey, "Courage Continues Mission of Its Founder, Father Harvey," National Catholic Register, October 17, 2011. [11] Retrieved 2015-06-29
  15. ^ Batule, op. cit.
  16. ^ Scalia, Idem.
  17. ^ Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke, quoted in Matt C. Abbott, "Homosexuality and the Catholic Church", RenewAmerica, December 4, 2009.[12] Retrieved 2015-07-16
  18. ^ Obituary, op. cit. Retrieved 2015-06-29
  19. ^ Rev John F. Harvey, Find a Grave Retrieved 2015-06-29
  20. ^ Batule, op. cit.[13]. See also, EWTN, op. cit., [14] citing the statement made by Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family, speaking on behalf of the Holy See. Retrieved 2015-06-29
  21. ^ Catholic Social Teachings, Diocese of Sioux Falls.[15] Retrieved 2015-06-29
  22. ^ Burke, op. cit.
  23. ^ Ex-gay Watch from 2006
  24. ^ Timothy Kincaid. "Founder of Courage, Catholic ex-gay group, has died". Box Turtle Bulletin. December 30th, 2010
  25. ^ "Dr. Brian Kane". DeSales University. Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  26. ^ "Letter from the President" (PDF), DeSales University Magazine, p. 2, Fall 2014, retrieved July 1, 2015