podcast pick: the Courage apostolate

Sunday Night Live, Father Benedict Groeschel’s weekly show on EWTN, has consistently featured great topics and guests. The March 30 show, on the Courage apostolate, was no exception. I’ve transcribed the introduction to the program, as well as one other brief section, to whet your appetite to download the entire hour-long podcast.

Groeschel: This evening, our topic is the organization called Courage and a parallel organization called Encourage. And I’ll explain in a couple of minutes how these organizations came into being, or maybe I’ll explain it now. Twenty-eight years ago, the saintly Servant of God, Father Terence Cardinal Cooke, said to me, “Benedict, I want to start something for people with same-sex attractions who want to lead a chaste life. And since you’re a psychologist, you could do it.” So I said, “Your Eminence, I’ll have to do it between 2 and 4 in the morning; it’s the only time I have left.” So I said, “I know there is a priest who has worked for many years with people with same-sex attractions, helping them to lead chaste lives. His name is Father John Harvey. I will get hold of him.” And sure enough, in a few months, Father John Harvey started Courage, and he is here tonight, with Father Paul Check, who is now the new executive director-elect. Father Harvey is taking an early retirement; he is going to be 90 this week. So, welcome, Father Harvey; welcome Father Check.

Harvey: Thank you.

Check: Thank you, Father.

Groeschel: Father Harvey – How have you done with these… how many years, working with people with same-sex attraction?

Harvey: I began in 1956 as a result of having to teach it in the seminary. The provincial said one year when the students didn’t answer the questions very well… Of course, I was going to teach the course in April, and the questions were in early March… something like this year, with an early Easter. And the young beavers, newly ordained priests, they wanted to hear confessions. And so the scripture scholar, not knowing that I hadn’t covered it yet, put several big questions in there, and the provincial called me in, and he said, “How come they don’t know about homosexuality?” And I looked at my provincial and said, “Father, give them a break. According to the syllabus, we’re going to take it up in April and May.” And this was March. “Alright, alright,” he said. “Make sure they know next year.” And I said, “Yes, Father.” I walked out of that room and…. went to the public library in Philadelphia, the local library. Three days a week during that summer, I was there, about five weeks in Philadelphia. I read everything I could find on the subject. At the end of the five weeks, I had so much stuff, I said, “Gee, if I know so little, I’m sure most of the priests I know know just as little as I do.” So I decided to write an article on it. And the article got published by the Jesuits in 1955, and the first thing you know, I was getting all kinds of calls about the subject. I really wanted to run away from it, because I thought, “Well, one article is enough.” Another Jesuit, Father John Ford, came along and said, “How come you’re not writing on this subject?” This is two years later. I said, “Well, I’m not writing on the subject, because I don’t want to be called the ‘homosexual priest.'” He looked at me and said, “That’s crazy. You’re the only man who has done any real research. Father, get back to the drawing boards, please, for our sake.” I thought so much of him, that I went right back to Washington, where I was living at the time, and began working on a book. That’s how it all began.


Groeschel: Working with people who are struggling with same-sex attractions or other sexual difficulties can be a very rewarding pastoral work.

Harvey: Yes

Groeshcel: I’ve always found it so. And you start right with confession. And one of the points that you and I were discussing before — both of you and I — is that chastity, ultimately, is not what you don’t do. It’s a positive virtue.

Harvey: That’s right.

Groeschel: And it is a value. And, interestingly enough, the whole field of psychology right now is going through a big renewal with a new psychology of virtue called positive psychology, founded by a psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, who is not a Catholic, not a Christian, but he has obvious real understanding and says that a virtue is a permanent quality of the personality recognized as good by the ethical philosophers and religious leaders of mankind. And the religious leaders of mankind include the Old Testament, the New Testament, especially the words of Jesus and Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, and Saint Thomas Aquinas. This is the president of the APA.

Check: Wow.

Groeschel: So, we’re into a whole new approach in psychology: the psychology of virtue. And that’s why I think chastity, despite the horrible media that we have in this country, is going to become more and more a value for people.

Harvey: You can see it coming.

Groeschel: Also, the fact that we live in such an unchaste time. There’s nothing that will support chastity like wild unchastity, because that leads to repentance.

Harvey: That’s right.

Groeschel: People find out how miserable they are by ignoring God and His requirements (Pope Benedict).

Check: It’s good to remember, Father, that chastity is freedom, and it is a way for me to fulfill that desire to love and to be loved in a most human way. And there is within us a desire to love with a pure heart and to be loved by a pure heart. So the virtue of chastity is what integrates my emotions and feelings, as well as my understanding, and so on, into one way of being able to give myself in a generous way and to receive someone else’s love unselfishly. And we’re all made for that. This is a human consideration, before it’s a matter of Christianity or any religion.

The whole podcast is fascinating. I will be re-publishing it on my own personal podcast feed, because my experience is that the EWTN feeds eventually become unavailable. You can download the audio from this show directly to your browser here, or subscribe to my feed using iTunes, or simply look up the episode on Podcast Alley.

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