WHEREVER he goes, New Yorker Fr John Harvey is ready for a battle because of what he has to say about homosexual behaviour.
In a way, he relishes the fight and he doesn’t mind upsetting people to draw attention to Church teaching.
He sees that as part of his mission. His mission recently met with organised protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, from people objecting to his views on homosexuality.
Fr Harvey, aged in his 80s, is the founder of Courage, a Church ministry to homosexual people wanting to live chaste lives.
He had been promoting Courage on a tour of eight Catholic dioceses in Australia, including Brisbane.
‘One point that’s got to be made very clear is that our program is a spiritual program, not a therapy,’ Fr Harvey said.
‘We’re not in the business of therapy to bring people out of (homosexuality). We’re spiritual directors.
‘The primary purpose of Courage is to teach interior chastity.’
Director of the Church’s Queensland Bioethics Centre, Ray Campbell, in addressing recent criticism of Fr Harvey’s comments, said the Church’s position was that all Catholics need to live chaste lives.
‘One aspect of chastity is abstaining from sexual intercourse outside of marriage, no matter what your sexual orientation,’ Mr Campbell said.
Fr Harvey goes further.
‘A person performing a homosexual act is giving in to lust, on his part and on the part of the other person,’ he said.
‘It is not a true act of love in a Christian sense. It’s simply an act of mutual pleasure in which there is no chance of procreation.’
Fr Harvey said Catholic teaching was that homosexual acts were by their nature intrinsically disordered and homosexual tendency, while not a sin, was an objective disorder.
‘It is called an objective disorder because if you give in to it you perform an intrinsically disordered act, that is, disordered by its very nature.
‘The Vatican says these acts can never be considered moral.’
Catholic homosexuals will find a different approach in another group called Acceptance, which is also operating in the archdiocese.
Although Acceptance is not recognised as a Church group, the archdiocese has a Church-Acceptance dialogue group.
Acceptance believes homosexuals could express their sexuality and still live faithfully as Catholics. In contrast, there is no room in Courage for homosexual acts.
Acceptance (Brisbane) president, John Thornton, said people like himself were gay by God’s choice and Catholic by their own choice.
He said it boiled down to individuals thoroughly examining their conscience, considering the psychological issues and reaching a point where they were satisfied their actions were correct in God’s eyes.
Mr Thornton said conscience came to the fore in Australia during the debate over Humanae Vitae and the Church’s teaching on contraception.
‘It’s not a case of saying I feel good with this therefore it’s right with God,’ he said.
Mr Thornton said informing one’s conscience meant thoroughly examining Church teaching, considering the psychological aspects and reaching an informed decision.
‘Aquinas said it was better to die than go against your conscience.’
Mr Thornton said, having reached a decision of conscience, a homosexual person could join in the life of the Church ‘and reach their full potential as a child of God’.
‘A lot of homosexual people leave the Church because they think they’re not accepted.
‘Acceptance allows people to continue to live within the faith but is very much aware of them reaching their full potential as a child of God – the way God has created them.
‘Acceptance has members, living fulfilled lives as Catholics in parishes, who are still gay.’
Fr Harvey rejects the argument on conscience.
‘Conscience is the basic argument of people who disagree with the Church on matters of morals.’
He said the same arguments were used to justify positions on contraception and divorce that were contrary to Church teaching.
‘The fallacy of it is that God gave the right to the Church to teach what is right and wrong – from Scripture, divine oral tradition and moral theology.’
He said the Pope and the bishops together had the God-given authority to teach on faith and morals, and that living tradition continued, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the Magisterium of the Church.
‘We as Catholics have an obligation to accept that teaching as coming from Almighty God through those teachers,’ Fr Harvey said.
His response to those who reject Church teaching to act on a decision of conscience is to quote Cardinal John Henry Newman in saying, ‘You’re putting your conscience above the Church’.
Fr Harvey said Courage had the backing of the Vatican, having been endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Apart from a public meeting in Brisbane on February 12, Fr Harvey addressed priests of the archdiocese earlier that day. Fifteen priests attended.
He said he had been trying to persuade more priests around the country to establish Courage groups.
‘These young (homosexual) people have an honest-to-God spiritual need. We’ve got to minister to that need.’
His first aim on tour was to explain the scriptural and natural moral law foundations of the Church’s teaching about homosexual behaviour with the purpose of strengthening the spiritual support system offered by Courage.
The second aspect related to Encourage, the arm of Courage for the family and loved ones of homosexual people.
Fr Harvey said this supported parents who did not approve of the homosexual lifestyle of adult sons and daughters.
‘They need spiritual guidance from a priest.
‘We need to deal with the parents as well as individuals who want to get away from the (homosexual) lifestyle.’
Seventy people attended Fr Harvey’s public lecture in Brisbane.
Contact Brisbane Courage through Brendan Scarce on (07) 3229 1092 or at email@example.com
Contact Acceptance on (07) 3846 1714 or write to PO Box 817, Fortitude Valley, Qld 4006.