Tuesday 14 October 2014

“There was a time when I thought I was unlovable”

Full transcript of my interview with “George Day”, as he is known in the Courage UK Apostolate. The article, in Portuguese, can be read here.

Transcrição completa da conversa com “George Day”, como é conhecido no apostolado da Courage UK. O artigo respectivo pode ser lido aqui.

Perhaps you can explain briefly what the apostolate is, and what it's goals are...
Well, first of all, we don't use the term homosexual or gay, because this is, we fear, rather limiting of the anthropological mystery of the human person. We prefer to refer to ourselves as person with same-sex attraction.

Although in practice it doesn't make much difference, because we still have to deal with this on a day to day basis, the only difference from other organizations is that we try to live according to the Church's teachings.

By that you mean that your members are committed to a life of chastity and celibacy...

When I was trying to find info about your group I found another group called courage, which has ceased to exist, and which was an Evangelical organization. Jeremy Marks, who replied to my e-mail said that although they had started out with the same focus, they had given up on that approach, because they found it to be harmful to the people they worked with.
Jeremy Marks and I know each other very well.

There are two approaches which are similar, in the sense that they are according to the church's teachings, to the Bible if you wish, which is either to live a chaste life, or to get married to somebody of the opposite sex. However, what some organisations tried to do, as was the case of the other “Courage”, is point more to a direction of change of sexual orientation.

But our organisation mainly tries to develop chastity, a desire for chastity, chastity of the heart. If a change of orientation does happen, then it is welcomed, but this is not our aim.

You are referring to conversion therapy, which in some places has even been forbidden. You say that if a change occurs it is welcomed, but what is your position on actually having therapy to try and change somebody's sexual orientation?
We don't endorse it, nor do we fight it. We are not against it or in favour. If some of our members... we do have members actually who are trying to change their orientation, and that is fine, we support them, but it is not something that we endorse.

So how does the group work? Do you meet on a regular basis to discuss...
Yes. We try to meet on a weekly basis. We are a little bit like Alcoholics Anonymous, we try to discuss in a safe and confidential environment, what our week has been like, the challenges that we faced, and how our success is, or even our failures, sometimes. It really is like a 12 step programme, we just try to, with the help of God, live according to the Church's teachings.

These groups are composed of men and women?

How many people in London?
We have quite a good number. Those who come to the meetings regularly are about five or six, but we have more than 20 members.

What is the particular challenge to living a chaste lifestyle when you have same-sex attraction?
I think the challenge is that chastity is difficult for everybody, it doesn't matter whether you have same-sex attraction or opposite sex attraction, it is difficult for everybody.
Every day we are bombarded by messages, media, and it really is difficult.

This is a reason why we need to build a fellowship with like-minded people, because it really does help to have the support of other brothers and sisters who try to live according to the church's teachings.

What makes it more difficult for persons with same-sex attraction is that there is a lot of misunderstanding, even in the Church. Most people do not understand this issue. So sometimes we face maybe prejudice, condemnation, which really is not needed, it doesn't help. Even when we try to do the right thing we feel overburdened with things that don't really belong to us, like prejudice and condemnation. We need more education of the Church and society at large, about chastity or same sex attraction, or chastity in the context of same-sex attraction would help a lot!

Do you have hopes that the synod of the Family will deal with this issue?
I can't speak about that, I am not a member of the hierarchy so it is not my position to make a judgement. But I trust the Holy Father, I trust my partners. I believe Pope Francis has a very clear understanding of this issue. My only concern is that there are groups in the church which do not support the teachings of the Church and are trying to push their way to the forefront.

This is only my opinion... I feel that there is a danger that they might actually affect the thinking of some pastors in authority. I would like to see Courage more supported by the clergy, and this is my strong desire. We are the only organisation that enjoys the full endorsement of the Holy See, the Pontifical Council of the Family. Any other group whether they endorse reorientation or the gay life-style, they simply are not approved by the Church. We are the only group approved by the Church.

Groups like yours come under a lot of fire from the activist groups which press for "gay rights". How are you seen by them?
We don't have dealings with each other. We respect each other. At the end of the day... we don't wake up one morning and say, ‘You know what? Today I am going to be attracted to men...’. No, it’s a cross that we have to bear.

And like every cross, we respect the fact that each individual has a choice to deal with it in their own right, in their own way. We respect that. However we are very adamant, very serious, very committed to our efforts.

You have to think of alcoholics who want to stay sober. They wouldn't go to the pub with their drinking mates, would they? Because that wouldn't help their sobriety. But that doesn't mean that they hate them, or that they are against them, or anything. It just means they have chosen the path of sobriety.

If we began to mingle with activist groups that don't support the message of chastity, this would not help, of course.

Where are you from?
I am Italian.

Being Italian, did you grow up in a Catholic family?
My family are not Catholic.

So yours is a story about conversion?

Can you tell us a bit about it?
Oh yes! I am very open about it, although this matter is still under investigation of the Holy See, my conversion came through Medjugorje.

It was the Blessed Mother, the Mother of Jesus. It was an experience of love that I felt from Jesus and Mary.

I always knew the teachings of the Church. In fact I used to be a member of Quest, I used to be one of the leaders of Quest, an activist group, and when I came to a deep, profound experience of the love of God, I felt that with all the respect and love I had for them, that organisation was not helping my conversion to holiness. So it was my own choice to move away from them and begin my journey with Courage.

What led you to go to Medjugorje in the first place?
Like everybody, I just went on a pilgrimage, the rest just happened.

What message would you give to young people struggling with a tension between their same sex attraction and their faith?
Jesus loves you.

This is true.

There was a time when I thought I was unlovable. The message I received was a very strong message of condemnation. No matter where people are at in life, Jesus is with them in their journey. All I can say is He picked up the adulterous woman and said to her I don't condemn you, go and sin no more.

It is a message of love, but it is also a message of conversion. But the conversion has to be once we feel the unconditional love of Jesus, then we can choose to follow his path.

Leia também a entrevista feita à irmã Maria Vaz Pinto

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