Same-sex attracted Catholics who have turned away from a homosexual lifestyle are urging participants at the upcoming Synod on the Family to defend the Church's teaching on chastity for everyone — including for divorced and remarried. “I fear that chastity does not have enough of a voice at the Synod,” said Rilene Simpson, a member and spokesperson of Courage, an apostolate which offers pastoral support for men and women with same-sex attraction. She told CNA: “We need to have the Church’s support.” “We're talking about chastity for everybody. We're talking about chastity for people with same-sex attraction. We’re talking about chastity within the confines of marriage. We're talking about chastity for people who are divorced, and remarried.” “It is a beautiful, beautiful virtue, it’s a grace from God, it’s a way to become closer to him, and we need to hear more about chastity,” she said. Rilene, whose story is featured in the 2014 Courage-produced documentary Desire for the Everlasting Hills, was one of the main speakers at a conference held Friday in Rome aimed at presenting the Church's pastoral resources for persons with same-sex attraction. The international gathering, entitled “Living the Truth in Love: Addressing the Pastoral Needs of Men and Women with Homosexual Tendencies” was held Friday at the Pontifical Thomas Aquinas University, also known as the Angelicum. Organized by Courage, Ignatius Press, and the Napa Institute, the gathering was intentionally scheduled to take place as close to the Synod on the Family as possible. “What I am hoping from the Synod fathers... (is) that they can see the truth and not buy into the lies,” said David Prosen, a Catholic therapist at a Franciscan University in Steubenville, who also shared his testimony at the Oct. 2 gathering. Having himself lived a homosexual lifestyle before embracing the Church's teaching on chastity, David — whose story is featured on the 2014 documentary The Third Way — told CNA he had once been told by a priest it was “okay to be in an intimate relationship with a man as long as you love him.” “This is so harming,” he said. “So, what I hope is that the Synod fathers will really look at the truth that we, all of us, all men and women have gifts that God has given us because we are created in his image and likeness and because we are his sons and daughters — not because of who I’m attracted to.” David's presentation at Friday's gathering was entitled “I am not gay...I am David,” and touched on his own struggles with identity during his youth. “I know for myself, when I was in the culture, that whole sense of identity to me meant belonging,” he told CNA. “I didn’t really fit in in high school. Finally I felt like I belonged somewhere but it wasn’t giving me what I really needed. I found out years later that the reason is because that’s not who I am. I was embracing something that wasn’t true.” David explained how in high school he had admired traits in other people that he felt he lacked in himself. “I was looking at my peers and going ‘gosh if only I looked like him, if I was athletic like him, or popular then maybe I would fit in,' and there was this shame,” he said. “In puberty, that piece became exaggerated and that’s when I believed something that really wasn’t true.” “I wasn’t really affirmed in my gender and that’s what I was looking for all along.” David explained he has since learned to establish fulfilling and chaste friendships with other men, largely through the help of the Courage apostolate. “There is a profound joy and peace in living a chaste life,” he said. Friday's conference comes partly in response to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in which persons with same-sex attraction did not have an adequate voice, according to organizers. At least two of the Synod fathers will take part in the event: French Guinea's Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Divine Worship, and Australia's Cardinal George Pell, prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy. In brief remarks given to journalists at the conference, Cardinal Pell stressed that the Church has long offered support to persons with same-sex attraction. “It's happening already...in many places,” he said. “No non-government institution offers more avenues of care of, say, HIV people, in parishes, communities, groups like Courage, Christian families,” etc. “We're obliged to. Because we're Christians.” The conference also featured a presentation by Monsignor Livio Melina, president of Rome's John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, who spoke on the Christian anthropological understanding of homosexuality. Other experts included Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins; Dr. Timothy Lock, a clinical psychologist; and Dr. Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute. Friday's conference comes one day ahead of another gathering in Rome entitled Ways of Love, whose organizers support a form of pastoral care which does not necessarily preclude sexually intimate relationships between same-sex couples. This year's Synod on the Family, to be held on Oct. 4-25, will be the second and larger of two such gatherings to take place in the course of a year. Like its 2014 precursor, the focus of the 2015 Synod of Bishops will be the family, this time with the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”
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