Monday, February 12, 2007

Fr. John Harvey: A Model for Modern Apostles - AMEN!

He is a priest, short, quite bald, and elderly. He is a recognized international scholar with a score of high level books and author of innumerable articles in professional journals. He laughs at good jokes and enjoys a steaming dish of tasty pasta. He likes people, is heavy with compassion and is non-judgmental. He has spent his life helping others and enlightening young minds in college classrooms. He likes to pray and believes in a loving God. He is a fervent loyalist to the Catholic Church and fearlessly defends the Magisterium against the attacks of modern secularism and hedonism. He believes in honest disagreement and never takes what Media call the “cheap shot.”

Prima facie, on the face of it, one would surmise that this priest, Father John Harvey, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of Moral Theology and trained counselor in the world of psychology, would be universally appreciated and even acclaimed. (With essential differences noted) one might make similar observations about Jesus Who was goodness itself and Who should have been welcomed and loved without condition. Obviously, the Lord was treated brutally, viciously and was hardly welcomed with open arms.

Father Harvey has been called a “bastard” by a fellow priest who suffers from SSA[1] and who almost violently disagrees with the Church’s teaching on the problem of homosexuality. Recently, at a parish where Fr. Harvey preaches on Sundays, a Politically Correct Catholic couple informed Father after Mass that they would never attend this Church as long as he was there. They informed him that they were ashamed of him even though they deeply appreciated the members of his Order who were more modern and “with it.” Typically, Father offered them his priestly blessing as they huffed away in deep indignation.

Many Catholic priests and a few Bishops have attempted to “blackball” him and possibly to silence his powerful Traditional Catholic message. He has been widely insulted and demeaned even though Pope John Paul II personally encouraged and approved his ministry and even though Cardinal Trujillo, of the Vatican Family Life office, officially praised his work. Further, Cardinal John O’Connor publicly announced that Courage, (the movement which Father Harvey, in fact, founded) was the only Official Ministry to SSA persons in the Archdiocese of New York. And, in fact, his movement, Courage, is now International with chapters in Australia, Poland, Ireland, England, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, in addition to the many ones in the United States. There are constant petitions from all over the world for assistance in starting the Courage units. The Movement, founded only in 1980, has helped literally hundreds of good men and women recover from the insanity and drabness of the homosexual lifestyle.

In the light of the above, the casual observer obviously would legitimately ask “why?” Why would such a good and well intentioned priest who literally defends his Church’s teaching against any attacker or attack be so maligned and disliked? Why should he be so victimized for the good he has done over the years? It is interesting that he is attacked personally more than the Catholic teaching he upholds! One wonders is the venom selective, sensing that he is the easier target---with the hope that destroying him might mean destroying the Teaching?

The Catholic Church in obedience to the Will of the Master teaches that human sexuality is reserved exclusively for men and women who are married. Any usage of the sexual faculty outside marriage is inherently wrong and contrary to the Plan of God. The Church teaches that containment of the powerful sexual drive is mandatory and possible (with the help of God’s Grace). Cardinal George of Chicago in an address to a group of homosexual activists insisted that any one who disbelieves in the possibility of chastity, in effect, does not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. As one might expect, at the conclusion of his address he got perfunctory applause, at best. This is not what the gay population wants to hear.

The control of libidinous desires is seen, in Catholic circles, as chastity and God’s Will, a requirement for every one, married and unmarried. The chaste married person rightfully has a full, passionate and healthy sex life with the spouse but only with the spouse. The chaste, unmarried person (technically celibate, temporary or permanent) refrains from sexual activity until marriage.

Catholicism sees chastity as freedom for the growth of oneself as a person. It is not perceived as repression or corrosion of a person. Contrary wise, the result of chastity is the integration of energies which might otherwise swing off into wild and toxic tangents. Chastity as taught by the Catholic Church (and clearly then by Courage) brings an inner peace and sense of inner cleanliness which allows the person to understand and practice the meaning of real love. This interiority is constantly reported by members of Courage who in their various pasts[2] had been enveloped in the homosexual “Lifestyle”. In effect, chastity is totally in one’s self interest, not the opposite.

Interestingly, this very interiority ultimately swings outward to the “other” who is beheld rather than possessed. It is Catholic belief that persons are loved and beheld by God with an implacable love—as His own adopted children. No human being can be legitimately possessed or owned.. That belongs only to God. This makes for the fundamental factor in identity. Creature of God. The Wall Street Journal published a signal article entitled Morality and Homosexuality written by an Ecumenical Symposium (Feb. 24, 1994) which articulated the bottom line. It is degrading to be exclusively defined in sexual terms. “Man” is far more than gonads and sexual urges. It is a non-equation to say “I am homosexual” since the person is far more than his sexual dimension, as important as it is.

The Catholic Church likewise teaches that a tendency to unnatural and unrestrained sex does not constitute the whole of the person. It is a tendency which is surely within the person but it is only a tendency. This is also Fr. Harvey’s concept of Same Sex Attraction (SSA). It is far more accurate and respectful than the Gay “lens” term which consumes the whole of the person reducing him to the level of drives and desires. Chastity also believes that one can not only survive living chastely, but one is thereby freed for the glory of true love of God and human beings. It is one of the basic pillars of Courage that liberation from the homosexual trap includes friendship of the type described by C.S. Lewis in his book Four Loves. Not only is chaste friendship possible but it is basically necessary. All human beings yearn for and require intimacy. To love and to be loved is healthy, normal and blessed. Yet, these goals are to be pursued appropriately—God’s way. Unhappily, such yearnings are capable of enormous distortion and subtle deception.

For example the term “relationship” in gay circles, when stripped of festoonery, clearly means sexual involvement. According to the testimonies of Courage members liberated from the trap of same sex behavior, it also has a given. Namely, Gay couples are implicitly allowed to “fool around” sexually with others. Sexual exclusivity is not a basic requirement of gay coupling. Only emotional fidelity is a must for SSA unions. Heartache, suffering, loss of self esteem and a multitude of human unhappinesses follow such naiveté.

When Fr. Harvey, with a background of extensive experience and knowledge, works and prays to bring people to human happiness, eternal salvation and the pleasure of God, he is maltreated as described above. Is it because people simply do not believe in God’s grace, that chastity is not possible? Is it that, as I have heard from activist homosexuals that Courage people are either lying or sick when they reveal their chastity? Is the vicious attack coming from uninformed persons? Or persons with false tolerance and misplaced compassion? Or from persons with secret, sexual “skeletons” in their own closets? Is Fr. Harvey’s stance (i.e. the Catholic Church) a rebuke to others? Does he make some one feel guilty? One cannot know the motivational dynamics demeaning a holy old priest whose personal motivation is to do God’s Holy Will. However, what we do know is the teaching the Master, Jesus.

When they revile you and treat you unrighteously, when they say all manner of evil things about you, when they mistreat you because of My Name’s sake, then blessed are you. You shall have the Kingdom of heaven. Those of us who know Fr. John Harvey personally can only say Amen!!!

[1] SSA is shorthand for Same Sex Attraction and is considered to be more respectful than the pejorative “homosexual” or the activist “Gay” word. Gay usually means political and pervasive and includes the whole of the personality. SSA does not.

[2]Courage members include physicians, lawyers, psychotherapists, teachers, street prostitutes, retailers, audio experts, investment bankers, doormen , office workers, men, women, young, old, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, religious, unbelievers—Caucasians, Hispanics, African Americans, Indians----the cross section of American life.

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