By Elizabeth Wong Barnstead | WKC
It was one very late Saturday night in West California when Andrew Comiskey discovered the Christian revival.
“I just ran in,” said Comiskey, remembering that to him it was just “another kind of a gathering.”
He had wanted to get away from the friends he’d originally gone out with, and had wandered off into the city streets only to find the revival.
He was struck by the Christians, who were “giving up their Saturday night just to be with the Lord and to welcome other people in.”
He also noticed that the people seemed so happy and caring toward newcomers, despite not being on drugs, and not being focused on getting something sexual from the people around them.
“They were just present in love,” said Comiskey, speaking to an audience of Catholic counselors and others involved in pastoral ministry on May 4. “And it was compelling for me.”
This was a contrast to Comiskey’s life at that time, which had been a turbulent “unreality” ever since he entered the gay lifestyle in the 1970s.
Over the following years Comiskey began to embrace a life of chastity and later founded Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, which serves people suffering from sexual and relational brokenness.
Comiskey’s talk at St. Pius X Parish Hall in Owensboro was part of a shared presentation with Fr. Paul Check, executive director of Courage International – a Vatican-approved apostolate to people with same-sex attraction, or SSA.
“I had the freedom to be gay,” said Comiskey, “but there was something deeper – something more real.”
Fr. Check’s and Comiskey’s talks on May 4 followed a similar presentation the previous day to the clergy of the diocese. Both presentations were sponsored by the Diocese of Owensboro’s Chastity and Abstinence Committee.
Fr. Check said the Catholic Church has “lost ground” because not enough has been said to the faithful about contraception, premarital sex and cohabitation. At the same time, the Church is lately perceived as more vocal about issues with homosexuality.
“Do you think it damages our credibility with this group of people?” he said. “I can tell you that it does. Because this is the group of people that I’m trying to serve.”
He added that the people he works with “feel like they’re being singled out, whereas a whole other group of people are being winked at.”
“The people that we’re trying to serve,” he said of the apostolate, “they deserve more than our sentiments and our feelings. They deserve truth.”
Courage International was established in 1980 by the late Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, who saw a need to help individuals dealing with same-sex attraction who wanted to live lives of chastity.
The late Fr. John Harvey was tapped to help start the apostolate, which has now grown to more than 100 chapters and contact people worldwide.
“I think homosexuality is not at first confusion with regard to sexual attraction, or relationships,” said Fr. Check, who was chaplain for a Courage chapter in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., until he became executive director in 2008.
“I think it’s confusion about identity – about who someone is,” he said, to the detriment of “what really defines them in their humanity as children of God.”
However, Fr. Check said Courage does not promote what is known as “reparative therapy,” or a process of transitioning someone from homosexual to heterosexual, since he sees it as “an ambiguous term.”
What’s more important, he explained, is helping people embrace chastity no matter their sexual attractions.
“I’m not going to support something that’s ambiguous,” he said. “I am interested in helping people heal wounds of sexual abuse, family abortion questions, and other problems. Whether or not that has an effect on their sexual attraction is an interesting question, but it’s not my first concern.”
Comiskey said that chastity isn’t just for people with SSA, but for all people.
“Whatever your starting point is, just to say ‘God, we want to be whole,’” he said. “And we can do it together.”
To learn more about Courage International, a Vatican-approved Roman Catholic apostolate for persons with same-sex attraction, visit couragerc.org, email [email protected] or call (203) 803-1564.
Learn their stories
To learn the stories of individuals who experience same-sex attraction and choose to live by the teachings of the Catholic Church, check out the Courage-produced film, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” at everlastinghills.org.