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January 5th, 2012
11:12 AM ET

Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – The Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, this month is beginning a program that ministers to gays and lesbians, CNN affiliate WFSB-TV reports.

"These are people in the Roman Catholic Church who need our care and love," Deacon Robert Pallotti, director of the Office of the Diaconate, told the Hartford TV station. "In some cases, they have been rejected by society. They need to be accepted, affirmed and supported as Roman Catholics trying to remain faithful to church teachings."

The Vatican-endorsed program, called Courage, has more than 100 national chapters, WFSB reports. According to its website, Courage was started in 1980 by the late Terence Cardinal Cooke in Manhattan "to form a spiritual support system which would assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love."

Pallotti told WFSB, "Through support and spiritual intervention, we can help those with same-sex attractions live moral and fulfilling lives. These people are hurting and so are their families. Doing nothing would be a lack of compassion."

The move has not been without controversy in the archdiocese after some questioned whether the program was condoning homosexual behavior, which is contrary to the Catholic Church's teaching that sexual activity is reserved only for married heterosexual couples.

"Courage will not reduce a person's identity to their sexual desire," Pallotti told WFSB. "They are people with full human dignity not defined solely by their sexual desire."

But one gay and lesbian group in Hartford questioned the need for the group and whether the church had sought input from gays and lesbians in forming it.

"It feels offensive to us, and it feels discriminatory," Linda Estabrook, director of the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective, told WFSB.  "You're telling people not to be intimate with each other."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Gay rights

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  1. The Bobinator
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.