AUGUSTA — A city priest has been appointed to lead a new ministry announced Thursday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland that aims to help people who want to overcome an attraction to others of the same sex.

The Rev. Kevin Martin, who serves St. Michael Parish in the Augusta area, will be the Catholic chaplain for the statewide Courage ministry. The new Maine chapter of Courage, a worldwide spiritual support group established in 1980, would practice anonymity and confidentiality.

“I want to be very clear: this is not the church imposing a certain view on people, but respecting their desire to come to us for support,” Martin said Thursday at St. Augustine Church in Augusta. “It is not to force it upon anybody, but rather to say, ‘We’re here to support them.’ “

The announcement comes a week after EqualityMaine and others turned in more than 105,000 signatures to put the question of legalizing gay marriage on the November ballot. Voters rejected such a measure two years ago.

Martin said the group’s creation was planned by the diocese for a long time and is not in response to the same-sex marriage ballot question.

Bishop Richard Malone said in a prepared statement Thursday that the group aims to help people “live in accordance with the church’s teaching on homosexuality — specifically that the dignity and identity of every person is not determined by their sexual attractions, but by their relationship with the Lord and their striving to live the virtues of faith, hope and charity.”

Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gays’ and lesbians’ civil rights, declined to comment on the support group.

A spokesman for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, of Boston, which assisted with last week’s ballot petition announcement, didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Malone and Martin said the support group is being established in Maine because people here have asked for the church’s assistance.

Martin said the organization could be for someone who may have experimented with homosexuality, or who simply has desires or urges and is looking for help and support in resisting those feelings.

The group is not intended, for example, for a person who is openly in a relationship with someone of the same sex, Martin said.

“I don’t think that’s what Courage is for,” Martin said. “Is Alcoholics Anonymous for people who are currently drinking? If they have a desire to step away from that, Courage could be for them.

“I’d say the person has to have an awareness (that) change is possible. Courage is there for them, to help meet them where they are — to try to bring them to Christ.”

The Maine chapter will meet where there is a need, Martin said, with the locations disclosed only to those who plan to participate. Those interested may contact Martin at 592-5332, or by email at [email protected]

“It takes great humility for anyone to talk about their deepest struggles, no matter what they’re facing,” Martin said.

Martin, a Catholic priest in Maine for nine years, has not worked with a Courage chapter before but said he has ministered to people with same-sex attraction.

Martin noted that he not a professional therapist and the organization is a spiritual, not therapeutic, support group.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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