Catholic ’Ex-Gay’ Program Criticized

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 17, 2009

Some anti-gay religious groups claim that gays can be "cured" and turned straight; others acknowledge that homosexuality is an innate trait, rather than a pathology, but still insist that gays are "called by God" to forsake family life and sexual intimacy and live celibate lives.

The Catholic Church follows the latter course, and in keeping with its views on the matter of gay sexuality has begun to offer a 12-step program designed to lead gays into sexless existences, reports a Nov. 17 Minneapolis Star Tribune article.

The program, however, refers to "reparative therapy," which is commonly associated with religiously based programs that purport to "convert" gays into heterosexuals. Such programs have vocal adherents who claim once to have been gay but now to be straight; health professionals, however, are skeptical of such "conversion" programs and warn that they may do more harm than good. The Star Tribune noted that the church's programs are viewed as emblematic of a rightward shift on social issues since the start of Benedict XVI's papacy. That shift has marginalized faith groups that previously had the support of the church, such as the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM).

"[Retired Archbishop] Harry Flynn came to us--we didn't go to them, they came to us--in the late 1990s and asked us to serve as resource people for the church," the executive coordinator of CPCSM, Michael Bayly, told the Star Tribune. "Then a new pope comes in. Now the archdiocese won't even take our phone calls."

The CPCSM has scheduled a supper and discussion for Nov. 17 in Minneapolis, at Martin's Table Restaurant and Bookstore. The topic: "pseudo-scientific organizations" that endorse reparative therapy. But those organizations may well include the church itself, which runs "reparative" therapy groups meant to help gays learn to live celibate lives.

One such group is called Courage; its web site quotes national director Rev. Paul Check, who claimed, "People are relieved to know the condition [of homosexuality] is both treatable and preventable."

The Courage site asks, "Are you or a loved one experiencing homosexual attractions and looking for answers?" and then goes on to promise, "From our website you will learn about homosexuality and chastity. By developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual identity to a more complete one in Christ."

The site lists means' retreats and offers links to text and audio, among other resources.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.