By Niall Christie THE NATIONAL
All major psychological organisations in the UK consider conversion therapy unethical
THE Catholic Church has been told to act swiftly to shut down groups across Scotland accused of promoting gay conversion therapy after local community, school and university priests were linked to an international anti-LGBT organisation.
Priests have come under heavy criticism for their promotion and management of branches of Courage International, a Vatican-approved anti-LGBT programme which campaigners claim has long-standing links to so-called “cure therapy”.
Since 2017, the church in Scotland has strengthened its connections to the programme, with half of Scotland’s eight dioceses and archdioceses now hosting meetings run by local priests.
Across Europe only Italy has more chapters of Courage than Scotland.
The organisation does not believe people can be born lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and teaches them to live “chaste lives”, abstaining from sexual activity and suppressing their sexuality.
According to LGBT rights charity Stonewall, conversion therapy, “cure therapy” or reparative therapy refers to any form of treatment or counselling which aims to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
All major psychological, psychotherapeutic and counselling organisations in the UK consider conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation as unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence.
Earlier this month the Conservative Government confirmed it would shortly be bringing forward plans to ban the practice across the UK.
While Courage claims it does not officially endorse the use of conversion therapy by its branches, its teaching and insistence LGBT people must remain chaste falls within Stonewall’s definition of these conversion techniques.
A spokesperson for Stonewall Scotland told The Ferret: “The promotion of the idea LGBT people can and should be cured or changed, is extremely dangerous, particularly for impressionable young people who may be seeking answers about themselves.
“These so-called conversion therapies have been condemned by all major UK health organisations as they try to shame a person into denying a core part of who they are.
“Same-sex attraction is natural and normal. Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are not ill. LGBT people seeking support need to be accepted for who they are, not subjected to prejudice and these harmful practices.”
Campaigners and politicians have now said the church must act to end all links with Courage International.
Scottish Greens co-leader and equalities spokesperson, Patrick Harvie MSP, said: “I wish I could say I was shocked this cruel and dangerous practice is taking place in Scotland at all, but the fact it appears to have grown in recent years is a moral stain on Scotland’s ambition to be an inclusive and welcoming country.
“Even the Tory Government in Westminster has recognised this should be illegal. The Catholic church in Scotland must act swiftly not only to publicly condemn conversion therapy but to put an immediate stop to their members’ promotion of it.”
Courage’s branches in Scotland launched almost three years ago after a UK tour by Courage director, Father Philip Bochanski.
The Diocese of Paisley was the first area of Scotland to launch a Courage chapter in late 2017, organised by Bishop John Keenan.
Bishop Keenan has travelled across the world for conferences linked to conversion therapy techniques, including with a delegation of young people from Scotland during a July 2019 trip to Courage International’s annual conference in the United States.
The former Glasgow University chaplain gave the closing speech at the gathering last year, where he said he had “admired Courage for decades”, before acting as the keynote speaker at an online conference run by Courage during lockdown in April.
LGBT Catholic advocates have said the continued promotion of conversion therapy within the church is “cruel”, warning it causes long-term harm to the health of gay and queer people.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said: “We have heard from people that some leaders and local chapters have recommended it to people.
“Recommending this kind of therapy, especially when it is connected to religious ideas of repentance and prayer or is conducted under religious auspices, is psychologically and pastorally harmful.
“Catholic Church officials, at all levels of governance, should roundly denounce and forbid the practice of so-called conversion or reparative therapy for LGBT individuals.”
Following the launch in Paisley, two groups – in Glasgow and the Diocese of Motherwell – were started by local priests in 2018 as part of a Scottish expansion.
BISHOP Keenan’s successor as University of Glasgow chaplain, Father Ross Campbell (above), also set up his own Courage chapter in Scotland, before joining him on the journey to Courage’s conference in July 2019.
Father Campbell reportedly carries out his ministry off campus to avoid confrontations with LGBT campaigners. He says his work as Courage chaplain for the Archdiocese of Glasgow is done separately from his work as university chaplain.
A priest working with schools and youth groups in North Lanarkshire also continues to operate a Courage branch, launched in 2018.
Father Martin Delaney, who works at St Aloysius’ Catholic Church, Chapelhall and Sacred Heart, Salsburgh, works as chaplain for schools in Motherwell and is in charge of youth ministry for the diocese.
What is conversion therapy? – TREVOR
Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities. According to studies by the UCLA Williams Institute, more than 700,000 LGBTQ people have been subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy, and an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will experience this unprofessional conduct in coming years, often at the insistence of well-intentioned but misinformed parents or caretakers.
Does conversion therapy work?
No. Conversion therapy is premised on the false notion that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that should be cured, despite all major medical associations’ agreement that LGBTQ identities are a normal variant of human nature. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association determined that homosexuality was not a mental illness in 1973.
In addition to its flawed foundation, no credible scientific study has ever supported the claims of conversion therapists to actually change a person’s sexual orientation. On the contrary, a 2007 report by an American Psychological Association task force found that “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through [sexual orientation change efforts].” In fact, Dr. Robert Spitzer, whose research had previously been misused to support conversion therapy, has retracted his original claims, stating that data regarding conversion therapy had been misinterpreted and that there is no conclusive evidence for its effectiveness.
Is conversion therapy harmful?
Yes. The risks of conversion therapy extend far beyond its ineffectiveness, and the time and money wasted on “therapies” that don’t work. The American Psychiatric Association has clarified that “the potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” The Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health
Organization, concluded that conversion therapy, “lack[s] medical justification and represent[s] a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.”
Conversion therapy amplifies the shame and stigma so many LGBTQ young people already experience. Parents who send their child to conversion therapy instill feelings of family rejection and disappointment and risk seriously fracturing their relationship with their child. In a study by San Francisco State University, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who were rejected by their families and caregivers due to their identities were nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression and more than eight times more likely to have attempted suicide when compared to youth from accepting and affirming families and caregivers. Few practices hurt LGBTQ youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. All youth deserve a climate in which they are loved and embraced.
This Courage International crowd are a group of religious nuts.
Conversion Therapy goes against all decent scientific and medical understanding.
It’s a vile abuse of a human being. It’s like something out of concentration camps.
Its thoroughly disgusting, but hardly surprising, that it is being promoted by the RCC.
It should be outlawed everywhere.
Those practising it should be prosecuted, as should promoting it.
Someone said: “Sex will be the Catholic Church’s 20th century Galileo”.
It has come to pass.