Spanish lawyer names bishops and priests pushing conversion therapy

Many of the 70 figures identified by Saúl Castro have not previously been linked to the anti-LGBTIQ practice

By a href=”https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/author/lucy-martirosyan/”>Lucy Martirosyan

A Spanish human rights lawyer has named 70 practitioners and promoters of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in Spain, among them Catholic bishops and priests.

In Saúl Castro’s new book ‘Ni enfermos ni pecadores’ (meaning ‘neither sick nor sinners’), he reveals the traumatic experiences of therapy survivors and identifies different kinds of therapy providers. Many of the people he identifies have never been publicly linked to conversion therapy before.

These range from self-proclaimed “identity coaches” who provide paid services online to “cure” what they call “homosexual obsessive compulsive disorder” to “ex-gay” leaders from the US who spread misinformation via the internet. Catholic schools and churches also promote conversion therapy to their members.

Conversion therapy, which claims to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, has been condemned by international health and human rights experts and is banned in many countries.

As a cisgender gay man, Castro takes this topic personally. “Conversion therapy is a sort of genocide,” he said. “They are offering mechanisms to make us disappear.”

He is also the founder of the association No Es Terapia (‘not a therapy’), which campaigns against conversion therapy in Spain.

There are bans on conversion therapy in nine of Spain’s 17 regions. Promoting or carrying out conversion therapy has been prohibited in Madrid since 2016, with fines of up to €45,000.

In June, the Spanish government approved a draft of a wide-ranging bill to protect the rights of LGBTIQ people. It is particularly strong on rights for trans people, and seeks to classify conversion therapy as a “very serious administrative offence with penalties between €10,001 and €150,000” throughout Spain. The bill is currently going through parliament.

However, making conversion therapy an administrative offence – meaning it is not punishable with jail time – would not criminalise its practitioners or promoters in the way Castro says is needed.

Bishops promoting conversion therapy

Castro interviewed 15 survivors of conversion therapy during his three years of research for the book. They described some of the so-called ‘treatments’ they had experienced.

These included being instructed to flick a rubber band worn around their wrist whenever they felt attracted to someone of the same sex. In some sessions, they were told to strip and hug other naked same-sex participants, to “de-sexualise” their bodies.

He also discovered cases where, if the therapy ‘isn’t working’, psychiatrists prescribe patients medication for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, because these drugs are known to suppress the libido.

Conversion therapy is a sort of genocide

Through his interviews with therapy survivors, Castro was able to reveal the names of several Spanish bishops who have promoted conversion therapy.

Last year, the Vatican conducted an investigation into Granada-based Verdad y Libertad (Truth and Freedom), an organisation that often recruits Catholic bishops and priests to promote and refer people to conversion therapy. The Vatican urged bishops not to participate in any activities run by the group, which has tried several times to be officially recognised as a faith ministry by the Catholic Church.

However, the church itself has never released the names of faith leaders involved with Verdad y Libertad.

Castro said that some bishops and priests would select their victims in parishes, dioceses and theological schools and “monitor their paths to ‘conversion’”. One such case involved a gay Spanish priest who was ordered to start conversion therapy by his parish.

“The worst part of the ‘therapy’ for him was being forced to record his masturbatory and homoerotic fantasies daily,” Castro said. Three times a day, for a year, the priest participated in group Telegram chats dedicated to conversion therapy, with more than 100 other participants. He had a ‘fake’ funeral and burial to symbolise “becoming a new person”.

“They had forced him to break his relationships with friends [and family] because they were ‘triggering’ his homosexuality,” said Castro. Eventually, he left the Telegram group, but “it took him so much to [do so].”

Castro is using the evidence he found to report both individuals and groups to regional authorities in Spain, and also to human rights offices at the United Nations that specialise in sexual orientation and gender identity.

All the way from the US

Paid-for online counselling sessions – in person or via books and audio – are another common channel for conversion therapy in Spain. While researching his book, Castro signed up for a couple of sessions to understand the practitioners’ motives.

PATH screenshot.png
Positive Approaches To Healthy Sexuality website (screenshot 25 July 2022) | PATH

One example is provided by US website Positive Approaches To Healthy Sexuality (PATH). Its $150 “counselor training program”, designed for therapists and ministry leaders who would in turn “assist” LGBTIQ people to change their “same-sex attraction” and enter heterosexual relationships. The training includes more than 18 hours of recordings and a 180-page manual.

It was devised by Richard Cohen, a prominent figure in the ‘ex-gay’ movement in the US, who identifies as a “former homosexual” and is now married to a woman and has three children. In 2002, he was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association for multiple ethical violations.

“In Spain, the main discourse by perpetrators of conversion therapy stems directly from Richard Cohen,” according to Castro. He also says that “teenagers who lack education about the LGBTIQ community” are the “most susceptible” to Cohen’s ideas if they come across his books online.

In 2012, Cohen promoted his latest book, ‘Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality’, in Madrid during the sixth conference of the ultra-conservative network World Congress of Families (WCF).

A 2020 investigation by openDemocracy revealed that the WCF is linked to $280m of ‘dark money’ spent overseas by US Christian right groups since 2007. More money was spent in Europe than in any other region.

The late Joseph Nicolosi is another American practitioner of ‘reparative therapy’ – an alternative term for conversion therapy – with significant influence abroad. A Google search in Spain for “cómo dejar de ser gay” (‘how to stop being gay’) yields results for five books by Nicolosi.

‘Conversion therapy has to be criminalised’

For Castro, simply banning conversion therapy in Spain doesn’t go far enough.

“Conversion therapy has to be criminalised,” he said. “Our criminal code has to be amended, not only [to stop] impunity, but so that those who are responsible for promoting the practice and violence are locked up in jail… Fines are not a deterrent, but jail is.”

Spain is the home of CitizenGo, an ultra-Catholic, far-right advocacy group, which has created bailout funds for anti-LGBTIQ groups in the past.

Since the publication of his book in June, six more survivors of conversion therapy have contacted Castro. He encourages people to report cases to his organisation, No Es Terapia.

“I’m not hoping that [criminal proceedings] will happen,” Castro said. “I will make them happen.”

Complete Article HERE!

Bishop gave priests ‘oppressive,’ Godfather-like offer they had to refuse

Jul 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Parishioners listen to a video taped message from Rev. Rene Costanza at the Newman Center, the parish and student ministry at Ohio State, letting them know that the diocese is being taken from the Paulist fathers during Catholic mass on July 3, 2022.

by Jack D’Aurora

In June 2021, when Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez stated that President Joe Biden should not receive Communion because he is pro-choice, I wrote in an opinion piece, “Every day, someone in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy wakes up and says, ‘What can we do today to show how out of touch we are with our people and lose more of them?’”

Joining the sclerotic hierarchy is Bishop Earl Fernandes. Installed as bishop of the Catholic Diocese on May 31, 2022, he did the equivalent of kicking in the front door of the Newman Center just three weeks later.

On June 21—without ever talking with the Paulists or members of our community—he gave the four Paulist priests, who served at Newman for 66 years, until June 30 to wind up their administration. He later relented and gave them until July 12, and permitted them to celebrate Mass until July 31. But the Paulists had to vacate their diocese-owned home by Aug. 31.

When interviewed by Collen Marshall of NBC4 on July 10, the bishop communicated he wanted to partner with the Paulists, but they declined.What the bishop offered was oppressive.

The Paulists would be allowed to preach and hear confessions, but would require permission before performing weddings and funerals — a one-year arrangement the bishop could terminate at any time.

Jul 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Fr. Jimmy Hsu, CSP leads Catholic mass at the Newman Center, the parish and student ministry at Ohio State on July 3, 2022. The diocese is being taken from the Paulist fathers, an order of Catholic priests, who have run it for 65 years.

Remember the famous line from “The Godfather“: I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse?

Bishop Fernandes did just the opposite and made an offer he knew the Paulists could not accept.

His own actions reflect anything but an open attitude.

In his interview, the bishop referred to our members — some 800 Ohio State students and 600 residents of greater Columbus — as children who are upset with parental discipline. Which of these members is a child, and how is it the bishop imagines himself to be a parent?

Bishop Fernandes’ actions speak of arrogance, an aptitude for spinning facts, a profound lack of consideration for his people, and a condescending attitude. But you have to give him one thing: He has provided us with a shining example of how not be to be an effective leader.

The new bishop, Earl K. Fernandes, seated, is applauded by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, left, during his ordination and installation as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Columbus on May 31, 2022.

Newman Center will now likely be less inclusive. Based on the document given the Paulists, Newman will endeavor to attract conservative groups such as FOCUS and Opus Dei. FOCUS advocates that gay individuals live chaste lives, and Opus Dei states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

The bishop has written that even priests who merely offer support to gays are to be dismissed.

And the bishop is a proponent of celebrating the Mass in Latin. Nothing like going nearly 60 years back in time to the days of pre-Vatican II.

The diocese communicated to the Dispatch that “Out of respect for the Paulists’ privacy in the final masses with the community on July 30 and 31st, no media will be permitted inside the center or on the property.”

The Paulists would have welcomed the media.

It’s the bishop who didn’t want publicity for a standing room-only Mass, where tears were shed, and Ken Watkins, pastor of the adjacent University Baptist Church, applauded the Paulists, saying, “Newman Center has been the starship of campus ministry.”

I will no longer attend Mass at Newman, and though a cradle Catholic, I may join a different faith tradition.

If only the Catholic hierarchy would jettison its hubris and constricted thinking and focus on the gospel’s simple message of humility and inclusion.

Complete Article HERE!

Anglicans derailed anti-gay vote, but 125 anti-gay bishops forge ahead

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at last week’s Lambeth Conference.

By

Progressive Anglican bishops breathed a sigh of relief that plans for a vote against homosexuality were derailed at the just-ended international Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops. Meanwhile, separate from the formal conference in Canterbury, England, conservative Anglican bishops launched an initiative that allows bishops to show their support for the anti-homosexuality resolution that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, removed from the Lambeth agenda.

Leaders of the Lambeth conference of bishops representing the 85 million worldwide members of Anglican churches backed away from a planned vote on whether to reaffirm a 1998 resolution rejecting homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and gay clergy.

As the conference ended, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) announced that among bishops at the conference, 125 bishops from 21 provinces representing 7.9 million Anglicans, had signed up in support of the anti-gay resolution. The conservative bishops said that they would also invite bishops from Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda to support the resolution. Those bishops — representing about 27 million Anglicans — boycotted the Lambeth conference because it did not exclude bishops from Anglican churches that accept same-sex marriage and/or ordain gay bishops:

  • The Episcopal Church in America;
  • The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil;
  • The Anglican Church of Canada;
  • The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia;
  • The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
  • The Church in Wales.

The GSFA bishops said that “if there is no authentic repentance by the revisionist provinces, then we will sadly accept a state of ‘impaired communion’’ with them.”

The GSFA position is not as harshly anti-gay as that of many other anti-gay churches, especially in Africa. The 1998 resolution:

  • recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  • While rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.

Progressive Anglicans remained upbeat about the conference. For example, as The Guardian reported:

“170 archbishops and bishops issued a statement affirming the ‘holiness of LGBT+ people’s love’. Many LGBT+ people had been ‘historically wounded by the church and particularly hurt by the events of the past few weeks’.

“Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for LGBT+ equality within the church, said she was ‘overwhelmed with the level of support and concern … for the global LGBT+ community.’

“Ozanne added: ‘We now need to look at practical ways to help educate people about matters of sexuality and gender identity, and to share the theological basis that has led so many to affirm and celebrate same sex relationships.’ “

Complete Article HERE!

Why all the people of God must take some responsibility for clericalism

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing.

Pope Francis leads an audience with young people participating in a summer camp program sponsored by Alpha International, at the Vatican Aug. 5, 2022.

by Hatty Calbus

When in August 2018 the Pope wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage.

Pope Francis has described paedophile priests as “tools of Satan” and has often said that the cause of the clergy abuse crisis is “clericalism”.

But when in August 2018 he wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for the abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage. “With shame and repentance,” he wrote, “we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that … we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.” The Pope concluded, “I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting”.

And when a few weeks later the Archbishop of Strasbourg, Luc Ravel, echoed the Pope, he met similar indignation. But in his pastoral letter, Ravel identified an inconvenient truth about clericalism that is too often overlooked: “Authority is a game of two players: the one who exploits it and the one who lets that happen. Clericalism would never have borne the fruits of death if it had not been accepted, consented to, or even promoted by Christian communities.”

In other words, those priests who lord it over the laity are enabled by an attitude of: “Yes, Father, No, Father, three bags full, Father.” Ravel went on to say: “The relationship between priests and communities must evolve into an appropriate attitude that does not deny the authority of the priest but does not sanctify it in a form of idolatry.”

How many of us who still go to Mass have kept, along with our Catholic faith, something of an idolatrous attitude to the clergy? How many of us hand our spiritual lives over to a parish priest with as little thought as if we were children needing to rely on their parents for everything?

Clericalism is a distortion of true priesthood – and it is an abuse of authority found in every institution, not just in the Catholic Church. It is certainly a major factor in the misuse of power that is at the root of the sexual abuse of children by priests.

But all the people of God – bishops, clergy and lay people – have to take some responsibility for clericalism in the Church. Even though it is well-established that the great majority of cases of sexual abuse take place within families, and even after all that’s now known about the incidence of child sexual abuse in every organisation and institution where adults are in positions of power over children, it’s still often said that abuse is mostly carried out by celibate Catholic priests.

If celibate priests are kept as the focus, abuse can be kept at a convenient remove.

Unfortunately, it isn’t at a remove. The abuse prevention organisation Stop It Now! points out: “Some [paedophiles], but not all, have been abused themselves; others come from violent or unhappy family backgrounds.” Priests aren’t a separate species of church-creature: they have families.

Of course, a child who is abused doesn’t automatically become an abuser as an adult. But paedophile priests have often come from dysfunctional families where they have been abused physically and very often sexually. Although it’s taken time for the truth to come out, clergy abuse has proved hard to keep secret. If those men had married, then abused their own children, in most cases it would still be hidden.

To use the word “scapegoating” suggests an innocence blatantly lacking. The problem with focusing exclusively on paedophile priests is that it can allow us to neglect a wider evil. Stop It Now! says: “Many people have experienced someone close to them abusing a child. When something is so difficult to think about, it is only human to find ways of denying it to ourselves.”

Pretending it isn’t happening at home carries on at church. Archbishop Ravel said that as well as bishops covering up abuse – which lay people are of course right to be outraged by – there have also been lay people who have kept silent: “In the 30 or so cases I have had to deal with in my diocese, and when I speak with victims, I’ve realised people knew and didn’t say anything.”

How often has a priest’s inappropriate behaviour around children been an open secret? Those primarily responsible are the paedophile priests, followed by the bishops who’ve colluded with their crimes. But the laity can’t claim it’s nothing to do with them. As someone in the film Spotlight says: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” It also takes a village to cover it up.

Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen in New Jersey said: “Abuse gets power from silence and avoidance.” Large numbers of laypeople have seen or heard something that needed reporting and chosen silence and avoidance. Jesus said: “I am the truth” and “The truth will set you free.” Pope Francis wants the laity to “feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need” and advocates fasting and prayer as a way to “impel us to walk in the truth”.

He has repeatedly quoted St Paul: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” His appeal is to solidarity. Unfortunately, solidarity with abuse survivors is uncomfortable. There is something in all of us that prefers to stay undisturbed. But the price of our quiet life is sometimes that others are left to live very disturbed lives.

Most bishops haven’t covered up abuse and most priests haven’t abused. What they have done, though, is reinforced the laity’s denial about their part by idealising the family and ignoring what goes on in far more homes than everyone wants to think. The psychiatrist and family therapist Robin Skynner said about the family: “It has enormous creative potential including that of life itself and it is not surprising that, when it becomes disordered, it possesses an equal potential for terrible destruction.” Family systems expert John Bradshaw cites research suggesting 96 per cent of families are dysfunctional.

This includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse, of partners as well as children. It means addictions, with their distortion or neglect of relationship – not just alcohol and drugs, but any unhealthy/sinful dependence – food, work, sex, exercise, social media, phones, one’s own children and more. It means common personality disorders like narcissism. Parents have vast power over their children, even determining how their brains develop. Dysfunctional families are where paedophile priests first learnt about the abuse of power. Warped Church structures might have facilitated their abusing, but they were formed in families. Bishops could recommend, seminaries could teach, priests could look at John Bradshaw and Robin Skynner and other experts on dysfunctional families such as Alice Miller and Gabor Maté.

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing. Honest, concerted efforts not to do this would give children more protection and open up paths for the healing he is waiting to bring.

Complete Article HERE!

‘No turning point in sight’

— Archbishop warns Church is in a ‘dramatic’ decline

Francis Duffy Archbishop of Tuam

By Sean ODriscoll

The Catholic Church is heading ‘dramatically downwards’ with no turning point in sight, the archbishop of Ireland’s biggest archdiocese has said.

Francis Duffy, the Archbishop of Tuam, told parishioners in Westport to look at their priests because they are likely the last generation of priests to be resident in a parish.

He said all figures, from men entering the priesthood to the attendance at Mass, all point to a dramatic decline in the Church.

Francis Duffy, the Archbishop of Tuam, with his predecessor Archbishop Michael Neary.

‘All trends are dramatically downwards with no turning point in sight,’ said Archbishop Duffy.

‘I suggest you look at your priest.

He may be the last in a long line of resident pastors and may not be replaced. I suggest you look at your church. You may be lucky to have a Sunday Mass or several, but for how much longer?

‘I suggest you look at your fellow parishioners at Mass. Who among your neighbours will continue to be the new leaders and carry on pastoral work in your parish, alongside a much smaller number of clergy? Who among them will lead prayer services and keep faith alive and active?’ he asked.

He said the one certainty ‘is the ongoing and sustained decline both in the numbers who practise and in the numbers of those who answer the Lord’s call to priesthood and religious life. ‘Some may think I have painted a somewhat dismal picture. It is the current reality as I see it, and as I know many of you see it too.’

Just nine men entered the seminary last year, and a fifth of all priests and brothers have died in the past three years, according to the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

In 2004, there were 3,141 priests in Ireland but this has steadily declined in the past ten years, with 2,627 priests in 2014. The ACP said on Monday that an updated figure is not yet available. It’s believed the current number of priests is about 1,900.

The number of men interested in becoming priests is dwindling year on year, with 13 starting on the path to priesthood in 2020, 15 in 2019 and 17 in 2018.

Just nine men entered the seminary last year, and a fifth of all priests and brothers have died in the past three years, according to the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

However, Archbishop Duffy urged people not to lose hope.

‘The landscape of the Catholic Church in Ireland, as you know, has been changing for some time and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,’ he said.

‘Each diocese has its own story of this reality. Every parish will be affected by this in terms of the number of clergy available and the number and frequency of Masses.

‘While we must face it and work with it, we must not lose hope. We have the Lord with us and He will lead us through this time of transition and restructuring,’ he said.

He recalled that, when he became archbishop in January, he referenced a report on the future of the Church that was being prepared for the Vatican.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell acknowledged earlier this year that the ‘shortage of vocations… could be discerned as God calling for change in the Church’.

That report, due to be sent by August 15, includes views from Catholics across the country on celibacy, attitudes to the gay and lesbian community, women priests and cohabiting couples.

Father Brendan Hoban of the ACP said more emphasis will have to be placed on lay people.

‘There was a time when a priest had less work to do as he reached retirement age, but not any more. You have priests covering two or three parishes and up to five churches. Their workload is going up and up as the number of priests declines,’ he said.

Fr Hoban said he doesn’t think vocations can be revived and most priests now accept that greater lay participation is required.

Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell acknowledged earlier this year that the ‘shortage of vocations… could be discerned as God calling for change in the Church’.

The Catholic Communications Office said the nine new seminarians bring to 64 the total number studying for the priesthood.

Complete Article HERE!