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Posts for July, 2012

Andrew Comiskey To Speak at Catholic Ex-Gay Conference

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2012

As I mentioned in today’s Daily Agenda, the Catholic ex-gay organization Courage will be holding its annual conference on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Most of the speakers lined up for the conference are relatively unknown outside of the Catholic/Courage world, but one names stands out: Andrew Comiskey, Executive Director of Desert Stream Ministries, who recently pulled out of the Exodus umbrella. As I noted before, Comiskey appears to be leaning much more toward Catholic theology, which made his theological dispute with Exodus president Alan Chambers rather interesting, to say the least.

Comiskey also split with Exodus over the latter organization’s decision to distance itself from Reparative Therapy, which remains an important component in DSM. While Courage has typically shied away from encouraging members to seek sexual orientation change as a goal, it has nevertheless promoted the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), including a direct link to “NARTH testimonies” under Courage’s “Member Testimonies” web page.

Comiskey will give two talks at the Courage conference. On Friday, he will deliver the evening plenary talk, “Naked Surrender: Coming Home to Our True Sexuality”, and on Saturday he will give a workshop on “Restoring Relational Integrity through the Broken Body of Christ.”

It’s probably not unprecedented for a non-Catholic to give a talk at a Courage Conference, but it’s also hard to image Comiskey being given a platform for either of these two talks unless they are fully in line with Catholic teachings. If it turns out that Comiskey is increasingly finding a home in the Catholic world, it remains to be seen what kinds of strains Comiskey’s theological outlook may induce within Desert Stream’s far-flung ministries or with potential tie-ups with other ex-gay ministries which have recently left Exodus, all of which have deep historic roots in Protestant Evangelicalism.

Update: I had missed this, but as William commented below, Comiskey announced in January that he converted to Catholicism the prior Easter. He should fit in well. In 2010, Comiskey posted an admission on his blog that a staffer at DSM had sexually abused at least one teenager under their care. But instead of publicly apologizing for the appalling transgression or expressing anguish over the teen’s abuse, he lamented his trauma from having been interrogated by police and worrying about liability insurers. And he expressed gratitude that “God spared us” from the humiliation of the story appearing in the newspapers. He’s only been a Catholic for a little over a year, but already he’s qualified to be a Bishop.

How’s The Catholic Church’s Celibacy Solution Working Out?

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2012

If you’re gay, the Catholic Church has one answer for you: stay celibate for the rest of your life. The Hartford (CT) Archdiocese has sponsored a chapter of the Catholic ex-gay program Courage to help gays experience all the joys of celibacy:

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the new year.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage “to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.”

…Gay attraction is not the sin, the ministry preaches — only when one acts on those feelings is it immoral. “Through support and spiritual intervention, we can help people with same-sex attraction lead moral and fulfilling lives,” Pallotti said. “These people are hurting and so are their families. Doing nothing would be a lack of compassion.”

The article explained that the Archdiocese had some difficulty establishing the chapter over the objections of area deacons who thought Courage didn’t condemn gay people enough. But after attending some workshops, they decided that Courage wasn’t as lib’ral as they feared. Local LGBT leaders saw through the charade:

True Colors Executive Director Robin McHaelen argued Tuesday that the Catholic Church is “trying to have it both ways — keeping the same hostile interpretation of a small number of biblical passages while pretending they are not homophobic.”

“I can’t tell you how many kids I work with who have been spiritually wounded by this and similar religious perspectives,” McHaelen said. True Colors, a nonprofit agency based in Hartford, offers help to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens, some of whom have been kicked out of religious households.

“In my opinion, that’s the abomination,” McHaelen said.

Unlike most other ex-gay organizations, neither Courage nor the Catholic Church promises change in sexual orientation per se. Instead, they promote “the gift of celibacy” for anyone who remains outside a one-man-one-woman marriage.

And speaking of celibacy:

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned Wednesday under the code of canon law that lets bishops step down earlier than the normal retirement age of 75 if they’re sick or for some other reason that makes them unfit for office.

In a letter to the faithful, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said Zavala had told him in December that he had two children who lived with their mother in a different state. Zavala subsequently submitted his resignation to the pope.

Courage overseer assigned to be Catholic anti-gay point man

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2011

Last week I predicted that change will be coming to the Catholic ex-gay group Courage, a change that will likely turn this support group into an anti-gay advocacy group using their own choices as “evidence” against the civil rights and equalities of their Protestant and non-Christian neighbors. Further witness to the likelihood of such change has come this week. (Catholic News Agency)

The new president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announced Jan. 5 that he appointed Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California as chairman of the conference’s Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage.

Both Dolan and Cordileone sit on something called the Body of Members, who “provide governance and impart ecclesial authority” to Courage.

A Change at Courage

Timothy Kincaid

December 31st, 2010

Along with the passage of Father John Harvey, Catholic ex-gay group Courage is taking a new direction. They are moving from their home in Manhattan to Norwalk, CT, and are leaving behind their staff, volunteers, directors, and even their legal identity. The new non-profit corporation will have a Board of Directors will consist of:

Father Paul Scalia – son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – tends to discuss “homosexual activities” using language such as “depravity” and his writings focus as much on the miseries that he just knows are experienced by those who choose the homosexual lifestyle as they do on Catholic teaching about sexuality.

Father James Knapp – has long been a leader in Courage, but seems to have written or spoken publicly little on the subject.

Dr. Tim Lock – a psychologist, was a presenter at NARTH’s 2010 conference with, of all people, Gerald Schoenewolf whose “other way of looking at” slavery led a number of evangelicals to question their association with NARTH. Lock is a true NARTHy who, in a conference in Australia, “exposed nine gay myths, citing scientific research” in a manner reminiscent of John Diggs or Paul Cameron.

Mrs. Marylee MacDougall – is less well known, but in a letter to the editor of The Cowl, Brown’s student newspaper, seems to endorse anti-gay political activism:

Matt Rand (in the Apr. 2 issue) is saying gay marriage is a religious issue, but the history of this topic is that even without religion more than 2000 years of civilization has had a position opposing this lifestyle and valuing family life-which starts with marriage between a man and a woman. Pending legislation and recent court decisions indicate a frontal assault on the traditional and widely accepted understanding of the essence and purpose of marriage.

Father Paul Check (ex-officio) – is the new executive director of the newly revised organization.

In addition to the Directors, there will be “a Body of Members, who provide governance and impart ecclesial authority,” consisting of:

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan – a conservative Catholic who has made his campaign against marriage equality in New York a significant priority. However, Dolan – who sees homosexuality as a compulsion – is not perceived to be harshly anti-gay and uses more nuanced language.

Bridgeport, CT, Bishop William Lori – will be the host to Courage. A conservative, he’s best known for successfully fighting against an attempt by the State of Connecticut to require the Catholic Church to turn over control of the diocese to its membership rather than its hierarchy.

New Ulm, MN, Bishop John LeVoir – gave $250 to the campaign to defeat marriage equality in Maine.

Oakland, CA, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone – is the father of Proposition 8. It was his organization and advocacy that initiated the writing and signature collection of the proposition (remember the early funding was almost entirely Catholic and only after it got on the ballot did the Mormon Church dump in some 20 million dollars).

Father Paul Check (ex-officio)

Considering the number of politically motivated anti-gay activists now involved, what do you want to bet that the ‘new and improved’ Courage has more on its plate than ministry to those with same-sex attractions?

Founder of Courage, Catholic ex-gay group, has died

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2010

I have a certain amount of sympathy for those individuals who decide that their religious convictions preclude them from engaging in any form of sexuality that is not within the confines of heterosexual marriage. Each of us must be allowed the space to determine for ourselves what gives us meaning and happiness, and some may choose to prioritize their spirituality over their sexuality.

So I am not opposed to ex-gay individuals or groups, per se, provided that they do not insist that other live according to their values, advocate for discrimination, or propagate lies. Sadly, most ex-gay groups have difficulty with strict honesty – probably because many of them are operating from a realm of “faith” in which empirical evidence can be ignored and hope can be given the imprimatur of TRUTH. But there are a few ex-gay groups that have managed to avoid overt political advocacy and who place less emphasis on miraculous reorientation and instead provide support and community for their same-sex attracted adherents.

One such group is Courage, the Catholic ex-gay organization.

While the Vatican and the Bishops have taken it upon themselves to use coercion, threat of eternal damnation, and machine politics to try and force the nations of the world to adopt their dogma on issues like gay marriage, Courage has been mostly apolitical. And while they do not discourage those who hope for eventual heterosexuality, their emphasis is on chastity as a life goal. Courage has given me very little about which to object.

In 1980, New York’s Archbishop Cooke invited Father John Harvey to develop a ministry to Catholics with same-sex attractions. And while I disagree with much that Harvey espoused over the years, I do think that he was a man whose intents were compassionate and who sought neither political power, prestige, or personal advancement through his ex-gay endeavors.

This week Father John Harvey died. (PilotCatholicNews)

Oblate Father John F. Harvey, who founded an organization for celibate Catholic homosexuals that now has more than 100 chapters worldwide, died Dec. 27 at Union Hospital in Elkton. He was 92.

His funeral Mass was scheduled for Dec. 31 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Del., followed by interment in the Oblate Cemetery in Elkton.

An Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 73 years, Father Harvey founded Courage, a spiritual support group for homosexual men and women, in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York and served as its national director until his death.

Today, Courage has chapters in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Poland, Mexico, Slovakia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Philippines and New Zealand.

“Father Harvey’s commitment to pastoral care in the church was tireless,” said Oblate Father James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates’ Wilmington-Philadelphia province, in a statement. “Even in his later years, his travel would take him all over the country and world to offer a voice of compassion.”

I hope some day that the Catholic Church will find a path to full acceptance and equality for gay and lesbian Catholics (perhaps when they finally accept women as equal). But I do appreciate that in recent decades the Church has made the distinction between “inclination” and behavior (though the current Pope seems to conflate the two) as a small step in the right direction and I believe that Harvey may have played some role in that move.

Ex-Gay Group Courage Continues to Push Heterosexual Marriage as the Goal

Timothy Kincaid

October 29th, 2008

I have mixed feelings about the Catholic Church’s ex-gay group Courage. On one hand they do make a place for same-sex attracted people who wish to live celebately in accordance with their faith without expectation of miraculous reorientation. They tend not to highly politicize their agenda or publically demean those who don’t “become straight”. And yet, on the other hand, they continue to perpetuate the myth that orientation is maliable.

From an LA Daily News article about how Catholic priests are feeling pressured to comply with the Church’s anti-gay marriage campaign, some light is shed on the attitudes of the Los Angeles branch of Courage:

Harrigan oversees the Los Angeles chapter of the Roman Catholic-based Courage support group, modeled after 12-step recovery programs, for men and women renouncing gay and lesbian lifestyles. If they continue to feel homosexual attraction, members receive help in living celibately.

“In some cases, members finish the program and go on and marry members of the opposite sex and have children,” Harrigan said. “As for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, I do hope members of the Catholic Church step up and vote.”

Personally, I think it is the height of irresponsibility to encourage same-sex attracted persons to marry someone of the opposite sex and concieve children. The pressures on any marriage are great, and when one’s primary sexual, emotional, and romantic attraction is naturally directed towards the same sex, the likelihood of long-term success is low. And to bring children into a such a relationship is rash and callous.

To set up marriage and children as an accomplishment, the “finished” stage of “the program”, is cruel. It sets a goal that will be unacheivable for most “stugglers” and which will be disasterous for many, if not most, that reach it.

Do These Folks Agree With Cameron’s “Solution”

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2007

Dr. Warren Throckmorton has also posted about Paul Cameron’s disturbing views expressed in Cameron’s article, “Gays in Nazi Germany.” Dr. Throckmorton concludes:

Suffice to say that Dr. Cameron is not simply ideologically opposed to homosexuality, he is fixated on “solutions” that I find abhorrent. I call on fellow social conservatives who still refer to the Camerons’ work to take a hard look at these posts and reflect on whether someone with such extreme animosity could possibly approach social science data with sufficient objectivity to be trusted.

When Ex-Gay Watch pointed out that Exodus was using Cameron’s research, Exodus finally responded by removing those web pages from their web site. On the other hand, NARTH has so far failed to act.

I wonder how many of these individuals, organizations and publishers agree with Paul Cameron’s Solution for those who live “parasitic lives”?

E-mail me or leave a comment if you find someone who is using Cameron’s “science” and I’ll add them to the list.

Publications:
American Family Association:
Americans For Truth:
Courage:
Concerned Women For America:
Ears To Hear:
Evergreen International:
Family Research Council:
International Healing Foundation (Richard Cohen):
Lifesite News:
National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH):
One News Now:
Renew America:
Virtue Online:

Let me know if you find any others.