Catholic Church in Scotland promoting gay ‘cure’ group Courage

Bishop John Keenan, head of the Diocese of Paisley in Scotland, addresses the Scottish Parliament

The Catholic Church in Scotland is under fire for promoting gay ‘cure’ therapy groups.

The Catholic Diocese of Paisley, led by Bishop John Keenan, is facing criticism for including several resources developed by advocates for gay ‘cure’ therapy on its website.

One pamphlet hosted on the church website, “Mom & Dad I’m Gay – How Should a Catholic Parents Respond,” encourages parents to pray for God to cure their children of homosexuality, and suggests they consider sending them for conversion therapy.

The resources refer parents to disgraced US-based gay ‘cure’ advocate group National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which claims that homosexuality is a disorder caused by childhood sexual abuse.

The diocese also advertises a local Paisley branch of Courage International, a global Catholic gay ‘cure’ network that works with “men and women with same-sex attractions” to encourage them to “live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.”

The gay 'cure' pamphlet promoted by the Catholic Church in Scotland

The gay ‘cure’ pamphlet promoted by the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Founded in the US with heavy support from Catholic leaders, Courage models itself on an Alcoholics Anonymous-style programme that encourages gay people to abstain from all sexual activity.

The network maintains 153 branches across 14 countries, including three in Scotland and one in England.

Catholic gay ‘cure’ group Courage faced child sexual abuse scandal

In September, Courage admitted three of its former leaders were linked to child sexual abuse inside the church.

The three priests linked to Courage were named in a report from the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro which detailed credible allegations of sexual abuse of children.

In a statement on its website Courage International denied it has received reports of abuse by the three priests, with executive Philip G. Bochanski insisting: “No reports have been made to me or to my staff alleging sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by any clergy associated with [Courage].”

Bochanski did admit that he was “aware of one situation in which a priest… made inappropriate sexual remarks and shared sexually suggestive photographs of himself” after approaching a man via a Courage-linked Facebook group. The incident did not involve anyone below the age of consent.

Catholic Church blasted for link to gay ‘cure’ groups

Gordon MacRae of Humanist Society Scotland told The Sunday Times that the Catholic Church in Scotland’s links to the groups were “extremely worrying.”

“There is no such thing as ‘converting’ LGBT+ people. It is a lie based on pseudo-science that puts people’s lives in danger.”

— Gordon MacRae, Humanist Society Scotland

MacRae added: “There is no such thing as ‘converting’ LGBT+ people. It is a lie based on pseudo-science that puts people’s lives in danger.”

The Scottish Catholic Church defended the resources, saying in a statement: “The diocese of Paisley carries links to Courage, which may signpost other links or resources. This does not represent an endorsement or recommendation.”

The resources remain online on the Catholic Church website.

UK has vowed to outlaw gay ‘cure’ therapy

It is currently legal for unregulated persons and faith groups to attempt to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality in the UK, though all NHS services are banned from referring patients to gay ‘cure’ practitioners under a voluntary ‘Memorandum of Understanding’.

In June, the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt confirmed the government will act to outlaw conversion therapy.

The government action plan states: “We will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. These activities are wrong, and we are not willing to let them continue.

“We will fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.

“Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith- based context.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Penny Mordaunt confirmed faith groups would not be excluded from the ban.

She said: “We don’t want to hamper religious freedom, but that is very different from processes and practices that intimidate people, that make people feel bad about who they are, who either coerce or force them to go through a particular so-called treatment.

“We will not have any qualms about tackling those appalling practices wherever they arise.”

Experts overwhelmingly agree that attempts to cure sexuality or gender identity are futile, misguided, and often extremely harmful, and governments across the world are coming under increasing pressure to crack down.

Attempts to force teens to repress their true selves have been linked to depression, self-harm and even suicide.