08 April 2022, The Tablet

Catholic LGBT groups criticise conversion therapy plans

Conversion therapy, as defined by NHS England, attempts to change somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Catholic LGBT groups criticise conversion therapy plans

Protesters in Parliament Square last summer.
Vuk Valcic / Alamy

Catholic LGBT organisations are among those to condemn the government’s changes to proposed legislation banning conversion therapy.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, the LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, and Quest, a pastoral support group, were among more than 100 organisations to withdraw support a government conference this summer, “Safe-to-be-Me”, following the last-minute alterations.

The government had promised to include a ban on conversion therapy in the next Queen’s Speech, but last week announced it would drop the legislation. It reversed this decision hours later, but said that trans conversion therapy would not be included in the ban.

Conversion therapy, as defined by NHS England, attempts to change somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity, typically through talking therapies and prayer.

Consortium, an umbrella body of LGBT organisations in the UK, has rejected this altered legislation. Consortium said it stands “shoulder to shoulder with every trans organisation and every trans person on this matter”.

In their statement, Consortium said: “A ban that excludes trans people is unacceptable and we as an LGBT+ sector must have our voices heard on this matter and stand as one in solidarity.”

Evangelical groups have expressed concerns that a ban would infringe on traditional religious practices, but faith-based LGBT organisations say that these put them at particular risk.

The LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, the Westminster archdiocese’s official outreach body to the community, reaffirmed the rejection of conversion therapy by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The conference’s 1979 Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons said that “psychiatric treatment or psychological counselling is by no means proven remedy for the homosexual condition” and generally “proves to be a frustrating experience that only heightens anxiety”.

It says that “professional therapy may be helpful to assist them in accepting their condition positively, but therapy should never be suggested in a way that raises false expectations of a reverse or modification of the homosexual condition”.

In a statement responding to the original legislation in November, Quest said: “Well-intentioned but misinformed actions which result in the extensive harm evidenced must be legislated against, as is the case with other supposedly faith-driven practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

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