The principle behind 12-step programmes has become familiar, made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and since adapted for narcotics addictions, gambling addictions and other pathological behaviours, where it is widely agreed they can be extremely helpful in turning around self-destructive behaviour. Note carefully those qualifiers – they have worked in turning around addictive or otherwise self-destructive behaviour. Their use in attempting to modify behaviour which is totally natural and healthy (but possibly unpopular) is no more appropriate than using dangerous hydroquinine – based skin lighteners to “cure” dark skin – but this is what the Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs is trying to do, with a spurious 12-step programme that claims to offer support to those suffering from same-sex attraction – by asking them to make amends for those whom they have hurt.
As Call to Action has noted in their response, this is plain bad theology. Same-sex attraction is not a disease or addiction, but is totally natural. The only hurt that needs healing is not that done by gay men and lesbians on others, but that inflicted on them by misguided programmes such as this. What I find particularly offensive in the response by the programme organisers to the outraged reaction, is their pretence that the only orientation they are promoting is an orientation to Jesus Christ. They are not – Jesus, in his life and ministry said absolutely nothing against same sex relationships, and much in support. He most specifically promoted inclusion and welcome to all, including those otherwise marginalized by the social and religious elites of his day. If the diocese were to genuinely focus on an orientation to Jesus Christ, the only 12-step programme worth considering would not be aimed at those with same-sex attraction, but at those so burdened by homophobia that they are determined to impose their heterosexual agenda on everybody else. They are the ones who should be apologising for the hurt that they have caused to others, not the gay men and lesbians whose only “fault” has been to love.
This is a press statement from Equally Blessed:
EQUALLY BLESSED CALLS 12-STEP PROGRAM FOR LGBT CATHOLICS
Coalition urges Catholics to recognize fruits of lifelong, committed relationships
January 20, 2011-Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Roman Catholic organizations that support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families both in the church and in civil society, today called upon the Diocese of Colorado Springs to reconsider its decision to offer a 12-step program for LGBT Catholics in which participants are asked to state that they are “defective.”
“We are all sinners, but in this instance, the sin lies not in gay and lesbian Catholics, but in those who describe children of God in such demeaning language,” said Frank DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an Equally Blessed partner
“The notion that homosexuality is an illness similar to alcoholism or addiction to narcotics finds no support in psychological literature,” DeBernardo added. “But you don’t need an advanced degree to understand that the fruits of lifelong, committed, monogamous relationships are quite different than the damage and heartache done by chemical dependencies.”
Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan has said that the diocesan program is different than the widely discredited “reparative therapy” programs favored by organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, and seeks only to support participants in living a chaste life.
“We appreciate the bishop’s pastoral intentions and his rejection of reparative therapy, but this 12-step initiative points out a contradiction at the core of church teaching,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an Equally Blessed partner. “Catholics are taught that heterosexual celibacy is an act of heroic sacrifice accomplished through special grace, while homosexual celibacy is simply mandatory-part of the hand that God dealt you. Perhaps unwittingly, the church has made God the author of human prejudice. And that’s not very good theology.
“There are many community programs and churches in Colorado Springs that can provide support for LGBT people and families seeking to live with integrity and joy,” said Duddy-Burke. “We encourage people who are interested to find places that will offer affirmation and positive guidance.”Equally Blessed is a coalition of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry. We are faithful Catholics who have worked more than a combined 112 years to support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families both in the church and in civil society.
- Don’t Call This Catholic Church’s 12-Step Program To Becoming Straight ‘Reparative Therapy’ (queerty.com)
- Queer Catholics Are Equally Blessed: Press Release (queering-the-church.com)
- Advent: Prepare Ye A Way For Inclusion (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
- Catholic School Admissions: Sanity in Boston (queertheology.blogspot.com)
- “Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)