On Tuesday, August 11, Michael asked supporters of The Wild Reed to contact the Courage Apostolate in New York. The American Psychological Association (APA) had just issued a public and pointed rebuke of therapies that seek to alter a person’s sexual orientation. I answered Michael’s call and sent the following email to Courage’s New York office.
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to encourage “Courage Ministries” to accept the recent directive from the American Psychological Association (APA) that rules out “reparative therapy” for homosexual persons. It has been ruled out officially as a legitimate mental health approach.
Courage should remove any links to organizations or therapists which promote or defend reparative therapy. It should also state prominently in its publications that it does not endorse such techniques. To use an analogy: any medical organization that itself endorsed in any way or linked to any other organization that promoted "bleeding" for persons with infectious diseases would not only be mocked, but shunned by the public at large. Courage should classify reparative therapy in the same terms as bleeding.
A couple of days later I was emailed this response:
Dear Mr Howe,
Courage is a spiritual support apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church teaches that there is no obligation for any person to undergo any psychological therapies at all. That said, Courage supports members who do desire to explore therapeutic options. We are with the Church . . . not the world.
The APA directive is written by a tiny 6-person task force, (who, not incidentally, admit to an activist bias and who allowed no dissenting voice onto their task force!) and approved by a committee . . . not by the full membership. It is certainly not the last word in science! We accept our directives from God through His competent authorities . . . and the APA isn't one of them. I don't mean to sound flip, but I am tired and it's Friday.
God bless you and Keep you in His Love.
Cordially in Christ,
I cannot say I was surprised, but that did not lessen my outrage. On the one hand, Courage seems to adopt a “hands off” attitude: “Oh, we really don’t endorse reparative therapy. We’re just communicating the many options available.” However, the second paragraph dismisses the APA’s report: “a tiny 6-person task force” with an “activist bias . . . approved by a committee . . . not the full membership.”
To me, this is disingenuous, condescending and dangerous:
1) The APA’s report clearly states that “gay reparative therapy” is not just a therapy without merit. Their review of many studies has shown that it can lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. More than a few gay men would shout, “Amen!” to that declaration. My allusion to bleeding, therefore, is quite apt. It would be inconceivable that any physician who would “just offer the option” of bleeding to a patient. That is an option that simply is not countenanced in modern medicine. It is positively harmful to one’s physical health. Likewise, reparative therapy to mental wholeness. The research seems clear: It is not a “neutral” therapy. It is often harmful and frequently fatal. It demonstrates gross irresponsibility for any organization that would claim to advocate for the Catholic “culture of life” to so much as allude to such therapies.
2) Had the full committee’s vote been less decisive (125-4 in favor of the report), Courage’s critique of a “tiny 6-person task force” with approval “by a committee . . . not the full membership” might have to be taken seriously. Moreover, I have not read a single article in which a significant number of mental health professionals has expressed umbrage at the methodology or conclusions of the APA’s committee. To draw a parallel: if a committee of world bishops had approved a synodal statement by this kind of margin, it would be taken very seriously, if not authoritatively, within most Catholic circles. For Courage to dismiss it so cavalierly only reinforces the criticism that the Catholic Church does not take the insights of the social sciences very seriously, in contrast to the call of the Second Vatican Council. Oh, and since when have God’s “competent authorities” instructed Courage to dismiss the APA?
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• It's Official: APA Opposes "Reparative Therapy"
• The Continuum Just Shrank
• Holding the Courage Apostolate Accountable
• “Curing” Homosexuality
• Debunking NARTH (Part I)
• Debunking NARTH (Part II)
• What Scientists in the UK Are Saying About Homosexuality
• The Real Meaning of Courage
• The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
• The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
• The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
• Beyond Courage
Recommended Off-site Links:
The APA Says “No Evidence” in Support of Ex-Gay Therapy - Wayne Besen (TruthWinsOut.org, August 5, 2009).
APA Passes Resolution Against Ex-Gay Therapy - Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, August 5, 2009).
Exodus International Responds to the APA Resolution on Change Therapy - Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, August 6, 2009).
NARTH Responds to the APA Resolution on Change Therapy - Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, August 7, 2009).
Celibacy as a Therapy Goal - Wayne Besen (TruthWinsOut.org, August 6, 2009).