Friday, July 02, 2010

John Townsend Responds to His Critics

City Pages has printed a letter by Lavender magazine's John Townsend in which he takes to task those who have been critical of his infiltration of the local Courage chapter and his outing of Rev. Tom Brock, a Lutheran pastor who attends the Roman Catholic "pro-chastity group" and is well known for his homo-negative opinions.

Notes City Pages' Kevin Hoffman: “Townsend's article drew national attention and became the focus of an ethics debate about reporting undercover at a meeting where anonymity is expected. But Townsend says his methods were necessary because the mainstream media was looking the other way.”

Following is Townsend's letter in its entirety.


Two recent Star Tribune articles (“Cries of ‘Hypocrite’ for Pastor, Magazine” by Jeff Strickler, June 24 and “Respect the Range of Sexual Support” by Jenell Williams Paris, June 25), have distorted my infiltration of a local Catholic gay chastity group by reacting to only one of my two actual cover articles in Lavender Magazine, Issue 393. The writers read the piece on my observations of Lutheran pastor Tom Brock in that group in my article, “Anti-gay Lutheran Pastor Protests Too Much,” but did not address the other article, “Courage, AKA Faith in Action: An Inside Look at Catholic Gay Chastity Group” that is on the very next page labeled as ‘Cover Feature’ and online directly below the cover image.

That article is filled with other observations including a stunningly cruel comment by Father Jim Livingston, who runs Faith in Action and inducts members through his chaplain’s office at North Memorial Hospital. What racial minority would ever sanction what I observed and heard in that group if the same was said about them?

That article also fingers two priests and a woman director for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Strickler’s cherrypicking of one article over the other has meant Lavender’s total Courage coverage has been distorted all the way up to Elizabeth Jensen’s New York Times online piece, as well as a rabid written attack on my integrity by an angry pack of pastors. Strickler and Paris never contacted me for a comment before submitting their articles. I did however, contact Father Livingston and Pastor Brock for mine.

Get this straight. Homosexuality and lesbianism are not addictions, nor are they illnesses. Faith In Action participants are required to refer to their same sex attraction as a ‘disorder.’ They are made to believe that unrepentant homosexual activity damns them to an eternity of hell fire and damnation. The 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness is fully rejected. Strickler mistakenly describes the group as a ‘therapy group.’ In the weeks I was there I encountered no therapist.

Faith in Action, whose Catholic sponsors are tax-exempt, harbored pastor Brock for some time, in full knowledge of his demagogic video series and the two decades he spewed his homophobic and sexist vitriol on KKMS AM, which has been defiantly rebroadcasting his anti-gay remarks right up even into this very week, almost two weeks after my articles hit.

Brock’s bully pulpit has assaulted gays and lesbians and heterosexual reproductive rights advocates for years. For some time, I had been fielding tips about psychological abuse in the St. Charles Borromeo group, including a participant who said he felt tempted to commit suicide. One victim took his complaint to various local media and was summarily rejected each time. So for me, it was clear that becoming an embedded whistleblower was the only option left. That way I could more accurately verify the truth than to write about it from the outside. To my mind, quite reasonable suspicion of real danger trumped confidentiality.

Brock’s anti-gay KKMS exhortations have wailed on for years, so I was puzzled in Strickler’s piece where University of Minnesota Silha Professor of Ethics and Law Jane Kirtley tried to discredit my methods, seemingly oblivious to the serial, long term breach of media ethics in her own metro area, that being KKMS. Kirtley never contacted me either.

As for handwringing by Michael R. Triplett, overseer of the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association, of which I am not a member, clearly his careerist club members have ignored this situation. Be a journalist first, a gay second.

In “Respect the Range of Sexual Support,” evangelical Messiah College professor Jenell Williams Paris speculates that Pastor Brock “may have actually been practicing for the search of self-mastery he preached” in the Courage sessions I attended right alongside him. But I think not. As my Courage article relates, this group actually inculcates, hence, reinforces, a sexual fixation on male beauty with outright stated political positions against gay activism and gay-based spiritual endeavours. Paris peddles with chilling nonchalance so-called ‘reparative therapies’ (again, Courage is not a therapy group). Her crude analogy of Brock as a cat that stinks boorishly trivializes how Brock, a man in society, has systematically perpetrated his hysterics for years.

Recently, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has reported, American evangelicals, some of them so called ‘ex-gays’, paved the way for a Ugandan law to make homosexuality punishable by death. Recently, the Texas GOP platform has called for recriminalization of sodomy laws and making gay marriage a felony.

As for those who would use my articles as a pretext to slam investigative reporting, I suggest Amy Goodman’s recent John Pilger interview on that subject. Recall Thomas Jefferson: “The only security at all is a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

– John Townsend

Recommended Off-site Link:
John Townsend Blasts Star Tribune on Outing Articles - Kevin Hoffman (City Pages, July 1, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Notes from the “Laughable But Tragic” World of Courage
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage
Gay Catholics, the Courage Apostolate, and “Reparative Therapy”
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
Holding the Courage Apostolate Accountable
The Cowardice of Courage
When Quackery Goes Mainstream
Debunking NARTH (Part I)
Debunking NARTH (Part II)
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace


Anonymous said...

I think I just changed my mind...As having (last week) been one of the critics of the methods used by LAVENDER, and still not sure totally of the ethics used, I do at least finally understand Mr Townsend's side of this and the reasoning for his article. I have heard Tom Brock on KKMS and (due to a clerical error on the part of FIA) knew of his involvement as a member of Courage for several years now. However I always felt I had to be silent as I just am not an "outer," but was in general sickened by his attitude and remarks, especially knowing his own internal issues. I think that the Catholic Church, as well as so many other Christians, wish for a "quick fix" on an issue that is just never going to away--and thus supports unholy alliances they otherwise would never go along with, such as even allowing Courage, not an altogether bad organization in my opinion, to be associated with idiot science by discredited folks such as those into "reparative therapy." I happen to be celibate by choice, currently anyway, but I believe firmly that this must always BE a choice (including for straight folks such as many priests and nuns!) and never imposed as a "forever" to young men or women who idealize their lives at a young age, never dreaming of the bumps in the road ahead which they may face 20 years later, such as Father Alberto from Florida (or Father "Oprah" as some call him) who committed the ultimate sin of falling in love and wishing to marry. I was married at age 23 and then divorced at 35, at that time a virgin to both other men as well as women but certainly not "cured,", although a Protestant at the time and involved with Exodus affiliated OUTPOST locally here, even for awhile as a part time staff member. I love my former wife dearly but wish to God we had never married. We talk of the hurt and harm to the gay spouse in these cases but situations such as mine do a horrific job on the straight partner also when the marriage finally crumbles as a result of the in depth pain and loneliness such a marriage can create.

Thank you Mr Townsend, and thank you Michael Bayly for sharing this. And to all of my Catholic Christian friends out there, I do not plan on EVER missing a PRIDE FESTIVAL again. I am a Christian first, but proudly (or perhaps humbly) gay and at peace with it. I pray Mr Brock will find that same peace and repent of his venomous views. I will not judge his soul, as only God can do this, but his actions have indeed been hypocritical and no doubt damaged many. May God help us all, him (and me) included, to honestly love one another. We can disagree honestly, but to judge others or deliberately slap our own LGBT sisters and brothers in the face is inexcusable.

Unknown said...

Probably what really hurts him is that the New York Times and the Boston Globe have come out against him for outing a homosexual.

It's going to make it difficult to get his free-lance articles published (and paid for).

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB said...

Thank you for your remarks Richard. In terms of what has happened with Courage and Tom Brock, thank YOU Lavendar and John Townsend.

As for the Boston Globe, New York Times and the Catholic church: All of them have erred in the past and they will do so again. The Supreme Court ruled this week that the Catholic church does not have immunity in the cases suing them over child sexual abuses. In time there will be justice and even the Catholic church cannot hide behind their clerical facade anymore. And at last people will know the truth, that they are mere mortals in need of redemption as all of us do.

Mareczku said...

This is a very good article. I do have issues with going to a confidential support group and then talking about it. It is kind of like someone who kisses and tells. I wonder if this exposure has caused people to drop out of Faith in Action. What has happened now with Tom Brock? Has he softened his attitudes? How has he responded to this?

Mareczku said...

What was the stunningly cruel comment by Father Jim Livingston? Do the people the join Faith in Action actually have to admit to having a "disorder?" This is one thing I don't understand about these groups. They seem to throw all of these dehumanizing terms on people. How much of it is based on guilt and repression?