As the UK plans to ban conversion therapy as a result of a government-sponsored survey of LGBT people, a Catholic author who identifies as having same-sex attraction said families should maintain the right to pursue pastoral responses framed by Church teaching.
In July 2017, the British government of Conservative prime minister Theresa May launched a survey to gather information about the experiences of LBGT people in the UK.
More than 108,000 people participated, and as a result the government issued a 75-point LBGT Action Plan to improve the lives of LGBT people. Through March 2020, GBP 4.5 million ($5.9 million) will be allocated to implement the plan, and additional funding will be sought for future years.
The plan would introduce an official LGBT health adviser, fight discrimination, promote diversity in educational institutions, and improve responses to LGBT-based hate crime.
The government will “consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.”
Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities, told BBC Radio 4 July 3 that it is a “very extreme so-called therapy that is there to try and 'cure' someone from being gay.”
"That's very different from psychological services and counselling. It's pretty unpleasant, some of the results we found, and it shows that there's more action to do."
Daniel Mattson, author of Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, told CNA that “This is having the state step in and interfere in the rights of parents and children to determine their own choice of action in the name of supposedly protecting people from harm.”
“We as Catholics, we have to defend the rights of our families and young people to find the sort of therapy that is going to help them in accordance with the Church’s teaching.”
Mattson is familiar with some of the dangers in trying to change the sexual orientation of an individual. He said there have been “extreme measures” in therapy which exasperate mental health.
“I think there has been some damage in the name of trying to ‘change someone’s sexual orientation,’” he said. “There are some people who say if you have enough faith and you can pray and these thing would be resolved. Well, that’s not healthy and that’s not helpful and it leads to false promises.”
Mattson said the goal of conversion therapy should not be to change a person’s sexual orientation. Rather, he said a proper therapeutic response should be based in chastity and virtue, leading someone to embrace a natural and virtuous view of the person.
“I think what is very helpful is virtue based therapy, chastity based therapy, guided by Catholic anthropology, where a young person comes in to try and help them with their God given identity,” he said. “It would help someone accept their true sexual nature as revealed to them in their body.”
A part of the problem, Mattson said, is that the homosexual debate is split into a false dichotomy: “either affirming someone in this gay identity or else [engaging] in sexual orientation change efforts.”
In response, Catholics should better define homosexuality and conversion therapies, he said, noting that the presence or absence of same-sex attractions should not be the focus, but rather to embrace the whole truth of the human person as seen by the Church.
“This is a question where parents want their son or daughter to know what it means to be fully comfortable in their own sexual identity as a man or women,” he said.
“What the Church is doing is calling men and women and teenagers to live out the Church’s teaching on chastity and the virtues, and our young people need to have the right to be able to have therapy that might help them with that.”