I’M uncertain why The Catholic Leader editorial (‘Message distorted’, 9/2/03) finds issue with reference to homosexual re-orientation in the debate triggered by Fr John Harvey’s recent talks.
The claim that re-orientation through psychotherapy, in what is after all a public debate, is neither new nor without considerable precedent. In the last 30 years, research and clinical experience into the psychogenesis of homosexuality has yielded major advances in reparative therapy (laying to rest the older and unethical approach of aversion therapy). Many books have now been written on reparative therapy, distilling substantial technical and clinical data for non-specialists. Today, the loudest messengers of cure come from ‘ex-gays.’
None of this should be uncertain to the Catholic moral position when one considers the appearance of Elizabeth Moberly, Jeffery Sattinover, Gerard Van Den Aardweg and Joseph Nicolosi among others in leading religious journals. Catholic Dossier for instance devoted an entire issue (March/April 2000) to homosexuality, which included contributions from Drs Van Den Aardweg and Nicolosi, along with theological, doctrinal, legal and political analyses. First Things featured a review by Dr Moberly (March 1997) of recent books (including Fr Harvey’s) on the homosexual condition. It is noteworthy that Fr Harvey’s talks affirm re-orientation through psychotherapy although his approach is spiritual, reflecting as he says, his trade.
Caution needs to drawn on any Catholic moral position which includes contentious claims – as much as it does deference to political or ideological bias in the face of compelling data.
The account by Dr Robert Spitzer to the American Psychiatric Association in 2001 provides a dramatic insight into the scale in which progress in homosexual treatment gets censored. Dr Spitzer was the man who championed the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) official list of mental disorders in 1973. As we know, this delivered a major impetus for gay liberation.
At his 2001 address to the APA, Dr Spitzer presented the results of a long study in which hundreds of gay men and women changed, the majority now married. His conclusion: ‘Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behaviour could only be resisted, and that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false.’
His recommendation: ‘I believe patients should have the right to explore their heterosexual potential.’
The recent issue of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (January 2003) affirms this and other recent studies in a state-of-the-art survey.
As it stood, I was left with the impression that The Catholic Leader advocates revealed truth and not also a considered understanding of natural law, as the path to discerning matters of human sexuality. I’m doubt that The Catholic Leader, usually attentive to the approach of Gaudium et Spec – that something isn’t true because God commands it, but that God commands it because it is true – meant it that way.