Archbishop Endorses Reparative Therapy, Speaker Who Says Being Gay is “Popular Myth”

Sign outside the Denver archdiocese’s pastoral center advertising an anti-gay conference

The archbishop of Denver has endorsed a program which supports “ex-gay” therapy, praising efforts by the program’s founder who has said that “Satan delights in homosexual perversion.”

The conference, “Gender Matters: Fighting for a New Generation,” was hosted by the Archdiocese of Denver in conjunction with the Christian group, Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries. A banner advertising the conference was hung outside a property which includes the archdiocesan offices and two seminaries. It read:

“There is no such thing as a ‘gay’ person…That is a popular myth. Satan delights in homosexual perversion.”

This quote is attributed to Andrew Comiskey, the founder and executive director of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, who spoke at the conference. The Colorado Times Recorder reported:

“Comiskey repeated these ideas at the conference, telling the crowd that all LGBTQ people are ‘deceived’ and ‘not seeing reality clearly.’

“‘The enemy is intent on sowing seeds of deception in really bright and really colorful and really fragile people, and that’s what the whole LGBT juggernaut is. . .And if any Christian teacher, pastor, or anyone else says, “Oh yes, that’s really who they are,” then they are a perpetrator of that deception.'”

Comiskey’s ministry seemingly approves of “ex-gay” or reparative therapy in response to being gay. The ministry’s website said that “identification with Christ displaces a homosexual identity” and recommended the anti-gay organization NARTH as a resource for those seeking “ex-gay” therapy. At least two speakers at the Denver conference spoke about altering their sexual orientation and becoming heterosexual.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Archbishop Samuel Aquila encouraged conference participants to establish Desert Streams/Living Waters Ministries groups in the archdiocese, groups which include “key insights from reparative and developmental psychology” according to the Colorado Times Recorder. The news outlet continued:

“Still, Aquila told the 200 people attending the conference, which drew protests from local activists, that Comiskey’s program, which does not appear to be targeted at minors, will succeed ‘within our parishes, within our communities’ with the leadership of parishioners ‘who want to lead this and really desire to lead it.’

“‘And so, I ask you to prayerfully consider, as you are going through today, to really reflect upon, “Am I called to do this? Am I open to doing it? Am I receptive to the Lord?”‘said Aquila, who’s decried the sexual preferences of LGBTQ people in the past and has identified “homosexuality” as a cause for sexual abuse by priests.”

Aquila also claimed that people involve with “ex-gay” efforts will be “persecuted” by the wider culture. He added that already several priests from the archdiocese have undergone trainings with Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries and came back with “great reports,” and that preceding the conference, some 35-40 priests met with Comiskey privately. Aquila previously endorsed Comisky’s efforts in a promotional video.

Local LGBTQ advocacy groups condemned the conference. Rev. Amanda Henderson, who heads the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, said the “moral crisis” was not LGBT people, but “when people cause harm to others in God’s name” and forget scriptural calls to love and inclusion. One Colorado’s Daniel Ramos said now was the moment for a statewide ban on such therapies. The City Council in Denver enacted such a ban this month.

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 covered a Scottish diocese’s website which linked to some materials endorsing “ex-gay” therapy. Commenting on that story, I said that most church leaders had chosen an ambivalent path by remaining quiet on the issue and that they should more clearly condemn the harmful practice. But Archbishop Aquila has diverged from the just path of condemnation and even with the path of ambiguity by offering his full-throated endorsement of a torturous practice. For the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people, especially youths who may be forcibly subjected to these practices condemned by every medical and psychological expert, it is time for U.S. bishops to step up and make a fraternal correction of their peer. To remain silent in the face of this evil is to be complicit in the harm being done in Denver.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 24, 2019

15 replies
  1. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    All I can say is there’s probably not a lot of credible folks listening to Archbishops or Bishops these days. Thank God. When those in power feel the heat of their own incompetence, then they lash out in ways that do not reflect the divine.

  2. Kris
    Kris says:

    It is time these practices were against federal law.

    The only way of ending these deceitful forms of torture is the statutory one, because appeals to episcopal conscience fall not only on deaf ears, but on dulled, uninformed and prejudiced intellects. (And, who knows, on a little repressed and self-loathing homosexuality swirling in the toxic mix?)

  3. Sharon Rose
    Sharon Rose says:

    Instead of “fixing” people how about we lovingly help them discern who they are? With the help of God I fully embrace who I am. I am called to be a Lesbian and a Catholic. Not going away, Not willing to be “fixed” or “changed” except by the God of my understanding.

  4. Gigi
    Gigi says:

    Every professional medical body has stated in no uncertain terms that this kind of “therapy” is harmful and contributes to a whole host of medical concerns like mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and sometimes death. We have to stop torturing LGBTQ people by telling them they’re “less than” as they are. Saying things like “Satan delights in homosexual perversion” isn’t helpful. Instead of attacking the gay community perhaps these so-called “men of God” could crack down on the sexual predators within their organization. They’re shielding sexual predators from prosecution and actively hiding church assets so they can pretend there’s no money to pay reparations to their victims. How dare THEY pretend to be the moral arbiters of the church.

  5. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.”

    Robert Frost talked about the two roads. One road has Jared Polis, out gay Governor of Colorado, married to his husband, with children, elected by the people of Colorado last November. The other has the Archbishop supporting discredited and abusive treatments peddled by snake oil groups, many of whose ex-gay leaders have left because they admitted the treatments didn’t work and they had been living a lie.

    PFLAG had a brochure for parents years ago asking “Am I abusing my child without realizing it?” The abuse was the attempt to make the child straight. This is the road on which this archbishop stands. Moral and psychological teachings that are based on falsehoods and lies are immoral and abusive.

    It is not the people opposing this conference and treatment who are deceived and not seeing reality clearly. It is the archbishop who believes and supports the program pushed by Andrew Comiskey who is deceived, and who is deceiving the very people he purports to serve with the truth.

  6. Art Dodson
    Art Dodson says:

    It is sad that a Bishop of the Catholic Church endorses a failed “treatment” method that is rejected by science and all the major helping professions: psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers. etc. Why not endorse voodoo and other non-scientific methods? Shame of this bishop for his intentional ignorance!

  7. Drew Conneen
    Drew Conneen says:

    I live in this archdiocese and I’m embarrassed and angry that the Archbishop of Denver would allow and endorse such a reprehensible program. Unfortunately, it sounds like this might just be the beginning of “misinformation evangelization”.

    It’s ironic that under our former Archbishop Chaput, we started an LGBT parent support group that was advertised in the archdiocesan, Denver Register. It no longer meets but I hear a calling to spread the truth.

    God Help Us.

  8. John Tranchitella
    John Tranchitella says:

    This makes me very sad. How can the church be so divided? When I heard the grown adult woman in the video talk about having “same sex attraction,” and not wanting it–I felt sad for her. I struggled for many years and spent many years in fear and loathing of myself and pissed off at God. It almost cost me my life. I spent a lot of effort and prayer trying to change what God had created. I now know and understand that the love of God and the peace of Jesus Christ transcends sexuality. It is a gift. I recently reconnected with the church, through a wonderful LGBT accepting and affirming parish in San Francisco. The parish I attend, (Most Holy Redeemer) accepts and welcomes everyone. No one asks or wants people to change who they were created to be. The only example Jesus gave us, was love. It took me a long time to make peace and embrace my Catholic heritage. I am not going away. I would invite the Archbishop to come to San Francisco, to Most Holy Redeemer and see for himself a loving, accepting and thriving Catholic community in action.

    • Carolyn
      Carolyn says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, John. Even though for now my transgender daughter has left the Catholic church, I know she has not lost her love of God, and I pray she may return to it one day.

  9. Drew Conneen
    Drew Conneen says:

    I’ll always remember my wife and my experience at MHR several years ago. It was very welcoming and the singing was heavenly.
    Glad you found it.


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