Efforts by Colorado’s top Catholic Church leader to implement “ex-gay” therapies in his diocese will likely be exempted from a pending statewide ban on the torturous practice. That leader has also come out strongly against other legislation which would expand LGBT sexual education in schools.
Bondings 2.0 reported last week on Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver’s support for “ex-gay” therapy and his intention for groups to form in the archdiocese in support of the practice. This news broke after a conference was held there which included a speaker previously endorsed by Aquila, Andrew Comiskey, who has said lesbian and gay people do not exist and that “Satan delights in homosexual perversion.”
Rewire has now reported that a pending statewide ban on “ex-gay” therapies would not affect Aquila and other Catholics seeking to implement such therapies in the archdiocese:
“‘Even though they’d apparently be practicing conversion therapy’ as defined by the bill, the ‘healers’ at Catholic churches in Denver probably wouldn’t be stopped by Colorado’s new law, even if they were to practice the program on minors. That’s because the ban would only apply to a ‘licensed physician specializing in psychiatry or a licensed, certified, or registered mental health care provider.’
“[Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Stephen] Fenberg acknowledged the state legislation wouldn’t stop the “conversion therapy” envisioned at the Catholic churches, because the state doesn’t have a role in regulating unlicensed practitioners at ‘private religious institutions.’
“‘We hope our society someday reaches a point where these programs aren’t tolerated anywhere,’ he said.”
The legislation is expected to pass now that Democrats control state government. Governor Jared Polis, the firstly openly gay man elected governor in the U.S., would sign the bill into law. The city of Denver recently banned the reparative therapy on minors.
Rewire reported further that Comiskey, who heads the Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministry that trains small church groups in “healing LGBT people through “reparative and development psychology,” said Polis’ election left him “slackjawed” because “we’ve lost our minds” with LGBT acceptance. Comiskey has preemptively challenged laws against “ex-gay” therapy, writing in one of his books:
“The small group approach ‘satisfies legal concerns’ because churches ‘need not be rocked by liability issues if tough issues are handled in the light of several witnesses.'”
It is worth noting that two other dioceses have connections with Comiskey and his group. Like Aquila, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas appeared in Desert Stream/Living Waters promotional materials. Bishop Carl Kemme of Witchita will be hosting a Desert Stream/Living Waters conference in his diocese this March.
Faithful America has launched a petition calling for an end to the Archdiocese’s support for “ex-gay” therapy. To add your name, click here.
Archbishop Aquila has also confronted state officials on the topic of sexual education. House Bill 19-1032 now being considered in the Colorado state legislature would, among other changes to education law, fund programs to teach about healthy relationships by including “different relationship models,” reported The Denver Post. These models would include LGBT relationships and families. The bill would also bar publicly-funded schools from excluding LGBT issues in sexual education curricula and from using “shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools,” especially those based in religious belief.
But Aquila and the Colorado Catholic Conference have strongly condemned the move to make sexual education more inclusive and comprehensive, reported Crux. A letter read at all Masses in the Denver Archdiocese last weekend said everyone “must do our part to fight this legislation.” Aquila said the bill, if passed, would require “innocent children” to be taught according to a curriculum that “contradicts human nature and is inconsistent with Christian values” or to be given no sexual education at all.
The Colorado Catholic Conference said in a statement that the decision of how to develop and implement sexual education should be left to “local school districts, in conjunction with school boards and parents.” It criticized the bill for not clarifying how parents would be allowed to opt their children out of sexual education classes and how schools could attain a waiver from the requirements.
Aquila’s behavior received a sharp reprimand from a gay high school student in Denver. Johnny Hultzapple wrote that he was “very enraged” and “dismal” while writing an op-ed for the Colorado Times Recorder in which he stated:
“I am only 17-years old, but I can see that events like Andrew Comiskey’s do not spread the type of love that Jesus loves his people with. Jesus’ love was never judgmental, it was never exclusive, and it definitely was never hateful. The God I know loves everyone, and everyone means anyone who lives and breathes, regardless of sexuality, gender, or any other identity. . .God made me gay, and I know that God wants me to use my voice to spread love and acceptance to not only the LGBTQ community, but to ALL people, regardless of identity. I will work my hardest to ensure that this hatred is not continued in my community. I will work hard to ensure that other kids in Catholic school will not have to suffer the bigotry I had to.”
Aquila’s motivation for stridently pushing extremist positions in Colorado is unclear, but what can be known is the severe harm that “ex-gay” therapies and LGBT-evasive sexual education have done in the lives of so many people. Thankfully, the archbishop is increasingly alone in his promotion of debunked, torturous practices and ignorant curricula while the trends of banning these therapies and expanding comprehensive sexual education in the U.S. only continue to grow.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 2, 2019