A Catholic priest in Malta has sharply rejected some Christians’ claims of the efficacy of “ex-gay”therapies, saying, “it can’t be bad to be gay because God created it.” A group of LGBT Catholics and their parents also critiqued Christian “ex-gay” support by publishing a positive open letter to gay and lesbian people.
Earlier this month, “Xarabank,” a Maltese television program, hosted two Christian celebrities who promote the idea that homosexuality can be fixed or cured. The program’s staff then invited Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna to respond. The archbishop sent Fr. Kevin Schembri, a theologian and canon lawyer involved with LGBTQ ministry, as his representative.
On “Xarabank,” Schembri affirmed the importance of people come to embrace their God-given sexual orientation, reported Love Malta:
“‘It can’t be bad to be gay because God created it in his plan for mankind, with all our variations. When a person knows at the bottom of their heart that they are gay, they are recognizing the way God created them, and are accepting themselves.’ . . .
“Asked to speak on the issue and react to the two member’s statements that they are no longer gay, Fr Kevin said that if a gay Catholic person is being true to themselves, they should not change and will hurt themselves by failing to accept who they are. . .
“‘People who do not accept themselves, or maybe parents who do not accept their homosexual children, this can create internalized anger towards themselves.'”
Schembri also discussed his own experiences of having a gay brother and of doing ministry with LGBT people. Asked about same-gender relationships and whether love is possible in them, the priest responded:
“‘Yes. They can have a relationship of love when it is a sincere relationship and of love, as much as it would be good when it is sincere and of love between heterosexual couples.'”
Finally, Schembri concluded with an appeal to viewers who might be LGBTQ themselves or have LGBTQ family members:
“‘Love your children. Always, no matter who they are. Accept yourselves, be sincere and share your stories. On the Church, the Church should not be seen as a rigid institution but as though it is population of people always changing and always exploring.'”
Members of the LGBT Catholic group, Drachma, and its affiliate for parents, Drachma Parents, published an open letter rejecting views that pathologize homosexuality or promote “ex-gay” therapy. The letter, addressed to a generic “gay person,” reads, in part:
“Work for harmony and peace.
Stand up for truth.
To do that is to follow the Bible.
To do that is to follow God’s way.
To do that is to love God with all your heart and soul.
To do that is to be a true disciple of Jesus.
Please do not try to change your sexual orientation.
Do not try to ‘heal’ what is not an illness.”
The letter continues by stating it is not the gay person but “society that needs to change. . .that needs healing,” and that whatever path a person may choose, “please count us always as your friends.”
Malta remains quite Catholic to this day, and it has proven to be an international leader on securing LGBTQ human rights including becoming the first European nation to ban “ex-gay” therapy. Still, despite legal advances, a recent survey of LGBTQ folks on the island nation found social acceptance and relationships with the institutional Church are still works in progress. That is why these latest efforts by Catholics to reject “ex-gay” therapy and recognize the goodness inherent to lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations remain so necessary. Hopefully, the example of Fr. Schembri and the members of Drachma and Drachma Parents will inspire more Catholics to challenge instances when the Christian faith is misappropriated against LGBTQ people.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 21, 2019