Bishop Says He Is Ready to Be a Martyr in Defending Conversion Therapy Practices

Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla

A Spanish bishop under investigation for putting worshipers, including minors, through an allegedly illegal conversion therapy process has told Catholics they must be ready to be martyrs in defense of the church’s freedom to offer such practices.

Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcalá de Henares, who has a history of homophobic comments, told hundreds gathered in church to hear him speak that LGBTQ activists and the government were “harming our children. . .harming the mission of the Church” and Catholics should not allow it. He continued:

“‘This is not about going against anybody, but it is about safeguarding the liberty of the Church, of safeguarding religious liberty, and to commit ourselves even unto martyrdom if it is necessary in order to serve those who suffer and expect a word of hope from us, the shepherds of the Church. We must not abandon them.'”

Reig Pla added that when speaking to his fellow bishops during a meeting of the Episcopal Conference of Spain, he appealed to them to not allow the government to impede the work of a diocesan center which is being investigated for practicing conversion therapy. Conversion therapy refers to an attempt to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity, with the underlying assumption being that anyone who is not cisgender and heterosexual is suffering from a mental disorder. In Spain, conversion therapy is illegal even for adults, punishable with a maximum fine of €45,000 ($51,000).

El Diario reported that a spokesperson for the Episcopal Conference of Spain, Luis Arguello Garcia, expressed his “support and affection” for the bishop of Alcalá de Henares, and “rejected the irruption of a group of vociferous people in a temple where a mass was being celebrated.” That reference was to protests in which a group carrying rainbow flags preempted a Mass in April with chants of, “Love doesn’t have a cure. Hate does.”

The investigation into the diocese’s alleged conversion therapy program was launched after reporter with the online newspaper El Diario interviewed three men who had been through the Bishop’s treatment, including two who attended as minors. They described feelings of self-loathing and deep depression as a result of the treatment.

One told the reporter, “If I had stayed there, I would have committed suicide.”

Another said that he had gone to the church hoping for help with unrelated issues. “I did not go for my sexual orientation, I wanted to see a psychologist and I could not afford it,” he told El Diario.

But the church counselor told him that his mannerisms were not sufficiently masculine, informed him that this meant he was gay, and pressured him to join conversion therapy. He says the sessions have affected his ability to build relationships to this day.

A local news outlet reported that the diocese deemed the report “fake news” and a “theatrical montage,” but also added that it offers help to those who ask for it.

The public has increasingly become aware of the dangers posed by conversion therapy. A report in 2018 found that almost half of young people exposed to conversion therapy attempt suicide, about double the suicide rate for the teen LGBTQ population as a whole. When a psychologist or church official is involved in the process, two-thirds of participants attempt suicide. Movies like Boy Erased have raised awareness of conversion therapy in the United States, and several states have moved to ban the practice for minors. These realities are sufficient evidence that bishops like Reig Pla need to stop any conversion therapy programs immediately and cease causing deep harm to people the church should instead be accompanying with compassion.

Jonathan Nisly and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 30, 2019

10 replies
  1. Kris
    Kris says:

    Sadly, Pope Francis supports this unscientific nonsense.

    If the bishop wants to be a martyr, that’s his choice, but it will be only to stubborn human pride.

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    It is unlikely that the bishop’s educational credentials include mastery of skills like psychology, psychotherapy, family counselling or the like. It is astonishing that “conversion” therapy is being promoted to change another person’s sexual identity / desires. More amazing is the objection to governmental laws to protect people from the very thing for which the bishop would accept martyrdom. Consider for a second that clergy, celibate by choice and job description, would induce someone else to change the sexuality by their decree and pronouncement. Methinks there is a bit too much drama afoot with Reig Pla. Most Catholics , at least those I know , are not concerned about these issues.

  3. Ray Ortman
    Ray Ortman says:

    How can some leaders in a church that so avidly and lovingly stands for Life not see the incongruity of inflicting pain that in many cases leads to suicide?

    It makes me wonder who is really being served by “conversion therapy?” Surely, it is not the children and young people who suffer (and sometimes die) because of it. Rather, it seems that imposing “conversion therapy” somehow validates and affirms its adherents and practitioners, who use it as an occasion to celebrate their own “normality” – or even worse – to revel in their own sanctimony.

    Whatever the case, how can anyone justify the morality of “conversion therapy” where its “ends” are so questionable and its “means” foreseeably inflict so much pain and suffering?

  4. Patricia Vasilj
    Patricia Vasilj says:

    If the Bishop were not making statements that could damage the psyches of members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who were trying to come to terms with their sexual orientation, I would just ignore the man. What he is doing is creating martyrs within that community. Bishop, we are all created thru love by our Creator. We are His children. What you are doing is playing God and trying to change His children into something “you” want. I just hope Rome decides to pull you in and out of the active priesthood. You are hurting and not helping His children. Unfortunately, you are not alone in your beliefs. But the tide is turning and hopefully religious leaders of all faiths will stop trying to play God and hurt His children. Shame on all of you.

  5. Albertus
    Albertus says:

    It is truly almost unbelievable, that a Catholic Bishop anywhere in the world would tell Catholics to be ready to die – not for our Lord! – but in order to defend the diocesan policy of offering the illegal practice of mental violence towards gay persons called ”conversion therapy”. Why does the Pope not intervene in the case of such Bishops? Why does the Pope not intervene in the case of African Bishop Conferences who support national laws whereby gay persons are prosecuted, imprisoned and even put to death? Do these Bishops and Bishop Conferences not know what their proper competence is? It is to worship and confess the triune God, and to bring human beings the gospel of God’s salvation. It is not within the Bishops’ competence to practice psychiatry, to play morality police, or to interfere in the business of the State, except to proclaim justice and truth in general, non-partisan ways. It is sad that sometimes we must thank God that the State exists to protect us from the Princes of the Church! (Please delete the earlier comment under the name Albertus Stalioraitis)

    • Kris
      Kris says:

      The pope will not intervene in this vile matter, because he has already supported Mexican bishops in their misguided efforts (successful, by the way) to prevent the Mexican Government from ruling so-called ‘conversion therapy’ illegal.

      Sad to say, but these bishops (including Francis) aren’t the most cerebral, their ‘thinking’ done by a tired and failed ideology.

  6. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    The bishop is not the victim. He is the victimiser. He is not the martyr. Those who are put through reparative therapy are the martyrs. Those who suffer from his false doctrines, who commit suicide or are scarred for life, are the ones who suffer injustice.

  7. Deacon Thomas Smith
    Deacon Thomas Smith says:

    Spanish bishop joining other prelates in a contrived “victim mentality”, like THEY are the martyrs, not Matthew Shepard…crucified by Chruch-infused fear. Really?

  8. Peter
    Peter says:

    And yet he is allowed to say what he feels. The hierarchy and Pope Francis accept this injustice as the natural order of things. The lessons of history and the Reformation are lost to them it seems.

  9. Dr. Aaron Milavec
    Dr. Aaron Milavec says:

    Reparative Therapy (also known as Conversion Therapy) claims that adolescent homosexuality may arise from traumatic events in the past and that, with careful psychological counseling, part or all of same-sex attraction can be dispelled. For a strong and persuasive advocate, see Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., What Is Reparative Therapy? Examining the Controversy ( Please be aware, however, that this form of therapy has been widely shown to be non-productive and even harmful to the degree that even the American Psychiatric Association warns against crediting its claims. See “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” (


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