Conversion therapy proponents have been welcomed in another U.S. diocese, deepening ties between some of the nation’s bishops and fringe LGBTQ-negative organizations who promote a practice not in line with church teaching.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family co-sponsored a daylong workshop on gender and sexuality with Desert Stream Ministries/Living Waters, a group that promotes conversion therapy. The program, “Gender Matters – Fighting for the Integrity of Persons,” took place in early September. According to an event description, it planned to tackle questions like the following:
“Men and women are called to be good gifts in their gendered selves. How can they obtain freedom from the grips of sexual and relational brokenness, so as to unleash the gift God created?
“Jesus has come to heal broken humanity. Can He heal and transform sexual brokenness? Come and hear the witnesses of those who have found Christ and His Church to be a healing ground for their broken sexuality!”
Sexual brokenness is a prominent theme for Desert Stream Ministries/Living Waters, headed by Andrew Comiskey who was the lead presenter at the Philadelphia workshop. Comiskey’s ministry seemingly approves of a conversion approach 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. He has helped lead the ex-gay Restored Hope Network, too.
The Philadelphia archdiocese is not the first Catholic institution to welcome Comiskey and his ministry. In January, Bondings 2.0 reported on a gender and sexuality conference featuring Desert Stream Ministries/Living Waters sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver. A sign outside the archdiocesan offices and seminaries quoted Comiskey as saying the idea of a gay person is a “popular myth” and that “Satan delights in homosexual perversion.” In Marxch of 2019, Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita invited the ministry to present there. And Crux reported that Comiskey was a keynote speaker at a July conference for ChristLife, which describes itself as a “Catholic ministry for evangelization” and has been endorsed by Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori.
U.S. bishops are also on record explicitly endorsing Desert Stream Ministries/Living Waters. Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Kansas City’s Archbishop Joseph Naumann have appeared in the group’s promotional materials. Aquila has sent priests from his archdiocese for trainings with the group, and has encouraged Catholics to start local groups for helping the allegedly sexually broken.
The Denver archdiocese has continued promoting harmful workshops, reported the Colorado Times Recorder. In early September, it joined Catholic Charities and Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute in sponsoring an LGBTQ-negative workshop. The featured speakers were Emily Zinos, who is linked with extreme anti-transgender groups, and Deacon Patrick Lappert, who has said surgeries related to a gender transition are a “form of tyranny” and “child abuse.”
Conversion therapy is linked to high rates of self-harm and suicide, particularly among youth, thus the efforts to ban it in state capitols nationwide. Though it is only a fraction of the U.S. episcopate that collaborates with conversion therapy proponents, that fraction can cause real damage if Catholics believe church teaching supports such dangerous practices. It does not.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2019