Investigation Finds Spanish Bishop Did Not Violate Anti-Conversion Therapy Law

Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Plà

Government officials in Spain have dismissed a complaint against a bishop excused of promoting conversion therapy, though they remain watchful for any violations against LGBTQ people.

El Diario reported on the dismissal of a complaint against Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcalá de Henares over his alleged support for conversion therapy in the diocese:

“This [dismissal] is stated in the report of [the Ombudsmen], presented this Friday by the Ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, before the Congress of Deputies. The proceedings conclude after the response given by the Ministry of Social Policies of the Community [of Madrid], which reported on this case that ‘it had not considered it possible to open a sanctioning procedure, in view of the fact that the main proof of the charge consisted of the records of calls, recordings, emails and documentation provided by a journalist, obtained without the consent of one of the interlocutors’.

“However, the Ombudsman has indicated that in his report that ‘he continues to pay extreme attention to any indication of discrimination based on sexual orientation, as was the case in this case.'”

The investigation began in 2019 when an El Diario journalist infiltrated a diocesan support group and exposed website resources that were both claimed to be promoting ex-gay narratives, at times with the bishop’s personal involvement. Conversion therapy is illegal in the State of Madrid with fines up to USD $50,000, even if it is done to a freely-consenting adult.

That investigation triggered a series of escalating events. A diocesan communication referred to the investigative report as “fake news.” The news report also lea to protests after which Reig Pla claimedg he would be a martyr for his defense of conversion therapy while speaking to the Episcopal Conference of Spain. The country’s bishops in turn expressed their support for Reig Pla.

The bishop already had a very gay-negative record before this most recent incident. He has claimed gay men should not be accepted to seminary because they easily become child abusers. He also affiliated with an organization many Spanish people consider a hate group. More broadly, he has aligned with opponents of Pope Francis,  and he has celebrated Spain’s former dictator Francisco Franco.

This entire incident could have been avoided if Reig Pla and the Spanish bishops heeded the Vatican’s request that they disassociate from the practice of conversion therapy.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 29, 2022

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