Protestors successfully led an Indianapolis parish and Catholic high school to postpone an event about overcoming same-gender attraction, which some have likened to conversion therapy.
St. Luke’s Catholic Church scheduled an event for October 13th with author and speaker Kim Zember, the founder of Overcome Ministries, an organization with the purpose of being an “outlet of love and hope for adults with same-sex attraction.” Zember was scheduled to speak about her own experience with same-gender attraction as a teenager and how she believes that her faith freed her from homosexuality.
The event was not only advertised to parishioners at St. Luke’s but also to students at Bishop Chatard High School. The school posted Zember’s upcoming talk on its website, leading students and alumni to criticize the event quickly.
Fox 59 reported on the event by connecting with pro-LGBTQ+ alumni from Bishop Chatard. One alumni stated:
“I attended Bishop Chatard High School about 3 years ago, but my assumption is not only Chatard but all the schools in the archdiocese like Cathedral sent out a similar email to all their students. This is very disturbing that they are trying to have young teenagers listen to brainwashing opinions. A reason why many people in the LGBTQ+ commit suicide and suffer from many things is because of people like them. In the email, they do recommend people in high school or older but this is still not acceptable behavior. They say in short, by going to this meeting and restraining from same-sex attraction, you will be saved by Jesus Christ.”
Sara Hutson, another graduate of Bishop Chatard who is now a social worker, agreed that Zember’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric could negatively affect the mental health of students. Hutson noted that teenagers sometimes have “suicidal ideations when they are not affirmed,” so this event could be a “huge suicide risk” for queer students.
Also criticizing the event was staff at Shelly’s Voice, an Indianapolis-area organization for LGBTQ+ youth formed after the firing of lesbian church worker Shelly Fitzgerald. Eli Aldrich, the group’s executive director, commented, “Our strongest message to religions like this is it is not acceptable for you to use your God to justify your hate.”
Due to backlash from members of the St. Luke’s and Bishop Chatard communities, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis postponed the event. It released the following statement:
“Out of respect for concerns that have been raised about a speaker for an upcoming event to be hosted at St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis by a group of youth ministers, the event has been postponed. The non-obligatory event was intended to focus on the Christian virtue of chastity. The Catholic Church respects the God-given dignity of all people and teaches that we are all called to live a chaste life. The event has been postponed to allow for discernment regarding how best to proceed with an event that takes the various concerns into consideration.”
Although the event will not be take place on its original date, Bishop Chatard High School is still being criticized for posting the event on the school’s website in the first place. When asked about its decision to support this event, the school stated that they help “nine deanery parishes promote their events when requested.” School officials explained further that the St. Luke’s event was unfortunately “an unvetted promotional request” that had not been “submitted for approval to the parish or the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”
The brave students, alumni, parishioners, and community members should be praised for their willingness to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community. Hopefully, the archdiocese will find a way to support LGBTQ+ Catholics, instead of offering programs that promote speakers and ideas supportive of harmful “conversion therapy” efforts.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, September 28, 2022