Below you can read, in English, an important journalistic investigation on reparative therapy of homosexuality. The article, by Davide Varì, was published (in Italian) in the newspaper “Liberation” of December 23, 2007.
This is the story of a reporter who attended a course organized by an ultra-Catholic group for months.
I told him, “I’m gay”. They replied: “Yours is a mild illness, we can cure it well …”
Are you gay? Come to us, we will take care of you.
Diary of six months in therapy …
“The road to my presumed salvation begins with a meeting to define when and how I had to join the therapy group to cure my homosexuality”
The story of a reporter who was infiltrated for months into a course organized by a ultra-Catholic group
The appointment is with Don James at the headquarters of the Edizioni Paoline [Well-known publishing house of inspiration that is strongly Catholic] not far from Garbatella, a former lower-class quarter of Rome. A meeting to define when and how to join the therapy group to cure my homosexuality. An appointment was hard to get. Self-styled healers of gays, at least in Italy, do not want too much publicity. To trace the Italian one, I had to call a counterpart Swiss group that turned me to the Milan office of “Objective Chaire”, an ultra-Catholic association that organizes, yes, therapeutic meetings, but only in Milan. In the end they suggest Don James in Rome, a young prelate who, they say, can help me. And now, after that long pilgrimage, I’m there: I’m finally in front of the studio of Don James; the first step of my “healing” journey. A journey that lasted about six months in which I found myself immersed in a parallel world made of reticence, half-truths, ambiguities and strange alliances between the Vatican and some groups of psychologists led by Professor Tonino Cantelmi, president and founder of the Catholic Italian Psychologists Psychiatrists Association and professor of psychology at the Gregorian University [A well-known pontifical university in Rome].
But first there is Don James, the first level of evaluation of the “seriousness of the patient,” it is for him, a representative of the Catholic Church. Don James was kind. After several telephone conversations in which, with great discretion and tact, he asks me the reasons that lead me to this therapy, it’s time of the meeting. After a short introduction, begins the interview itself.
There are two or three fundamental questions: how many times have I had gay sex, how often, and how I felt. I tell him almost all the truth, all except for the fact that I’m a journalist and not a homosexual. I tell him that I’m married; I have a daughter and throw it there a couple of homosexual experiences related to my adolescence and the concern that those experiences can return to the surface and ruin my marriage. Don James listens with participation. He then begins the work of investigation to understand the reasons for my homosexuality. He asks about my parents, the relationship with my mother – in respect of which pulls out quite a good conflict. It is always good, I think, the priests and the psychologists like it – I tell him about of the marginal role of my father, about sex with my wife, interpersonal relations, and so on; a superficial but full scanning of my experiences.
Then the question: “When was the first time, David,” Don James asks. I tell him about a guy in my high school, named Luke, who was a good friend and how that friendship over time and in a completely unexpected way, was transformed into a sexual relationship. Don James listens with attention and participation. He sees I’m stressed and changes the subject: “Do you believe in God?” He asks. I say that I come from a very religious family but no, I never practiced. But lately, I add, I feel reborn in me something different. It is the most delicate moment, the moment where you have to choose whether to go through with it passing over the sincere religious beliefs of Don James, or end it there and leave.
It’s like if I made fun of his faith, and perhaps no one gives me the right to get up to that point. Then I am convinced that in the daily reality, these “healers of homosexuals” only do damage: take a person, in most cases driven by family, tell him that his homosexuality is a deviation from the norm and invite him to take with them a healing journey, or better a “repair” journey. And then I decide to go ahead and pick up the appeal of Don James: “Let us pray together?”.
With an effort, even if I’m an atheist, I pray with him. After the moment of silence Don James, with the same delicacy, invites me to continue my story. “Your relationship with Luke – he says – was passive or only active?”
Don James wants to know if I have “suffered” the penetration. It must be just that the fundamental distinction to find out if, in fact, you were a true homosexual. “Active and passive”, I say suddenly. “And I also liked,” I say almost in the sense of challenge, faced with that question so vulgar. Vulgar not to the thing itself, but rather because for the first time I begin to glimpse, or so it seems to me, the real thoughts of the priest so young and friendly, a hole that exposes the judgment on me, or better on “people like me”.
Don James nods austere and then asks me to talk about other relationships. Then I pull out a brief relationship with another guy who I had sex with after I married. Don James asks me to tell about the feelings I had felt. I invented a “sense of moral filth” I still live and I carry within me. The young priest is silent. He blesses me and calms me. “Your homosexuality – he says – is very superficial. I think you are ready to begin the healing path. ”
At that point, I ask a few questions and inquire on what he called “path”. Don James, roughly speaking, tells me that almost all homosexuals have suffered a trauma or something that stopped the “natural” construction of true sexual identity. “For this – he says – are reparative therapy; to take back that experience, finding the fracture and redefine their gender identity. You are in a state of sexual confusion; you have to get help to redefine your sexuality in a correct way. “Perfect, I’m ready to start the “path”. Don James takes a piece of paper and writes phone and address of Professor Tonino Cantelmi, “call him in a week, tell him I sent you, he will know it all.” He blesses me and dismisses me.
The first meeting with Professor Cantelmi
The study by Professor Tonino Cantelmi – President of the Institute of Cognitive Interpersonal Therapy, says on the label – is a seaport in which transit and land concerns and anxieties of varied humanity: children, adolescents, mothers, grandmothers. There is everything in that study. I sit down and wait to be called. He, the professor, sometimes comes out and greets a patient. With everyone he’s very confidential, they call him Tonino. Finally comes my time. I collect ideas to avoid contradicting than the story I told Don James a few weeks before. I refresh the scheme and the invented the names of my false lovers, and I put in the study of the Professor. He looks me up, smiles at me and makes me sit. “I’m David, I say, Don James sent me.” He nods – “with that name he put me in the category of repented homosexuals”, I think to myself – and invites me to tell my story. At that point I start with the story of high school, my relationship with my classmate and the concerns for my marriage after another relationship I had with a guy a couple of years ago.
“What kind of relationship did you have?” Cantelmi asks.
I pretend not to understand.
“I mean – continues Professor – you had complete intercourse?”.
I nod, but expect the professor comes out of his den and asks me the question, the question with the capital Q, in a direct way and he did not disappoint me, “So David – tells me blunt – you’ve been passive in your sex life?”
Here we go again, I think to myself. “Yes,” I answer. I decided to play the part of laconic. On the one hand I’m afraid to contradict myself, on the other because I want to see the skills of the professor in action. I am curious to see how he moves, how he works but he surprises me and after that one answer, ready to get rid of me, take pen and paper and writes the name of a colleague: “She is Dr. Cacace – he says, handing me the note – this is my assistant, contact her in my name. She will already know everything. “I seem to see a movie already seen however I do not want to miss the opportunity to find myself in front of the “guru” of the Italian healers of gays and then I rise to speak before he leaves me. “Listen, doctor – I say with the utmost of kindness – I want to understand exactly what’s expected of me.” “Nothing in particular – he says – the doctor will make a test .”
“A test?”, I echo. “Yes, a test.”
“A test to measure the degree of my homosexuality?” I interrupt him.
“Well! Somehow, yes”, he says.
“Excuse me – I ask – but what exactly is homosexuality?”
At that point Cantelmi sits down, stretches out his arms on the table and begins: “I will speak of your homosexuality, not homosexuality in general. Let’s say that we are a group of psychologists who try to help people in need. Ours is a reparative therapy”
Reparative therapy: homosexuality like communism
There was talk for some time of these deviated sex thaumaturges. A fashion well spread in North America thanks to the work of many church-related groups that follow the teaching and practice of Joseph Nicolosi, president of NARTH, National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. A clinical psychologist, this Joseph Nicolosi, a “guru” that boasts 500 cases of “gay treated” and cared for – just like that,” gay treated “- and that pulled out of the hat of his own psychiatric witchcraft the so-called “reparative therapy” whose stated purpose is to “bring homosexual persons to heterosexual orientation.” A message that has been taken in Italy and raised by Professor Tonino Cantelmi, president and founder of the Italian Catholic Psychologists and Psychiatrists Association and professor of psychology at the Gregorian University. In short, the Italian guru of reparative therapy, a person associated with the Vatican with double knot around which was born a working group consisting of five or six young psychologists who take care of individual therapies of the future and “repaired” heterosexuals.
This reparative therapy is ancient history. Already in 2005, the Gay Pride magazine published a long article in which it questioned any scientific validity and reliability of this therapy. Franco Grillini, honorary president of Arcigay, also introduced a parliamentary question to block, through professional associations, reparative therapy. Even for this J.M. van den Aardweg, the American psychotherapist who wrote “Homosexuality & Hope” talks about gay lobby onslaught of science. Just to understand what is behind this alleged reparative therapy, the same van den Aardweg says – he did in a recent interview for “Acquaviva2000, Catholic culture on the net” – that many homosexuals” have serious mental disorders, or have developed a homosexual behavior of such proportions that it would not be so wrong to call them “sick”. “Not only that, van den Aardweg believes that because of the gay movement, “the masses will never completely assimilate unnatural concept that is imposed on them. It will go as with communism. Many, probably most, will pay to unnatural homosexual “religion” a formal cult, dictated by fear, but people will end up believing in it less and less. ”
These are the distinguished scientists who sponsor reparative therapy. Even more explicit the watchwords of the aforementioned ultra-Catholic group “Objective Chaire”: ” Spiritual, psychological and medical accompanying; attention to parents, teachers and educators in order to prevent the emergence of homosexual tendencies in children, adolescents and in young people; search for causes (spiritual, psychological, cultural, historical) that contribute to the spread of attitudes contrary to the natural law, knowable by reason properly formed.”
Then the inevitable Joseph Nicolosi, an American clinical-psychologist who invented the reparative therapy. In a few days he will be in Italy to update his followers and illustrate for them, probably, the latest of his treatment. These are basic ideas: first, in the light of the social sciences, the form of the ideal family to promote the healthy development of the child is the traditional model of heterosexual marriage, and second, sexual identity is formed at an early age on the basis of ” biological, psychological and social elements”, and thirdly, there are many examples of people who have managed to change their behavior, identity, sexual fantasies or stimuli.
In support of these theses “ex-gay” movements are born, people “repaired” and often converted to Catholicism who have the express purpose of proving that homosexuality can be “cured”. The beauty of it is that more and more groups of “ex-gay” are dissolved due to the fact that many members have re-found a partner of the same sex right in that organization.
Reparative therapy of Cantelmi
Cantelmi tries to fit on me, in my case, the reasons for treatment. He speaks of childhood trauma; confusing in a world already full of contradictions and fluidity in interpersonal relationships. All this to explain that in a sense the behavior of the homosexual person is induced by this external schizophrenia. Not only homosexuals though. Professor Cantelmi is convinced, and explains it to me, that our age is characterized by a large sexual compulsivity: an addiction that affects thousands of people, including many, many young people. He speaks of “sick relationships with sex,” of “loss of control” and so on.
“And in all this, homosexuality?” I ask.
“Well, my studio is full. We have a row. There are hundreds of guys asking for help. ”
“You see – I say, trying to drive him out – I do not know if I’m homosexual. I do not know if I am the victim of some sort of mental illness or if I have to accommodate these, my instincts. ”
“Do not worry David – tells me serene and smiling – from your profile I think I can speak of a generalized anxiety and a slight neurosis that somehow affects and diverts your sexual choices. Now we will test and we will have more items to choose the best treatment. ”
The Test and the disciples of the professor and the cure
Dr. Cristina Cacace Institute of cognitive interpersonal therapy directed by Cantelmi greets me smiling in his office. She looks at me, looks at me rather insistently. “Now she rumbles my game – I think – she discovers that I’m an infiltrator and drives me out.” (But no. Clearly, the diagnosis of Professor Cantelmi has influenced me. A little neurotic, I really feel persecuted. The fact is that she invites me with kindness in his study Ikea style, makes me sit and asks me: name, age, address, phone and marital status. I answer without hesitation and wait here, too, for “the” question. But Dr. Cacace already knows and does not need any introduction.
We jump directly to the most intimate details: how often and up to what point. “Up to what point … what does it mean?” I ask. She smiles. I wonder if she, a young psychologist, really does believe the madness and violence of this blessed “reparative therapy” or is she there in that little studio just because she could not find anything better. But my thoughts were interrupted by the question of the doctor:
“David, your homosexual relations were only active or also passive”? I feel strongly uncomfortable with the question asked, obsessive. I am reminded of the itchy and voyeuristic side of the person who asks it. At the end I answer as I have already answered Don James and Professor Cantelmi “Yes, active and passive.” I also tell her of my troubled relationship with my mother, the absence of my father and I would add that every so often, as a child, I was mistaken for a baby-girl. The young assistant of Cantelmi nods gravely and fixes an appointment for the personality test. “After the test – tells me before accompanying me to the door – we will know better how to deal with your situation.”
A few days later I’m back there and I find that the test takes about four hours and is nothing but the so-called “Minnesota Test” used by the armed forces all over the world to select their staff. About six hundred questions that should give answers on deviations of the candidate: hypochondriasis, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviation, masculinity or femininity, paranoia, psychasthenia, schizophrenia, hypomania and social introversion. Simply put a potpourri that, among other things, would clarify my homosexual tendencies. However, the doctor gives me the test, a pen, and puts me in the hallway. I begin to scroll through the questions: “Have you ever experienced very strange thoughts?” Or, “Would you like to be a florist?” Answer yes to this question driven by the banality of the consideration. Perhaps those who choose to do the florist, they say, have a predisposition to become a little pansy.
Suddenly I am struck and distracted t by the silent presence of a lady and a young teenager. They are mother and son. He seems very shy, uncomfortable. I cannot say, but it could very well be a boy forced by his mother to stem, at least until it is time, “his own homosexual deviance.” Again I think of how narrow this practice is and how much violence it has in it. I think the pressure that may undergo a 15-16 year old boy who is discovering his own sexuality, the concern, often well-intentioned, of the parents and the choice to do something to stop this “discovery” rather than accept it and support it. Then the woman and the boy are caught in one of the many rooms of the study of students of Cantelmi and I go back to my infinite test: “Have you ever made unusual sexual practices?” “Did you like to play with dolls? “;” Someone controls your mind? “, “Do you often desire to be of the opposite sex? “;” The man should be the head of the family? “…
Having finished the test, I go back into the room to see the doctor.
She puts away my papers that already contain the result of my “degree of homosexuality” and pulls out a dozen colored cards with funny shapes. These are the spots of the Rorschach test. Undefined color spray, acting unconsciously activating projective reactions. In short, in the face of those spots I’m invited to track down and communicate meaningful figures. I launch striving to see penises, vaginas, anuses and so on. I identify even a couple of fetuses hung by the umbilical cord. I give the worst of me, trying to convince Dr. Cacace that my sexuality is particularly diverted, so corrupt and homosexual to merit her care. But she, in front of my genital rant does not bat an eyelid: pulls one after another the other cards of the test and takes notes diligently.
Meanwhile I do not hold back a fleeting glance at her neckline. She is surprised, holds back a little, covers and looks at me with embarrassment. So, after all that talk about my homosexuality, I fell into banality to reaffirm my “masculinity” in front of a woman. For the first time, somehow, I live on my skin the strength and violence of the social and cultural conditioning that gays live. Then, I continue with my figures …
The results of the tests: how much am I homosexual?
“Not much, your homosexuality is really blurred,” says Dr. Cacace showing twenty pages that contain my “diagnosis”. “Blurred homosexuality”, just like that. At that point I ask for more explanation. “So, I would say that we are facing a neurosis that has led to a sexual deviation – she continues – will be Professor Cantelmi to explain it better.
After a few days I’m back in the waiting room of the professor. The feeling is the same: a seaport open to all “human cases”. Cantelmi, courteous and welcoming as always, browses the results of my tests and I talk about “light neurosis and depression” which led my sexual deviation, the output from the tracks of a healthy sexuality and informed. “You’re not really a homosexual,” he says. “Your concern seems more determined by a number of incidents of childhood.” Then stats with the conflict with my mother and my father’s absence, which I totally invented, I would be deprived of a strong male figure, a reference figure on which I should have modeled my sexuality and defined my gender. So I am not entirely homosexual.
Perhaps therapy has already begun. Denying my homosexuality is the first step towards “healing.” It is probably a way to start disassembling the conviction of the “patient”. To hear, “you’re not really homosexual,” perhaps means to begin to dismantle the personality of the individual, his beliefs and put him in front of the fact – a fact certified by a psychologist – that his homosexuality never existed or better that homosexuality per se does not exist except in terms of a deviation from the norm, from the only real rule: heterosexuality.
“At this point – then continues the professor – it’s going to fish out those fractures and overcome them through appropriate treatment.”
“What kind of therapy?” I ask.
“An individual therapy. One of my assistants will follow through with you, but I – calms me – I’ll be constantly informed of your progress”.
“But I knew of mutual-help groups, I thought I would become a member there”.
“There are the groups – he tells me – but they are groups of people who have a strong sexual deviancy. I do not think that is the best treatment for your condition. I do not know, we’ll see. ”
I do not give up and try to find out what happens in those groups. “They are groups of people led by psychotherapists who share their experience toward a reparative course” adds hastily Cantelmi. Then he gets up, gives me the phone number of the next psychologist, of course, another assistant, and gave me a book: “Beyond Homosexuality” by Joseph Nicolosi.
Nicolosi, he, the guru of the healers, the creator of reparative therapy, that has as many as 500 cases of “gay treated” or, better, repaired. “Read it – he says – there is a similar situation to yours. People like you who have made it. ”
The book of Nicolosi
“Over homosexuality” by Joseph Nicolosi is a collection of life stories. Eight stories of homosexuals corrected, repaired, and a final appendix on the mode of therapy. Among them Albert, a thirty year old “speaking in a slightly effeminate tone and with the nostalgia – said Nicolosi – of a child lost.”In fact, the problem of Albert, Nicolosi says in his book, is his attachment to the lost world of childhood. Hence an illustration of the recurring features of gay people: attraction detached for their own body, first sexual experiences with other boys, iper-masturbation – “homosexuals – says Nicolosi – masturbate more often than heterosexuals, it’s an attempt to establish a ritual contact with the penis”- and an overwhelming mother figure. At that point the purpose of Dr. Nicolosi is to “develop a more solid masculinity” of Albert. How? First is to free him from the oppressive maternal bonding, nurturing non-sexual male friendships, and going on long bike rides. Finally came the first progress: Albert manages to control masturbation, is separated from his mother, is not chasing his friend and continues to riding his bike within the neighborhood” “Just the good things are happening to you!” the doctor confides to Albert. Three years after Albert has a confident voice, every female inflection is gone, he is “emotionally detached from other males and masculinity”, and he is freed from the maternal control: the original sin, the cause of his homosexuality; Albert was also engaged to a girl. So he is repaired and is repaired because “understood – says Nicolosi – the concept of the false self”: the false gay identity that the outside forces you to. “No, I’m not gay” is Albert’s last comment before starting his new life as a heterosexual.
Another interesting story told by Nicolosi is that of Tom: “A extraordinarily handsome man, about five feet tall, blue eyes, and well-dressed.” (Perhaps Nicolosi is showing a light homosexual orientation: the healer of gays who discovers he is gay, a classic already seen a thousand times). Tom is married, but separated due to a relationship with another guy, “Andy, a twenty-four irresistible.” Nicolosi is clear to Tom: “If you want to divorce your wife and start a new life with your gay lover I’ll never approve! “. The fact is that Tom feels empty without a wife and children and does not know how to present himself in society, how to pull off his homosexuality.
These are a couple of good reasons to start reparative therapy. The fact is that, at least for Nicolosi, Tom is a homosexual abnormal: “He doesn’t have achievement problems with other men, in business he is strong and determined and outgoing. But underneath – reveals Nicolosi – he has the emotional weakness typical of homosexuals”. In short, Tom has a terrible fear of losing his wife and children and to find himself alone just because “homosexual relationships don’t have a future”. At that point Nicolosi meets Tom’s wife who has every intention to work together to bring his husband back on track. A job that succeeds, but the signs of homosexuality have left their indelible mark: Tom is HIV positive and soon dies. The message, rather, the warning of Nicolosi is all too clear: attention, homosexuality can be cured but because of homosexuality you can also die.
Evidence of healing
When I get back in the studio of Professor Cantelmi I find that my recovery is in the hands of one of his young assistants. He, too, browses the results of my tests, and begins to talk about the path ahead. “We’ll retrace the conflict with your mother, the absence of your father, trying to heal the fractures that led to the confusion”
“Yes, of course, gender confusion. But before, David – continued the young doctor – tell me about your homosexual experiences”. For the fourth time I find myself talking about my story with a fellow of high school and the fears for my marriage. But the question comes: “David, your sexual experiences were complete?”. “Do you want to know if I got it in the back, doctor? Yes, twice, “I say annoyed. He smiles sheepishly. But in fact it is exactly what he wanted to know. Then recovers and attacks. “I would also like to know the feelings that you felt.” On the verge of the exhaustion for those questions so repetitive and low-level I start with a long story. I tell him the story, inventing, every detail. I talk of the excitement of the male homosexual relationship, the sense of transgression and call to my mind some passages very suggestive and “gory” described by one of the patients of the book of Nicolosi. He drinks it all and takes notes diligently. Finally, I offered him the “sick man” that is inside me and he seemed visibly pleased.
I start to feel a sense of nausea. Nausea for Don James, for Professor Cantelmi and his young assistants. It’s been six months since my first meeting and at this point I seem to be unable to bear it any longer. I realize that in this long period we have only talked about my butt. For the first time I realize that none of them has ever asked me if I happened to fall in love with any man. No one has ever wanted to know my emotions on homosexual relationships. Is it possible that they could more interested that just in the number of penetrations “sustained”? The young psychologist gives me an appointment. I greet him and disappear. I will never set foot in that study again. That was enough.
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