It is a fact that religions propose to the believers the respect of norms, some are norms that belong to moral codes widely shared even by non-believers (for example: not to kill and not to say false testimony, etc.) and don’t need any justification because they are considered pillars of civil life, others don’t find any objective justification, so much so that precepts such as monogamy that are considered fundamental by some religions are not at all for others. Some of these precepts derive from traditions and may have very remote historical justifications that have been lost over the centuries even if, anyway, the observance of those precepts has remained obligatory.
It is precisely the absolute and non-historical dimension of religions that makes them, at least theoretically, unable to adapt to the present historical situation. Many prescriptions regarding food and sex, seen from a secular point of view, are completely formal and apparently unmotivated. The prohibition on eating particular types of meat or fish, which for others constitutes commonly used food, finds no reason other than the fact that so it is prescribed; such precepts are accepted only on the basis of a principle of authority and therefore their violation constitutes formally a fault.
We speak of faults in the sense that they are considered as such by those who follow that religion, because for others they are completely indifferent. Some prescriptions such as that of not eating meat on Fridays, which were also exclusively formal, have created nevertheless considerable feelings of guilt in not very distant times.
But I would like here to deal mainly with the prohibitions on sexuality, which still today, and presumably still for very long periods, will continue to condition human behavior and create suffering.
Religious prescriptions and morality
Morality, as the historical religions conceive it, doesn’t look at the moral substance of the facts but stops at presumptions and formal categories, and this happens above all in the sexual field. The preconception turns into precept and presents itself with the force of the authority in the name of which certain behaviors or omissions are required, which in themselves are completely meaningless or even harmful.
Nobody tries to explain the meaning of these precepts, because they derive only from the principle of authority. A rational analysis would weaken these precepts by pointing out that they are not necessary, that sometimes they are inappropriate and even harmful. Obedience is already presented to children as the greatest virtue. The good boy does what his parents want, if he behaves like that, he is gratified, if he doesn’t, he lives more or less serious feelings of guilt. The sense of guilt creates a psychological subjection and therefore an addiction that confirms the principle of authority through the need to be forgiven.
Let’s go down to more concrete contents. Chastity, seen as abstention from sex, is considered a virtue and the exercise of sexuality is considered a vice, which is transformed into virtue only when sexuality is exercised in order to procreate in the context of a legitimate marriage. These statements, which are at least theoretically shared by many people, are pure preconceptions. Psychology teaches that sexuality lived in a serene, spontaneous way, without taboos, and therefore in a non-transgressive way, is a fundamental condition of well-being, nevertheless chastity is considered a virtue and the exercise of sexuality, if not for legitimate procreative purposes, is considered a vice. Why does all this happen?
The rational explanation (obviously for those who believe that these are absurdities far away from the reality) lies in the mechanism of prohibition / transgression / guilt / need for forgiveness which strengthens the authority of those who support the ban and administer pardon. If the ban were easy to respect the sense of guilt would be rare and the authority would not come out stronger, but if the prohibition or condemnation concerns sexuality and it is a ban as absolute as basically against nature (for example the ban to masturbate), transgression is inevitable and through the mechanism of forgiveness the strengthening of the authority that imposes the prohibition is very evident.
Religion e self-repression
It is widely shared that religions lead to the repression of sexuality and the speech would seem realistic. It could be summarized as follows: a guy who would have a free sexuality, if he enters the orbit of a religion, is conditioned and begins to repress his sexuality. Religion would be the cause and the repression of sexuality would be the effect. But why of the many guys who approach the religions only some end up repressing themselves sexually remaining in those religions while others, after having approached those religions, turn away without many problems?
The answer is easily found if, instead of saying that the adherence to a religion is the cause of sexual repression, we exchange the terms of the speech and realize that they are instead the guys who are sexually repressed who end up adhering to certain religions because within those religions their sexual self-repression is considered a merit if not a form of holiness.
The religion from “doing” to “not doing”
It is amazing that Christianity, which at the evangelical level is the religion of love of neighbor, that is, the religion of “concretely doing” good for others (giving food to the hungry, giving to drink to the thirsty, etc., etc.), is instead widely felt like the religion of “not doing”, of abstinence, of not contaminating oneself.
Basically, unfortunately, instead of perceiving with feelings of guilt the not doing the good that could be done, one ends up perceiving with feelings of guilt the doing something what is forbidden for the sole fact that it is forbidden, even if the prohibition has no other motivation beyond the strengthening of the authority of the person managing it.
If religion were to be lived within the personal conscience, considered the supreme judge of the morality of actions and not instead formalized through subordination to an external authority, how many prohibitions would continue to exist? Would the level of morality decrease? Frankly, I don’t think so.
Why delegate the choices of one’s own conscience to an external authority? Why we are so afraid of being simply men? Why give up the freedom to think?
Catholic Church and masturbation
A particular reflection deserves the condemnation of masturbation as a serious sin on the part of the Catholic Church [Catechism of the Catholic Church, art. 2396 “Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.” The formula used by the Catechism is without appeal. The boys who attend the Church, regularly tell the priest in confession of having masturbated, using fixed formulas, for example the classic: “I have sinned against purity”. The priest proceeds (often in a very mechanical way) asking how many times, whether alone or with others, then he repeats the usual formulas of condemnation of masturbation and asks the penitent (or presumed such) a commitment to avoid masturbating. The penitent shows himself repented and is acquitted.
In reality it is a false repentance, because in a short time the boy will return to masturbate and even to repeat masturbation as much as possible before the next confession (because now the purity is lost). Then the boy goes back to confession and the cycle repeats. The result is a strong push to hypocrisy on the part of the Church which, of course, knows very well how things are, that repentance is not repentance and that the mechanism only serves to surreptitiously induce feelings of guilt that keeps the boy in a state of subjection .
Many priests do not even consider masturbation as a sin, and in this way they get the result of keeping the boys connected to the Church. Others operate real crusades creating in the most sensitive youngsters situations of stress, deep feelings of guilt and conditioning inhibitions towards sexuality.
For many boys, the Church’s position on masturbation is a cause of profound suffering.
Catholic Church and homosexuality
The above, when it comes to gay boys, takes very different contours. Because the Church condemns not only masturbation but directly and without appeal homosexuality [Catechism of the Catholic Church, art. 2357 “ Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
A wider collection of condemnations of homosexuality on the part of the Catholic Church can be found in:
Gay guys and confession
A gay boy at the time of confession has two problems, one is that of masturbation (shared with the straight boys) and the other is that of homosexuality. The overwhelming majority of gay boys feel their homosexuality as something so natural that they simply and sincerely doesn’t consider it as sin and continue to confess only impure acts without any specification. When, in a casual way, the issue of homosexuality emerges in confession, the answers from the priests, even if all in theory are aimed to condemnation, are actually very various and variously open. Even here, probably the idea that a drastic attitude would definitely detach a gay boy from the Church has a non-negligible part.
The real moment of crisis between a gay boy and the Church occurs when the boy comes to discover that the Church demands total chastity from him [art. 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”]. In other words, a homosexual to remain in the Church must radically deny what he is because the Church considers homosexuality “serious depravity”, “fatal consequence of a rejection of God”, “lack of normal sexual evolution”, “pathological constitution”, “intrinsically bad behavior from the moral point of view” (see the link cited).
Gay guys and Catholic Church: possible options
Which options are possible for a gay? He may or may try to repress himself totally to conform to what the Church asks of him, with long-term destructive results, or play on an infinite series of false repentances and relapses as in the case of masturbation, or he may stop trying to reconcile what by definition it is irreconcilable. Often the boys try the first road, they feel it impassable, they reject the hypocrisy of the second and finally they reach the third, with the definitive removal of the Church and with the definitive overcoming of guilt feelings.
I conclude this chapter by addressing a very delicate topic that has repeatedly created doubts and perplexities in gay guys, I refer to the so-called “reparative therapies”. On December 23, 2007, a long article by Davide Varì appeared on “Liberazione”: “The story of a reporter who for months attended a course organized by an ultra-Catholic group” “I told him:” I’m gay “. They replied: “Your disease is a mild disease, we can treat it well …” “” Are you gay? Come to us, we’ll take care of you “” Diary of six months in therapy … “” “The road to my presumed salvation begins with a meeting to define times and ways of my entry into a therapeutic group to recover from homosexuality” ” “The story of a reporter infiltrated for months a course organized by an ultra-Catholic group”. Below is a link to the text of the article, now almost unobtainable but extremely interesting:
In this article, the author doesn’t speak in the abstract of reparative therapies but tells in detail his experience. Pretending to be homosexual, is put in contact by a priest with prof. Tonino Cantelmi, president and founder of the Italian Association of Catholic Psychologists and Psychiatrists and professor of psychology at the Gregorian University, which starts him with a reparative therapy for homosexuality. The article doesn’t stop, however, to describe the practical experience of the journalist in contact with the team of Prof. Cantelmi, but goes in search of the roots of reparative therapies by analyzing the contents of the book “Beyond homosexuality” by Joseph Nicolosi who is commonly considered the father of reparative therapies of homosexuality.
World health organization and reparative therapies
To avoid sterile polemics and to give a clear and authoritative answer to the supporters of these therapies, I report below, a fundamental document of the World Health Organization [https://www.paho.org/hq/dmdocuments /2012/Conversion-Therapies-EN.pdf] where some points of extreme importance for homosexual persons are synthesized. This document of the highest scientific level is the synthesis of the work of thousands of specialists in all parts of the world. I invite you to observe how the contents of this document accurately reflect what Gay Project has always supported. I believe that there is no need to compare this document with other well-known documents of confessional origin.
Pan American Health Organization
Regional Office of the
World Health Organization
“CURES” FOR AN ILLNESS THAT DOES NOT EXIST
Purported therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation
lack medical justification and are ethically unacceptable
Countless human beings live their lives surrounded by rejection, maltreatment, and violence for being perceived as “different.” Among them, millions are victims of attitudes of mistrust, disdain and hatred because of their sexual orientation. These expressions of homophobia are based on intolerance resulting from blind fanaticism as well as pseudoscientific views that regard non-heterosexual and non-procreative sexual behavior as “deviation” or the result of a “developmental defect.”
Whatever its origins and manifestations, any form of homophobia has negative effects on the affected people, their families and friends, and society at large. There is an abundance of accounts and testimonies of suffering; feelings of guilt and shame; social exclusion; threats and injuries; and persons who have been brutalized and tortured to the point of causing injuries, permanent scars and even death. As a consequence, homophobia represents a public health problem that needs to be addressed energetically.
While every expression of homophobia is regrettable, harms caused by health professionals as a result of ignorance, prejudice, or intolerance are absolutely unacceptable and must be avoided by all means. Not only is it fundamentally important that every person who uses health services be treated with dignity and respect; it is also critical to prevent the application of theories and models that view homosexuality as a “deviation” or a choice that can be modified through “will power” or supposed “therapeutic support”.
In several countries of the Americas, there has been evidence of the continued promotion, through supposed “clinics” or individual “therapists,” of services aimed at “curing” non-heterosexual orientation, an approach known as “reparative” or “conversion therapy.”(1) Worryingly, these services are often provided not just outside the sphere of public attention but in a clandestine manner. From the perspective of professional ethics and human rights protected by regional and universal treaties and conventions such as the American Convention on Human Rights and its Additional Protocol (“Protocol of San Salvador”) (2) , they represent unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to corresponding sanctions.
Homosexuality as a natural and non-pathological variation
Efforts aimed at changing non-heterosexual sexual orientations lack medical justification since homosexuality cannot be considered a pathological condition.(3) There is a professional consensus that homosexuality represents a natural variation of human sexuality without any intrinsically harmful effect on the health of those concerned or those close to them. In none of its individual manifestations does homosexuality constitute a disorder or an illness, and therefore it requires no cure. For this reason homosexuality was removed from the relevant systems of classification of diseases several decades ago.(4)
The ineffectiveness and harmfulness of “conversion therapies”
Besides the lack of medical indication, there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of sexual reorientation efforts. While some persons manage to limit the expression of their sexual orientation in terms of conduct, the orientation itself generally appears as an integral personal characteristic that cannot be changed. At the same time, testimonies abound about harms to mental and physical health resulting from the repression of a person’s sexual orientation. In 2009, the American Psychological Association conducted a review of 83 cases of people who had been subject to “conversion” interventions.(5) Not only was it impossible to demonstrate changes in subjects’ sexual orientation, in addition the study found that the intention to change sexual orientation was linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia, feelings of guilt and shame, and even suicidal ideation and behaviors. In light of this evidence, suggesting to patients that they suffer from a “defect” and that they ought to change constitutes a violation of the first principle of medical ethics: “first, do no harm.” It affects the right to personal integrity as well as the right to health, especially in its psychological and moral dimensions.
Reported violations of personal integrity and other human rights
As an aggravating factor, “conversion therapies” have to be considered threats to the right to personal autonomy and to personal integrity. There are several testimonies from adolescents who have been subject to “reparative” interventions against their will, many times at their families’ initiative. In some cases, the victims were interned and deprived of their liberty, sometimes to the extent of being kept in isolation during several months.(6) The testimonies provide accounts of degrading treatment, extreme humiliation, physical violence, aversive conditioning through electric shock or emetic substances, and even sexual harassment and attempts of “reparative rape,” especially in the case of lesbian women. Such interventions violate the dignity and human rights of the affected persons, independently of the fact that their “therapeutic” effect is nil or even counterproductive. In these cases, the right to health has not been protected as demanded by the regional and international obligations established through the Protocol of San Salvador and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
Health professionals who offer “reparative therapies” align themselves with social prejudices and reflect a stark ignorance in matters of sexuality and sexual health. Contrary to what many people believe or assume, there is no reason – with the exception of the stigma resulting from those very prejudices – why homosexual persons should be unable to enjoy a full and satisfying life. The task of health professionals is to not cause harm and to offer support to patients to alleviate their complaints and problems, not to make these more severe. A therapist who classifies non-heterosexual patients as “deviant” not only offends them but also contributes to the aggravation of their problems. “Reparative” or “conversion therapies” have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons. They constitute unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions and penalties.
– Homophobic ill-treatment on the part of health professionals or other members of health care teams violates human rights obligations established through universal and regional treaties. Such treatment is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
– “Reparative” or “conversion therapies” and the clinics offering them should be reported and subject to adequate sanctions.
– Institutions offering such “treatment” at the margin of the health sector should be viewed as infringing the right to health by assuming a role properly pertaining to the health sector and by causing harm to individual and community well-being.(7)
– Victims of homophobic ill-treatment must be treated in accordance with protocols that support them in the recovery of their dignity and self-esteem. This includes providing them treatment for physical and emotional harm and protecting their human rights, especially the right to life, personal integrity, health, and equality before the law.
To academic institutions:
– Public institutions responsible for training health professionals should include courses on human sexuality and sexual health in their curricula, with a particular focus on respect for diversity and the elimination of attitudes of pathologization, rejection, and hate toward non-heterosexual persons. The participation of the latter in teaching activities contributes to the development of positive role models and to the elimination of common stereotypes about non-heterosexual communities and persons.
– The formation of support groups among faculty and within the student community contributes to reducing isolation and promoting solidarity and relationships of friendship and respect between members of these groups. Better still is the formation of sexual diversity alliances that include heterosexual persons.
– Homophobic harassment or maltreatment on the part of members of the faculty or students is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
To professional associations:
– Professional associations should disseminate documents and resolutions by national and international institutions and agencies that call for the de-psychopathologization of sexual diversity and the prevention of interventions aimed at changing sexual orientation.
– Professional associations should adopt clear and defined positions regarding the protection of human dignity and should define necessary actions for the prevention and control of homophobia as a public health problem that negatively impacts the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
– The application of so-called “reparative” or “conversion therapies” should be considered fraudulent and as violating the basic principles of medical ethics. Individuals or institutions offering these treatments should be subject to adequate sanctions.
To the media:
– The representation of non-heterosexual groups, populations, or individuals in the media should be based on personal respect, avoiding stereotypes or humor based on mockery, ill-treatment, or violations of dignity or individual or collective well-being.
– Homophobia, in any of its manifestations and expressed by any person, should be exposed as a public health problem and a threat to human dignity and human rights.
– The use of positive images of non-heterosexual persons or groups, far from promoting homosexuality (in virtue of the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed), contributes to creating a more humane and diversity-friendly outlook, dispelling unfounded fears and promoting feelings of solidarity.
– Publicity that incites homophobic intolerance should be denounced for contributing to the aggravation of a public health problem and threats to the right to life, particularly as it contributes to chronic emotional suffering, physical violence, and hate crimes.
– Advertising by “therapists,” “care centers,” or any other agent offering services aimed at changing sexual orientation should be considered illegal and should be reported to the relevant authorities.
To civil society organizations:
– Civil society organizations can develop mechanisms of civil vigilance to detect violations of the human rights of non-heterosexual persons and report them to the relevant authorities. They can also help to identify and report persons and institutions involved in the administration of so-called “reparative” or “conversion therapies.”
– Existing or emerging self-help groups of relatives or friends of non-heterosexual persons can facilitate the connection to health and social services with the goal of protecting the physical and emotional integrity of illtreated individuals, in addition to reporting abuse and violence.
– Fostering respectful daily interactions between persons of different sexual orientations is enriching for everyone and promotes harmonic, constructive, salutary, and peaceful ways of living together.
2 The human rights that can be affected by these practices include, among others, the right to life, to personal integrity, to privacy, to equality before the law, to personal liberty, to health, and to benefit from scientific progress.
4 World Health Organization (1994). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (10th Revision). Geneva, Switzerland. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC.
7 See General Comment No. 14 by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights with regards to the obligation to respect, protect and comply with human rights obligations on the part of States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.