Conversion practices cause harm and suffering NZ bishops say
Monday, September 27th, 2021
The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference says evidence shows that engaging in conversion practices causes people harm and suffering.
The bishop’s conference made the comment in a submission to Parliament’s Justice Committee on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill.
“Any harmful, coercive or abusive practice under any name is abhorrent to the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the statement says.
While ‘in general’ they support the Bill, the bishops stopped short in giving it their full support, cautioning that parents and advisers to young people should not be restricted in giving advice for fear of breaking the law.
The bill seeks to ban conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is in line with the Catholic social teaching principles of human dignity and the common good, the bishops say.
“The Catholic Church in Aotearoa NZ does not support, provide or participate in any kind of ‘conversion therapy’, by which we understand to be any programme that seeks by medical, psychological and/or spiritual means to ‘convert’ people from a homosexual or transgender orientation or identification towards a heterosexual one,” their submission says.
Bishop Stephen Lowe and National Centre for Religious Studies resource developer and lecturer Lyn Smith spoke to the Justice Committee by Zoom (see image) on behalf of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.
Smith told the committee that Catholic teaching was pastoral and promoted the dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God.
“Children and young people seek out those in their lives they feel comfortable talking to when it comes to matters regarding sexuality,” she said.
“The Church’s pastoral approach to this area, especially under the guidance of Pope Francis and our bishops here in New Zealand, means that staff in Catholic education need to feel safe in continuing to provide this vital support to children and young people without the risk of or fear of prosecution.”
Lowe told the committee that “conversion therapy” did not respect a young person’s sacred journey from childhood to adulthood, and that was why the Catholic Church supported the legislation.
“At the same time, I would like to say… that I am concerned that there are many influences that our society is putting on our rangatahi which are sexualising them far too young and encouraging them to make big decisions before they have adequately come to adulthood,” he said.
The New Zealand Government recently asked for submissions on their controversial Bill being introduced to Parliament with the intention to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy – a practice which seeks to change a person’s innate sexuality if they happen to be ‘Same-Sex Attracted’.
Homosexuality was once considered by most Christian Churches to be an aberrant behavioural choice choice consciously made by a person to indulge in sexual behaviours that were thought at one time to be contrary to the Biblical evidence on how gender identity was limited in both human beings and other forms of life to the binary model – either male or female. Scientific research has long contradicted that binary model, discovering that the biological makeup of Creation gives strong evidence of a broader spectrum of gender/sexuality that was once thought possible. Human beings are actually – though mostly conforming to the binary model (either male or female) – now seen to be privy to a whole range of gender/sexual responses, from extreme masculinity to extreme femininity or at different levels in between. This discovery has given rise to the acroymic description known as LGBTQI+. Although most people are either more masculine or more feminine in their sexual self-identification, there are those in all communities whose affections may be directed towards the same sex – or even bi-sexual in nature.
Most mainline Churches in Western countries have now come to the more scientifically supported modern understanding that people do not choose their innate sexual identity – which is now proven to be a ‘given’ rather than acquired characteristic. Therefore, to try to change a person’s given sexual orientation from intrininsic homosexuality to the more common heterosexuality is now considered – by reputable biological and social scientists – to be, not only unsatisfactory but also criminally abusive; especially when coercive psychiatric or chemical treatments are employed for that purpose.
Both the Maori and Pakeha Anglican Archbishops of Aotearoa/New Zealand have expessed our Church’s support for the proposed legislation, which would ban the use of ‘Conversion Therapy’ in our country, so it is salutary to learn that New Zealand’s Roman Catholic Bishops, also, support this most important social justice initiative.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand