Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, has condemned a programme by a Catholic group called Courage International that tries to teach LGBT+ people to suppress their sexual or gender identity. She described the group’s practices as “Machiavellian, dangerous and deliberately specious”.
Courage International believes in conversion therapy, a practice which aims to make gay people turn straight. The group also believes that being transgender is a “special psychological problem.”
In 2010, GCN journalist Cormac O’Brien went undercover and attended one of the Courage “support groups” in South County Dublin. O’Brien reported on the damaging path it was providing for LGBT youth. The Courage group is dedicated to living chaste homosexual lives in keeping with the dictates of the Catholic Church and, at the time of O’Brien’s reporting, had an advertisement in the Catholic freesheet, Alive!, looking for new members.
Upon meeting with one of the group leaders, O’Brien was given a book called Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexual Wounds by Richard Cohen which featured statements and unfounded statistics such as “Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than homosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least seven times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.” The author of the book is an unlicensed psychotherapist who had been ejected from the American Counselling Association for “ethical reasons”.
In the original article for GCN, O’Brien wrote “Courage accepts people indiscriminately into its ranks because of a concept of homosexuality as something intrinsically wrong. Its organisers don’t take the time to consider any of the myriad reasons why an individual might feel uncomfortable and unhappy with his or her sexual orientation.” O’Brien added that “Unhappiness, they said, was only rooted in acting on the homosexual impulse.”
Ms Mary McAleese recently said that the work of Courage International is homophobic and that the government has a responsibility to protect LGBT+ youth from the programme.
The former president has previously condemned conversion therapy, saying that it had done “untold damage” to men she had met. “I follow the coffins of young men who have gone through these bogus ‘conversion therapies’ thanks to the church,” she said.
In February 2018, the organisers of the ‘Why Women Matter’ conference, which Mary McAleese was attending, moved the event outside of the Vatican due to Cardinal Kevin Farrell’s objections to McAleese being an ally to the LGBT+ community.
Last year, Mr Michael Martin joined McAleese in condemning conversion therapy. He told The Times that conversion therapy should be banned. He said: “I think conversion therapy is absurd, that sort of thing should not be allowed anywhere. That would be an affront to people’s human dignity. It would be anathema to everything we stand for as a political party.”
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