Friday, November 15, 2013

Cardinal Spellman High School, Let's Talk!

 “These supposed conversion therapies constitute a violation of the ethical principles of health care and violate human rights that are protected by international and regional agreements....[Reparative therapies] lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.”
~The World Health Organization, May, 2012
November 15, 2013, the Bronx, NY: The new Bronx LGBTQ Center is deeply concerned after learning that Cardinal Spellman High School has invited Father Donald Timone to speak at its school about LGBTQ issues.

While we respect freedom of speech, we do not respect bullying and hate speech, especially when it negatively impacts the lives of at-risk teenagers. Fr. Timone's misinformed and unenlightened rhetoric adds to the toxic environment that drives so many LGBTQ youth to despair—and beyond.

"No educational institution should be so irresponsible as to invite someone whose entire approach to LGBTQ individuals is based on bad science. Exodus International, a Christian ministry that formerly advocated attempts to 'pray away the gay' (i.e. conversion therapy), recently disbanded after admitting that a person's sexual orientation cannot be changed and that reparative therapy is in fact harmful," Peter C. Frank, the Center's secretary stated.

Fr. Timone is affiliated with COURAGE, an organization that treats gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as addicts curable by participation in a 12-step program, instead of accepting and respecting them as the loving individuals they are. Courage's "free speech" promotes self-loathing among LGBTQ individuals and encourages others to hate LGBTQ people simply for being who they are, thus putting them at a greater risk of being bullied.

We strongly condemn the notion that being LGBTQ can be "treated" with 12-step programs or by any other method. Mr. Frank added, "Cardinal Spellman High School should instead, like Pope Francis's recent statements, be sending a message of love, inclusion, and acceptance.”

We join with LGBTQ spiritual leaders in calling for dialogue with Fr. Timone and the Archdiocese of New York, as these types of belief systems lead to violence and homelessness.

Rev. Carmen Hernandez
We at the Bronx LGBTQ Center want all youth to know that you are fine just as you are. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, whether you're straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. We accept and celebrate you for who you are," Rev. Carmen Hernandez, a board member of the Center, said.

"The Bronx LGBTQ Center is a safe space for all who are struggling with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. Our Youth Group meets at 4pm every Friday at Union Community Health Center, 260 East 188th Street, 5th Floor, the Bronx," Mr. Frank noted.

The Bronx LGBTQ Center is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization building a new community services center for LGBTQ and supportive individuals in the Bronx, lower Westchester, and upper Manhattan. It offers supportive services such as a free legal clinic, youth and women's groups, and social and recreational events. The Center is partnering with other community-based organizations to provide clinical and health-related services to the community. For more information, email, call 347-LGBT-BX1, or visit us online at, on Facebook at, on Twitter @BxLGBTQcenter and on Google+ .

Contact Peter C. Frank with questions: or call 914-417-9579.

# # #

[Updated November 17, 2013, 1:00 p.m. with the following:]

DignityUSA and Dignity-New York have released the following statement in support of our statement, above, regarding this issue:

Contacts: Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, 617-669-7810 (mobile) Jeff Stone, Director of Media Relations, 646-418-7039 (mobile)
Gay Catholics Urge Catholic High School in Bronx to Reconsider
Invitation to Speaker Who Regards Being Gay as Addiction

New York, NY. November 15, 2013.  Leaders of DignityUSA, the nation’s largest LGBT Catholic organization, and its New York City chapter strongly urge administrators at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx to reconsider their invitation to a representative of the organization Courage to speak to parents of students at the school on Tuesday, November 19.  Courage regards gay sexual orientation as an addictive disorder, and advises gay people to practice abstinence through a 12-step approach.
Jeff Stone, a spokesperson for the New York City chapter of Dignity, said, “We are very concerned that this speaker, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York, will give parents an incorrect and extremely damaging understanding of their children’s sexual orientation.  As all reputable science has shown, a gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a choice, and it is not a disorder.  Furthermore, it cannot be changed through any type of ‘ex-gay’ therapy, which has been condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, and has been banned by state law in New Jersey and California.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, added, “Courage is based on an approach that has led many people to experience shame and self-loathing, rather than a sense of themselves as loved and blessed by God.  Young people, and the parents they look to for guidance, who may be uninformed about LGBT issues, are especially vulnerable to such damaging misinformation.  Views such as those promoted by Courage contribute not only to anti-gay bullying, but to a high rate of suicide among LGBT youth.”
Duddy-Burke continued, “We have heard hundreds of stories from people who were either forced into so-called ‘ex-gay’ treatment, or who were led to believe life-long celibacy was the only course open to them.  To a person, these individuals describe this approach as resulting only in increased misery, shame, and self-loathing, often leading to substance abuse and attempted suicide.  They often report having to undergo years of more affirming therapy in order to come to a sense of acceptance of their identity.”

Stone commented, “Pope Francis has said about gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ Isn’t it time for the Catholic Church and its schools to leave behind outdated, discredited, and harmful approaches to human sexuality and actually listen to the experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people?”
# # #

[Updated November 18, 2013, 12:00 p.m. with the following:]


For immediate release


Arthur J. McGrath, President, 917-757-0459 (mobile)
Nancy Lorence, Secretary, 917-234-9397 (mobile)

Progressive Catholic Organization Objects to “Courage” Speaker for Cardinal Spellman High School Parents; Sites Adolescent Mental Health Concerns

New York, November 18, Calling for an inclusive Church, Call to Action Metro NY, the local chapter of Call to Action USA, a progressive Catholic organization, asks that Reverend Trevor Nicholls, President of Cardinal Spellman High School, reconsider the invitation to have Reverend Donald Timone speak on behalf of the Courage organization to the Spellman Parents Association. Courage calls for a life of chastity for those individuals with same sex attraction because the organization believes believes same sex attraction “inclination” is objectively disordered. The organization also supports members choosing to pursue counseling for conversion/reparative/ex-gay therapies, all of which have been discredited.

Art McGrath, President of Call to Action Metro NY, said, “This approach can be dangerous, particularly for vulnerable young people developing their personal and sexual identities. Four decades ago the medical scientific community classified same sex attraction as part of the spectrum of normal human sexual behavior.”

Presenting an educational program from an “expert” to vulnerable parents of vulnerable adolescents that recommends same sex chastity for life because of an “objectively disordered” inclination can be destructive to the parent-adolescent relationship, to the family system and to the mental health of the adolescent. Emerging sexual identity is a complex and sensitive topic that may require mental health specialists to provide the assistance and resources necessary to help families, parents and adolescents that may be struggling with emerging sexual identity.

Even though surveys demonstrate that most Catholics support same sex marriage, there remains in our society and Church strong strains of prejudice and bigotry against those who view themselves and their sexual identities in the same sex spectrum, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. Research has shown that young people are particularly vulnerable to these prejudices and can turn the societal and sometimes family prejudices against themselves into self-loathing and self-hatred. The dynamic can have serious consequences for a young person’s mental health. Struggling with sexual orientation adds to the normal risks factors for youth who attempt suicide. Internalized and external homophobia, alienation from family and friends can contribute in significant ways to suicidal thinking.

There is also confusion in the message of Courage, which Fr. Timone represents. Nancy Lorence, Secretary for CTA Metro NY, asks, “Is there a call for chastity for life for non-married heterosexuals? Are we calling for re-education of the 95% of Catholics that use birth control in clear violation of Humanae Vitae? Why are we picking on this small subset of Catholic adolescents and supporting techniques like conversion therapy that have long been discredited?”

We hope these contradictions and concerns about the mental health of adolescents will result in a re-consideration of the Fr. Timone talk on Tuesday, November 19th at 7.30pm. At the very least consideration should be given to creating a panel that evening that includes an alternate view about the stresses and challenges of emerging sexual identity to provide parents with the science and mental health facts about adolescent mental health and sexual identity.