The Rev. James Livingston, a Catholic priest in the Twin Cities Archdiocese who leads a pro-chastity ministry, offers three options for gay and lesbian Minnesotans: be chaste, go through harmful ex-gay therapy, or go to Hell. That’s the gist of his column from yesterday’s Minnesota Star Tribute, “Some people can make the gay go away,” an attempt to correct a letter from an individual named Ron Bates who suggested otherwise. In his lie-ridden screed supporting the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Livingston suggests that “some people actually do” pray away the gay, while others “live lives of chastity and virtue by the grace of God.” With no psychological foundation or even a single example, he claims that “some people really do find developmental and environmental roots to their same-sex attractions” and “some find release from them through therapy” or “spiritual awakening.”
But Livingston doesn’t stop there. He makes it clear that being gay is a sin and a “weakness,” not unlike adultery, prison-worthy crimes, and alcohol addiction:
But what about the nerve root question that Bates addresses? What do you do when the “gay” just will not go away and your religious standards and traditions just seem to accuse, to point out what you can never do or be? Are the choices limited to either living in shame or just pitching the moral code out the window?
Many of us can relate in our own way. You were unfaithful and your spouse will not allow you to forget; you have a prison record that shows up every time you try to get a job; you have a weakness for alcohol or spending or food and your life is unmanageable.
Add your own weakness to the list. Regardless of how it got there, you want to move beyond it, but you can’t. Who among us is righteous and qualified to cast the first stone?
The problem with Catholic leaders like Livingston is that they are only concerned with their own beliefs about “spiritual” health, so they ignore and deny any research about what promotes psychological health if it compromises those beliefs. Contrary to his claims, nobody knows the exact roots of their own or anybody’s sexual orientation, but psychologists understand there to be a complex mix of genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation. The medical community agrees that any attempt to deny or repress one’s sexual orientation can cause psychological harm, but it is exactly that harm that Livingston advocates through his ministry.
Perhaps that is why the last line of his article may be his most offensive: “Minnesota citizens, you can support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions.” Trying to convince someone to hate who they are so you don’t feel guilty about voting against their rights isn’t really what “friends” do.