Priest hits out at Church’s ‘nonsensical’ doctrine on homosexuality

Malta Gay Rights movement coordinator says Church still favours heterosexualty over homosexuality, backs full marriage equality

The Catholic Church’s doctrine on homosexuality is “nonsensical” and its stance against the proposed criminalisation of gay conversion therapy is flawed, Fr Rene Camilleri said.

“The Catholic Church’s doctrine still refers to homosexuality in terms of it being an illness or a disorder,” Camilleri said during an interview aired on Monday night’s edition of Reporter. “Speaking like that in today’s society is simply nonsensical.”

Camilleri, the head of the Curia’s secretariat for catechesis, criticised the Maltese Church’s recent controversial position paper that took a stance against a Bill to criminalise LGBT conversion ‘therapy’.

“The Church has long been accustomed to keeping silent on major national issues, but [Archbishop] Charles Scicluna’s strategy is to request position papers on such issues so that the Church can take a stance.

“My objection to this position paper is that it seems as though the Church still believes that it is possible to convert homosexuals, which is unacceptable to me.”

The outspoken priest, who has in the past backed the rights of homosexual couples to adopt children, threw his weight behind the government’s Bill, arguing that “we cannot accept the presence of gay conversion therapy on the market in this day and age.”

He added that the Church’s “technical” position paper left a lot of room for misinterpretation, such as when it claimed that criminalising conversion therapy would “make it a crime to assist paedophiles whose condition is manifested in same-sex behaviour”.

“I have my doubts as to the paper’s intended target audience, but if it was addressed to the general public, then mentioning paedophilia in such a delicate topic was always going to leave room for misinterpretation.”

‘Clear that Church still favours heterosexuality – MGRM coordinator

As the main guest on the programme, Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Calleja said that the Church’s position paper indicates that it still favours heterosexuality over homosexuality.

“The Church’s stance on homosexuality hasn’t changed, and it still considers it to be an intrinsic disorder or even intrinsically evil,” she told host Saviour Balzan. “Yet the very notion that a person’s sexual orientation is a quality that can and should be changed goes against the experience of several LGBTI people who weren’t converted, but rather grew to recognize their sexual orientation.”

She argued that the Bill will not stop pastors or priests from attempting conversion therapy on consenting adults, but will rather prohibit professionals – such as doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists – from doing so.

“We believe that professionals should have clear ethical guidelines, and they should not be allowed to work on the principle that therapy can change somebody’s sexuality.”

When asked, Calleja said that the MGRM’s next three lobbying challenges would be for full marriage equality, for the revision of the Embryo Protection Act, and for the extension of the Equality Act.

However, while she hailed relevantly recent legislation on civil unions and gender identity rights, she warned that society is not yet truly conducive to LGBTI people.

“Some people still find it difficult to come out, due to resistance from peers and family, and the word ‘pufta’ is still used as an insult in schools,” she said. “Getting laws passed in Parliament is one thing, but implementing it in practice is another thing altogether.”