Friday, August 31, 2007

Mexico: The church loves the gays but only if they stop having sex

Starting today and ending on Sunday, Courage Latino says that they will be coordinating a spiritual retreat for some eighty individuals in Leon, Mexico, to "re-orient" them away from same-sex attraction.

According to EFE, forty of the participants have attended similar retreats in the past and are back to strengthen their commitment to God.

For Juan Martinez, the priest who is organizing the event, homosexuality is "an accident of life" and homosexuals do not exist but, instead, are "men and women in a situation where they are attracted to the same sex."

He does admit that sexual attraction is difficult to change and that participation in the event may not result in changing someone's sexual orientation: "[The attraction] can remain for a long time," he says, "but sexual activity can be perfectly overcome."

"Oscar" who would only use a pseudonym and leads the Courage chapter in Mexico City, tells La Jornada that this is the 2nd year that the organization has been putting together these kind of retreats and that there has been eight of them so far in other cities such as Aguascalientes, Monterrey, Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Guadalajara - where as many as 200 people participated in the event.

Interviewed by AM in the streets of Leon, site of the retreat, a young gay man identified as Martin R. says he paid 700 pesos (about 63 US dollars) to register for the retreat but he seemed to have misinterpreted the call: "To be gay is no sin," he says, "Society itself has condemned us and the church itself used to do it. I think it's good to have these type of events where they can provide answers to the many concerns we have."

Others were not so sure this was a signal that the church had become accepting of gays. "I hope this event helps those who are suffering," said Fidel Negrete, to the AM reporter, "but I suspect this is an attempt to control the population through faith. It doesn't seem to me that there is a great willingness to help, since the retreat costs 700 pesos."

In a different AM article, Heber Sosa Beltran, who leads an organization that combats sexual violence in Leon, was more direct in his assessment: "The idea behind these types of retreats is to change a person's sexual orientation through the will of force. They call upon religion and therapeutic sciences, even if many of them are not valid as therapies."

"We do not suffer because we are homosexuals," ads Sosa Beltran, "we suffer due to rejection from our loved ones, friends, family members. Even though nowadays there is more family acceptance."

He stated that the practice of one's sexuality was a human right and that it was wrong for anyone to connect homosexuality to a host of social problems.

The original Courage, of course, was founded in the United States in 1980 and, at least according to Wikipedia, they had a hand in setting up the Mexican-based chapter. Of course, while they do not outright say that a person can change their sexual orientation, they believe celibacy is the way to spiritual well-being even though their claims and methods have no scientific basis.

For a fact-sheet on the reality of Courage's claims, please download this .pdf file (developed by The Catholic Action Network for Social Justice and made available through the Dignity USA website).

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