The Church should have asked for forgiveness in the name of its members, including priests, who recommended or practised conversion therapy, an LGBT organisation is insisting.

“We expected that the Church would sympathise with all LGBTIQ people who had to go through conversion therapies and ask for forgiveness... At no point was there any indication of concern towards the pain of such people or their families,” Drachma said in its reaction to the Church’s position paper on conversion therapy.

Drachma is arguing that the Church should have communicated with the LGBTIQ community about this “delicate subject”, and the group of experts com-missioned to write the paper should have included people living this reality.

On Saturday, a Church committee published a paper on the proposed legislation criminalising the controversial therapy.

The paper, drafted by a team of experts including former European Human Rights Court judge Giovanni Bonello and law faculty dean Kevin Aquilina, concluded that the anti-gay-conversion Bill violated human rights because it afforded homosexuality superior status over heterosexuality.

Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Group drew up 15 points in response.

While the group expected the paper to state that no sexual orientation was a disorder or illness, Drachma did not expect the document to say that the law could be a deterrent on anyone who sought therapy to change their sexual identity or orientation.

“On the contrary, we expected the Church to educate the public by explaining that one’s sexual orientation should not need to be changed.”

Drachma insisted that one’s sexual orientation could never be modified and asked: “Why does the Church offer false hopes, giving the impression that it is defending the promotion of conversion therapies?

At no point was there any indication of concern towards the pain of such people or their families

“It is actually for religious and spiritual reasons that conversion therapy should not be practised, since sexual orientation and gender identity are a gift from God, and any form of therapy should encourage a person to embrace with serenity this God-given gift.”

Another highly-contested issue in the paper is paedophilia, referred to in the paper as an example of a “grey area”.

It was surprising how a board of experts, which included a psychologist, was not capable of differentiating between paedophilia and homosexuality, which were “totally unrelated”, Drachma noted.

Meanwhile, the example quoted with reference to married bisexual people clearly showed a lack of understanding of the reality, confirming that the board would have benefitted extensively by including in it LGBTIQ representatives, the group added.

On this issue, the Malta Gay Rights Movement said that implying that bisexual people entered into extramarital relationships because of their sexual orientation denoted a “serious prejudice” and a “deep level of ignorance” that could have negative repercussions in clinical and counselling interventions.

Referring to claims in the position paper that the Bill ties the hands of professionals, MGRM said all professions were to some extent restricted.

“We restrict medical professionals from carrying out euthanasia, even where the patient so wishes and where professionals believe this might be in the best interest of their patient.

“The current discussion on reproductive rights and review of the Embryo Protection Act is another example of the Church’s inconsistency with regards to professional autonomy being constrained through legislation and where medical practitioners are criminally liable.”

The Church paper has led to criticism from several sectors, including the Nationalist Party’s youth branch MŻPN, which strongly condemned “any attempts to equate homosexuality to a sickness or illness that needs healing”.​

MŻPN said it stood by the LGBTIQ community “with an apolitical sense of responsibility and pride”.

Forum Żgħazagħ Laburisti also expressed concern, noting it strongly believed that sexual orientation could never be considered an illness that could be cured through medical, psychiatric or religious means.

It urged the Church to reconsider its position and understand the repercussions of this document on the LGBTIQ community.

Meanwhile, the PN said that as with all other Bills, it would be discussing this Bill within the Parliamentary Group.

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