The establishment of a good relationship between the Church and the gay community is a process which, from time to time, hits problems.  But the path has to be walked together, in sincere dialogue, in a spirit of fraternal love and guided by prayerful discernment from both sides.

The reaction to the position paper written by a group of experts commissioned by the Church to guide her about the criminalization of conversion therapy showed how stormy this path can be.

This coming Sunday (28/02/16) I will comment on this reaction in my commentary in the Sunday Times of Malta.

In the meantime I received an email from someone who is very close both to the gay community and to the Church. Although I do not share all the views he expressed in his email I will publish it as a guest commentary as I think it is a valid contribution to the current debate. I think that it is essential for different parts of the same equation to respectfully listen to each other.

The views of my friend on the subject are the following:

1. The Church should not have pronounced itself on this subject. But if a decision to speak was taken than the Church should have clearly said that:

(a) Conversion therapy (forced or unforced) should be banned;

(b) Show solidarity with those who were forced to do this therapy;

(c) Ask forgiveness from who suffered in this way after undergoing the therapy at the suggestion of members or the church; worse still when it was administered by members of the Church.

2. The team working on the position paper should have included a member of the LGBTIQ community.

3. There should have been more than one psychologist on the team as different schools of psychology do have different points of views.

4. If one takes the advice of the Archbishop and reads the paper one could find parts which are objectionable.

Let us for example take paragraph 4: "In fact, however, the proposed legislation will affect persons who are not vulnerable and who out of their own free will will seek to have appropriate forms of therapy to change their own sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression"

The Church is saying that one could on one’s own free will undertake conversion therapy. But as conversion therapy is bad in itself this option should not be offered. Conversion therapy should be banned, period. This position of the Church betrays a mentality which considers homosexuality as a sickness.

5. In this paper the Church was not the voice of the victims of conversion therapy but of the professionals that conveniently kept silent and did not take any public position. The Church should not have spoken on their behalf.”

I think that there are several lessons that could be learned from what have happened and this does not apply only to the Church.

I hope that the dialogue between members of the team that penned the position paper and members of Drachma will help both sides to learn these lessons and to move forward on the path of mutual understanding and respect.

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