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The Real Nature of Catholic Reparative Therapy

“Distinguo”—that curious Latin term that reminds us that we need to make essential distinctions between and among similar concepts in order to fully understand them.

And now, with the untimely passing of reparative therapy pioneer Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, which in turn met with an inhumane “glad-you’re-dead” response from ‘gay’-affirming ideologues who refer to Nicolosi’s life’s work as “torture,” faithful Catholics absolutely must make some crucial distinctions.

First, we Catholics must be willing to affirm unswervingly that those experiencing same-sex attraction deserve more dignity than the label “gay” affords them and that the psychological sciences can indeed help many people experience some semblance of liberation from the attractions themselves and more readily lead a life of authentic chastity.

Next, we Catholics must be willing to acknowledge that, unlike the Catholic foundation of Dr. Nicolosi’s pioneering work, some approaches to reparative therapy that are not based on Catholic anthropology have significantly missed the mark because of a fatal flaw in their understanding of the human person. In fact, the garden-variety perceptions of so-called “conversion therapy” or the notions of “ex-gay” and “pray-away-the-gay” really arise from this issue.

Homosexual Inclination: Sin or Temptation to Sin?
The misunderstanding is a direct consequence of the Protestant Reformation, not surprisingly. The rejection of the true understanding of original sin and its effects led a number of early Protestant theologians to accept the notion of human nature’s “total depravity”—that the Fall so corrupted man that the very inclinations we experience that tempt us to sin are actually sinful in themselves.

Here is the major distinction Catholics need to make between the Catholic understanding of reparative therapy and the understanding espoused by at least some Protestant Christian reparative therapy supporters: The competent and informed therapist will ground therapy in the understanding that the homosexual inclination itself is not an instance of personal sin but is a temptation to sin. As such, the Christian’s goal of therapy will be shifted—the goal will not be to completely eliminate the erroneously perceived personal “sin” of having the inclination, by stopping the inclinations altogether. Rather, it will be to move the person toward a less-difficult pursuit of chastity despite whatever may remain of the inclination itself after therapy.

that reminds us that we need to make essential distinctions between and among similar concepts in order to fully understand them.

And now, with the untimely passing of reparative therapy pioneer Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, which in turn met with an inhumane “glad-you’re-dead” response from ‘gay’-affirming ideologues who refer to Nicolosi’s life’s work as “torture,” faithful Catholics absolutely must make some crucial distinctions.

First, we Catholics must be willing to affirm unswervingly that those experiencing same-sex attraction deserve more dignity than the label “gay” affords them and that the psychological sciences can indeed help many people experience some semblance of liberation from the attractions themselves and more readily lead a life of authentic chastity.

Next, we Catholics must be willing to acknowledge that, unlike the Catholic foundation of Dr. Nicolosi’s pioneering work, some approaches to reparative therapy that are not based on Catholic anthropology have significantly missed the mark because of a fatal flaw in their understanding of the human person. In fact, the garden-variety perceptions of so-called “conversion therapy” or the notions of “ex-gay” and “pray-away-the-gay” really arise from this issue.

Homosexual Inclination: Sin or Temptation to Sin?
The misunderstanding is a direct consequence of the Protestant Reformation, not surprisingly. The rejection of the true understanding of original sin and its effects led a number of early Protestant theologians to accept the notion of human nature’s “total depravity”—that the Fall so corrupted man that the very inclinations we experience that tempt us to sin are actually sinful in themselves.

Here is the major distinction Catholics need to make between the Catholic understanding of reparative therapy and the understanding espoused by at least some Protestant Christian reparative therapy supporters: The competent and informed therapist will ground therapy in the understanding that the homosexual inclination itself is not an instance of personal sin but is a temptation to sin. As such, the Christian’s goal of therapy will be shifted—the goal will not be to completely eliminate the erroneously perceived personal “sin” of having the inclination, by stopping the inclinations altogether. Rather, it will be to move the person toward a less-difficult pursuit of chastity despite whatever may remain of the inclination itself after therapy.

Read more at Crisis. 

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