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Cardinal George urged to sit out 'ex-gay' conference
by Matt Simonette

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Cardinal Francis George is being urged to skip a conference this weekend they say will offer workshops on "reparative" gay therapy. Conference organizers say that's not the purpose of the event, but some participants have close ties to the so-called "ex-gay" movement and have advocated for therapy to "repair" sexuality.

The four-day "Courage" conference begins Thursday at University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. Its sponsor, the Norwalk, Conn.-based Catholic Aposolate Courage International, Inc., proclaims itself to be "a spiritual support system which would assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love," according to its website.

George is scheduled to give his mass Friday afternoon, just after a session led by Courage Exec. Dir. Fr. Paul Check and Dr. William Consiglio, who is author of the 1991 book "Homosexual No More - Practical Strategies for Christians Overcoming Homosexuality" and a founder of the Hamden, Conn.-based HOPE Ministries. Consiglio also for a time was a board member for the now-dissolved ex-gay organization Exodus International.

Another controversial participant is Dr. Timothy Lock, both a Courage board member and member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which is promoting his participation through their website. The Southern Poverty Law Center proclaimed NARTH to be the preeminent source of "junk science for the religious right — psychology that underpins the anti-gay movement's fervent opposition to equal rights and stigmatizes LGBT people as mentally sick."

Fr. Paul Scalia, the son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is also scheduled to appear. He serves as Chairman of Courage's Board of Directors.

In an email to Chicago Sun-Times July 23, George said, "Courage is an organization of homosexually-oriented Catholics who support one another in their quest for holiness as homosexuals. I haven't seen their program, but their literature speaks only of spirituality, not of therapy. When national Catholic organizations meet, the local Bishop is often asked to offer Mass for them. That's the only reason I'll be there. (It's called loving your neighbor.)"

The Washington, D.C.-based organization Faithful America, which describes itself as "an online community dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right and putting faith into action for social justice" has mounted an online petition calling for George to skip the conference. As of Wednesday morning, just over 13,000 people had signed the petition on their website.

Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network said that his group had no plans to protest the conference, mainly because of its relatively far-flung location from the city. He added Mundelein was likely chosen in the hopes to keeping the conference off many people's radars. "Despite everything, George is terrified of being labeled a bigot."

Rainbow Sash Movement will not be engaging in a public protest either, according to Exec. Dir. Joe Murray. The organization will instead try to "engage Cardinal George in the public media," he added.

In a statement, Murray asked the Cardinal to withdraw his support from Courage, which he said now goes further than just calling for LGBT Catholics to live out celibate lives—it's perpetuating the idea that homosexuality is a disorder that needs curing.

"Fr. Pat Lee, who is the moderator for the Archdiocese Gay and Lesbian Outreach Ministry, and Cardinal Francis George's adviser on gay issues, will understand this conference is now formalizing its ex-gay credentials with Courage," said the statement. "It is my hope that Lee will withdraw any formal support for this conference, and ask the Cardinal to withdraw his support (as well)."

In June, George refused Communion to Murray when he wore his rainbow sash to services commemorating the anniversary of AGLO.

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