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Catholic program on gays in Santa Rosa draws criticism

  • Rev. Robert Vasa, the new Coadjuctor Bishop of Santa Rosa, closes his eyes in prayer during a mass for his reception at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, March 6, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A former gay-porn actor who says his Catholic faith saved him from a world of pornography, homosexuality and the occult is scheduled to make a presentation today in Santa Rosa to a religious group called Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to people with same-sex attractions.

The program, which will be held at the Faith Room of the Parish Life Center at St. Eugene's Cathedral, will feature Joseph Sciambra, an author and missionary who has said, among other things, that "gay identity is tantamount to imprisonment of the soul within the disorder" and that anal sex releases "into the world these rare demonic entities."

The planned presentation has raised concerns among some local Catholics that the Santa Rosa diocese is sanctioning religious tactics that harken back to the days of reparative therapy, aimed at changing people's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

The presentation comes amid a focus by Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa on traditional Catholic teachings about homosexuality, birth control and abortion.

Vasa said Thursday that Catholic doctrine is clear on one point: homosexual behavior is sinful.

"The proper ordering of the sexual faculty is toward procreation," he said.

Whenever people use the "sexual faculty" in ways that are not aligned with this order, "even in a vague kind of way, then we would say it's not properly ordered, it's out of order."

Vasa's strict interpretation of long-held Catholic doctrine has upset some parishioners in his generally liberal diocese, which has 165,000 members and extends north to the Oregon border. The bishop has acknowledged a need for church leaders to become more "pastoral" in their work following comments by Pope Francis that have been widely seen as conciliatory toward gays.

Vasa said that Courage's teachings bear similarities to spiritual encouragement centered on chastity that is given to teens.

Other diocese officials dispute that the local Courage ministry resembles reparative therapy. They say the presentation, like regular Courage meetings, is aimed at offering prayerful support to those with homosexual inclinations.


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