Catholic program on gays in Santa Rosa draws criticism
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.
"Courage does not do therapy. Therapy is left to the professionals," said John Collins, superintendent of Catholic education for the diocese.
Collins, who is the coordinator of the local Courage group, said the point of the presentation, as well as that of regular Courage meetings, is to give people spiritual encouragement that, among other things, "leads them away from homosexual behavior." That means helping them live chaste lives.
Those assurances do not assuage local Catholics and former Catholics who say the church is out of step with modern interpretations of their faith.
Bill Boorman, a 79-year-old gay Catholic who lives in Santa Rosa, said the church should accept that "homosexuality is a basic manifestation of human sexuality."
Boorman, a retired naval officer, said that he's long come to terms with his sexuality and that he feels compelled to live "as a full human being" who embraces others without judgment and who follows his conscience.
"I feel that as a homosexual man I have exactly the same responsibility as any other human being — to live a compassionate, responsible, caring existence. Living a moral life was foremost."
Though it is sanctioned by the local diocese, Courage is not an official ministry of the diocese, and the nearest chapter is in San Francisco. Collins said the group has met about 50times in the past seven years.