In February 2009, Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal released “Ex-Gay and the Law,” a publication which educates persons harmed by ex-gay programs about their legal options. The two organizations requested that anyone who has been harmed by an “ex- gay” program or any other form of anti-lgbt discrimination to contact Lambda Legal’s help desk.
Father Marty Kurylowicz responded, and has given permission for his response to be reprinted below.
I wrote a letter in response to their request in February 2009. My hope was that it might help to shine the light of truth on how extensive this kind harm is in peoples’ lives beginning as far back as their early childhood years growing up. I have revised the letter I wrote because I realized rereading the original letter, how it is unconsciously so easy to get caught up in reliving the magnitude of the never-ending number of harmful events experienced in a lifetime. It makes it difficult to write clearly, because the powerful memories are distracting. Writing such a letter is in effect a re-experiencing of the pain and trauma that began in early childhood and remained constant throughout a person’s life. It is not an easy letter to write because there is too much pain and anger, especially knowing full well, now, as an adult that none of this kind of harm had to ever happen. The fault of this harm is directly related to the Vatican’ antigay teachings. It is criminal, a crime against humanity that the Vatican is allowed to continue to promulgate these harmful teachings in light of the overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary. It is just as absurd, as insisting that the sun revolves around the earth or the use of leeches is a valid medieval medical practice for today.
It is not like jaywalking, which is a civil traffic offense. To be a homosexual according to the Vatican is grievous sin against God. The fine is a lot stiffer with God than with a civil traffic violation for jaywalking. And for a child who is growing up gay even in the best of families, but who is subjected explicitly or implicitly or both to Vatican’ antigay teachings is indeed overwhelming for that child. Because sexual orientation is a part of a person just like breathing or a heart beating, it functions continuously. Any attempt to stop a person from breathing or a heart from beating is clearly understood will cause serious life threatening effects to that person. A child’ individual sexual orientation is not about an adult’ understanding or fantasies of sexual behavior. A child’ sexual orientation is about the most basic fundamental part of being human; the need to bond with another human being, to feel one with another and nothing more.
The trauma is more understandable if we think of sexual orientation functioning in the same way as breathing that is it is automatic and continuous and that any attempt to stop it endangers a person’ life. In the following paragraph below, for the purpose of demonstrating the seriousness of the kind of harm caused to a child growing up gay, we will substitute the word “breathing” for the word “sexual orientation.” This a generalization and not meant to be a description for all LGBT people growing up. It is however, to some degree similar to my own experience.
No one thinks twice when he or she hears a very young child who is a boy say out aloud “I want to marry my mom!” It is endearing and cute and no adult would act negatively towards this child. But the same is not true for a boy child at the same age who says out aloud “I want marry my dad!” The adults, even if they do not react at all, this boy child is likely to be overwhelmed by their silence, even traumatized. He learns that something he is doing is seriously wrong. Something about wanting to be with my dad, to be close to him, to never be separated from him is seriously wrong. The child will be in the state of confusion and pain; he doesn’t know what is wrong. However, in effect, he is unknowingly being taught how to stop breathing, which is impossible to do, but this child will make every attempt constantly do it for fear of being abandoned altogether, by his parents for which his very life depends on. These are real fears and threats to a very young child. This is where the harm begins for a very young child who grows up to be gay raised under the influence of antigay teachings of the Vatican. Because this child will continuously attempt to stop breathing and what is more, he will be praised by his parents and others for trying to seriously harm himself, putting his life at risk. This child will be praised for being depressed, alone and detached from any human being. This is a very painful life existence, which is what is prescribed by the Vatican’ antigay teachings. It has no future hope of ever being one with another but to be always isolated and alone, an inhuman existence. It is criminal to allow this type of inhuman behavior to continue, which sanctioned by the Vatican that harms everyone but most especially very young children.
A revision of the letter, February 2009 that I sent to Wayne Besen of TruthWinsOut.org and Lambda Legal:
After 47 years of Catholic upbringing, schooling, seminary training, and finally priesthood, in 1997 I felt morally obligated to come out to my congregation for the sake of children as young as 4 or 5 years of age who grow up to be gay and are harmed by anti-gay religious norms. Now, 12 years after my coming out and 50 years from the first time I realized I was different, I can see from factual data how much harm has been done. Throughout my life, I have studied theology, scripture, morality, and clinical psychology. I was brought up in a family whose way of life was centered on helping people, sharing life through good times and bad, and particularly caring about children. Children were always important. When I grew up and became a priest, I brought to my life work an attitude of caring for children, which I expressed by conveying to people that children are our future, and we need to invest time and money into their development. Among other projects, I was responsible for major construction of a parish religious education building with classrooms for children from preschool through 12th grade. I made sure that the teachers were fully qualified, certified, and amply paid, at least 4 times the usual rate for their services. I wanted to pay them well because I valued their knowledge and skilled work with children.
When I came out, I paid the price. At that time, 1997, the Vatican’s authorities denied my request to use my earned sabbatical leave to study psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor on the grounds that it was a secular school. Instead, I was told that a sabbatical would be put together for me, which was to be a program to re-educate me on sexual orientation. I did not need to be re-educated on sexual orientation. I have documented records from my psychotherapy sessions that prove that it was my faithful belief in the Vatican’s teachings on homosexuality was the reason I had entered into psychotherapy and what unduly to the extreme prolonged my time in psychotherapy. Because I declined to submit to this type of re-education that I knew factually and from experience would be extremely harmful, I was denied my earned sabbatical leave, including the educational funding. Presently, I hold a license from the State of Michigan to practice as a clinical psychologist and I am well aware of the harmful effects of the Vatican’s antigay teachings has on children who grow up to be gay and the disruptive effects it has on them throughout their adult lives.
All my life beginning as a child, in everything I did, I lived according to the Church’s teachings. I followed rules, the catechism, canon law, civil law, and at one time even took steps to join the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (the Trappists). When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, he immediately started speaking publicly against gay priests in the Church. Benedict XVI tried to shift the blame for the sex abuse scandals on them, and finally removed all openly gay priests from active priesthood. The Vatican’s method for removing gay priests is camouflaged, under layers of deceit, as they before God will not be able to deny. They used the same kind of deceitful practices that is now well known globally that the Vatican used for decades covering up their criminal behavior of not protecting children. The Vatican assumed immunity from civil law being above the law. Ironically, after a life long faithful service to the Catholic faith, I now find myself in the predicament of being suspended from my active duties as a priest. All this because I stood up for the protection of children.
My purpose in writing is to document the years of psychological harm done to me, which began when I was a very young child growing up gay and believing with a child like faith all the Vatican’ teachings condemning homosexuality as evil and deserving of the fires of hell. In the 1970′, in my early 20′ on my own, I sought out professional psychological help. However, at the time I was unaware that my psychological problem was directly the cause of my continual trust and belief that the Vatican’ condemnation of homosexuality was true. My problem was compounded further by the fact that I sought out psychological treatment from only Catholic agencies, which of course were equally faithful to the Vatican’ teachings condemning homosexuality.
Today this kind of Catholic psychological treatment would be classified as “reparative therapy’. The American Psychiatric Association has stated, “The potential risks of “reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self destructive behavior.” This type of Catholic “reparative therapy,’ went on for nearly a number of years, and I had little improvement and at a tremendous cost in money and time wasted. It was not until 1997, after several years of concentrated studies in psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and attending related conferences that I learned that children, who grow up to be gay, realize at 4 and 5 years of age that they are different. From documented research this feeling “different” has been identified as an awareness of their sexual orientation. It was at this time that I fully realize how harmful and costly the Vatican’ antigay teachings were for me beginning as a child and that lasted throughout my adult life to age 47 years old. All this is clinically documented from my years in Catholic psychotherapy treatment. I realized that no child should ever have to go through what I did. I felt the moral obligation to speak up to help stop this kind of child abuse that is being perpetuated by the Vatican’ antigay teachings. I spoke up by “coming out” publicly as a gay priest with the hope of drawing public attention to this kind of harm happening to children.
Secondly, my purpose in writing is to let you know about the anti-gay discrimination that I have encountered after I came out by the Vatican, particularly from Pope Benedict XVI and his appointed officials. The Vatican has no remorse for the years of psychological harm or willingness to make restitution for the 47 years of psychological harm they have caused me and to the multitudes of other people who have suffered as I did. However, most importantly they are unwilling to consider the harm they are perpetuating against very young children who grow up to be gay. The Vatican continues to choose to remain blind to the overwhelming amount of research and documentation that is forthcoming from the national and international medical and mental health professional associations and organizations regarding sexual orientation and children.
There is no response forthcoming from the Vatican to acknowledge their harm they are causing to children who grow up to be gay. It is the same way the Vatican ignored the victims of sexual child abuse globally for decades. It is this blatant disregard by the Vatican regarding the safety of humanity, most especially for very young children that Jesus so clearly and sternly warned against. It creates an innate response in many people to want to do everything to protect children. Jesus gave a strong sentence to such people who harm children, as found in Matt 18:5-6. It is most unfortunate that the only way that seems to get the Vatican’ attention is by the threat of class action lawsuits for their negligence in their primary responsibility to protect children. The Vatican remains resistant to any open dialogue about human sexuality. The Vatican wants everyone to be silent, silence those who speak up and let the harmful abuse to children continue without end, as they have done in the past.
There are no civil laws to protect priests who would speak out publicly to protect children. This is a way that the Vatican is able to keep silent the priests and religious in the Catholic Church who would speak out about the harm caused to children. This is a tragedy because; it kills any incentive for other priests to come out to speak the truth. It allows the Vatican to perpetuate harmful practices, because it eliminates the necessary checks and balances that are required in any human organization to function effectively and properly. Such checks and balances would have made a significant difference in the number sexual abuse cases in the Church from ever even happening. I am a whistleblower for innocent children. I stood up against the harm caused to children who grow up in social environments influenced by antigay norms and fear. I am being mistreated by the Vatican because I did so, which I prefer rather than living with the knowledge that I did absolutely nothing to protect the lives of innocent children, who are defenseless, and unable to protect themselves.
Fr. Marty Kurylowicz