The Catholic Church has upped the ante in its campaign against gay men and lesbians with an endorsed visit by an American psychologist and a Catholic priest who claim that homosexuality can be cured.

Dr Peter Rudegeair and Father John Harvey will speak at St Mary’s Cathedral Hall next Wednesday as guests of the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney. Harvey is the founder of Courage, a Catholic ministry promoting celibacy for people who struggle with homosexuality.

Gay activists have received a call to arms by Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM) spokesperson Michael Kelly, who told Sydney Star Observer that the public promotion of Courage should be taken very seriously.

Challenging this agenda, which is being promoted by George Pell and his right-wing friends in the Catholic Church, cannot simply depend on the Rainbow Sash Movement, Kelly said. The Catholic Church educates about a third of all youth in Sydney and its involvement in social welfare in hospitals, welfare organisations and youth organisations is almost unparalleled.

All gay people, all youth workers, psychologists, teachers, and mums and dads, all should be deeply concerned that the organisation headed by Rudegeair and Harvey is being promoted so enthusiastically and officially by the archdiocese of Sydney, Kelly said.

Kelly said that RSM groups in Melbourne and Sydney were still planning their response to the visits.

Although Rudegeair is promoted in the literature for next week’s seminar as a visiting American Clinical Psycho-logist, his published views are at odds with the official policy of the American Psychological Association (APA). The Association stopped defining homosexuality as an illness, mental disorder or an emotional problem 25 years ago but Rudegeair still claims it is a disorder which can be cured.

Harvey has endorsed similar views, writing in his book The Truth About Homosexuality that homosexuality is always immoral and that persons are able not only to be chaste but also in some instances to get out of the condition.

Rudegeair has been prominent in urging the American Catholic bishops to take a stronger stance on homosexuality as part of their response to the recent clergy child-abuse crisis.

In an open letter to Catholic bishops in July last year Rudegeair and two colleagues from the Catholic Medical Association wrote that same-sex attractions can be identified and healed, and that large numbers of people, including clergy, who had same-sex attractions are now substantially cured.

Although Rudegeair claims to base his views on scientific studies and clinical practice, the letter to bishops attributes same-sex attraction to factors as diverse as distant fathers and an inability to play sport.

We have seen many boys who suffered from distant father relationships, lacked hand-eye coordination and subsequently were subjected to humiliating teasing from peers because of their inability to play sports. These and other factors lead to feelings of male inadequacy and loneliness and later to homosexual attractions, the letter states.

Kelly told the Star that the RSM had clashed with Courage at a tour to Mel-bourne in 1998, when Courage literature included the assertion that gay activists are shock-troops in the culture of death.

This year’s Melbourne visit has been promoted throughout the parishes of Melbourne, according to Kelly. Father Claude Mostowik, the director of the Justice and Peace Centre at Erskineville, told the Star that advertisements for the Sydney workshop had been distributed to parish priests through the Sydney archdiocese in a general mail-out.

Despite repeated attempts by the Star to obtain comments from the Catholic Church, no comments were received at the time of going to print. Archbishop George Pell will endorse the event by his attendance at the talk at St Mary’s Cathedral Hall, as scheduled on the Catholic archdiocese website.

Rudegeair is also scheduled to speak on the pastoral care of the homosexual person at a workshop for priests organised by the Catholic Adult Education Centre.

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