Conversion practices cause harm and suffering NZ bishops say

NZ Catholic

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference says evidence shows that engaging in conversion practices causes people harm and suffering.

The bishop’s conference made the comment in a submission to Parliament’s Justice Committee on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill.

“Any harmful, coercive or abusive practice under any name is abhorrent to the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the statement says.

While ‘in general’ they support the Bill, the bishops stopped short in giving it their full support, cautioning that parents and advisers to young people should not be restricted in giving advice for fear of breaking the law.

The bill seeks to ban conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is in line with the Catholic social teaching principles of human dignity and the common good, the bishops say.

“The Catholic Church in Aotearoa NZ does not support, provide or participate in any kind of ‘conversion therapy’, by which we understand to be any programme that seeks by medical, psychological and/or spiritual means to ‘convert’ people from a homosexual or transgender orientation or identification towards a heterosexual one,” their submission says.

Bishop Stephen Lowe and National Centre for Religious Studies resource developer and lecturer Lyn Smith spoke to the Justice Committee by Zoom (see image) on behalf of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.

Smith told the committee that Catholic teaching was pastoral and promoted the dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God.

“Children and young people seek out those in their lives they feel comfortable talking to when it comes to matters regarding sexuality,” she said.

“The Church’s pastoral approach to this area, especially under the guidance of Pope Francis and our bishops here in New Zealand, means that staff in Catholic education need to feel safe in continuing to provide this vital support to children and young people without the risk of or fear of prosecution.”

Lowe told the committee that “conversion therapy” did not respect a young person’s sacred journey from childhood to adulthood, and that was why the Catholic Church supported the legislation.

“At the same time, I would like to say… that I am concerned that there are many influences that our society is putting on our rangatahi which are sexualising them far too young and encouraging them to make big decisions before they have adequately come to adulthood,” he said.


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