Leaving ‘Pride’ Behind: Answering the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ Confusion

COMMENTARY: Focusing on the sojourners who have moved away from an LGBT identity is a scientifically, theologically and pastorally sound response.

Highlighting the people who have successfully journeyed away from an LGBT identity highlights the beauty of the ancient teachings of the Church.
Highlighting the people who have successfully journeyed away from an LGBT identity highlights the beauty of the ancient teachings of the Church. (photo: Shutterstock)

The Vatican’s release of the document Fiducia Supplicans late last year created massive confusion throughout the Catholic world. How should faithful Catholics respond to this document? And perhaps more importantly, how should we respond to the issues the document purports to address? 

After six months of observation and reflection, I would like to propose an answer. We should focus not on people who, for whatever combinations of reasons, seek to change the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts. Instead, we should focus on those persons who have journeyed away from an LGBT identity. These individuals embrace the Church’s teaching and have found that living according to the Church’s ancient and revered teaching enhances their lives. 

I recognize that paying attention to this group of people, colloquially called “ex-gays,” is not “politically correct.” This strategy is, however, scientifically, theologically and pastorally correct. Let me explain. 


Scientifically Correct 

“We must take account of modern advances in our understanding of homosexuality.” This vague phrase is frequently offered as justification for modifying the Church’s teachings, or at least the pastoral practice. Please note that we seldom hear anything more specific. 

That is because the best of modern science has found: 

· People are not “born gay.” 
· People can change their sexual orientations, defined as changing their patterns of thoughts, feelings, behaviors and self-understanding. In fact, by some estimates, (See Table 2 of this paper) there are more “ex-gays” than people who currently identify themselves as “gay.” 
· Therapy to assist people in the process of change is not intrinsically harmful. 
The people who have left “pride” behind are living testimonies to the truth of these scientific findings. 

So what remains of the claims that we have a new, improved modern understanding of sexuality? As far as I can tell, there’s nothing left but warmed-over Carl Rogers feel-good pop-psychology. 


Theologically Correct 

Highlighting the people who have successfully journeyed away from an LGBT identity highlights the beauty of the ancient teachings of the Church. Their lives refute the idea that expecting people to change is unrealistic or even cruel. 

These men and women are living happy, fulfilled lives in accordance with the plain teaching of the Gospel. Some are unmarried celibates. Others have been married to opposite-sex partners for decades and are raising children with them. 

Calling attention to their life choices highlights the fact that the Gospel is not so difficult that it is unobtainable. Welcoming these sojourners, and giving them a platform, treats people with respect without compromising the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. 


Pastorally Correct

“Pastoral” is another word that is thrown around without careful definition. I interpret “pastoral” this way: Yes, Jesus loves each of us, just the way we are. And he loves us too much to leave us the way we are. 

Think about it. Being my “true self” certainly ought to mean something different at age 30 than it meant at age 13 and, in turn, something different from my “true self” at age 70. A good friend, a good parent, a good pastor helps a person along that path. Telling a 14-year-old to “be yourself” is not necessarily helpful! Self-command over our sexual impulses and behaviors is absolutely a part of any journey of maturation. 

Highlighting the people who have left pride behind gives hope to those who still struggle with their identities. They can see that friendship and happiness are possible. They can see that it is possible to grow beyond compulsive thoughts and behaviors. They can see others who have addressed traumatic incidents in their past as well as toxic family environments. They can see the possibility of a more fulfilling identity in Christ, beyond whatever sexual identity they may have embraced. 

Evangelically Correct 

Finally, I would argue that focusing on ex-gay persons is evangelically correct. 

Skeptics may dismiss our collection of testimonies by saying, “All those ‘ex-gay’ people are Christians. They are all saying that Jesus changed them. These people are absolutely advocating ‘conversion therapy’ at its worst.” 

I understand why someone might say that. But consider this: None of these people experienced “aversion conversion therapy,” that is, therapy that uses pain to try to get rid of feelings. Such practices are already illegal, and, contrary to popular impression, these practices are not at stake in the debate over governmental bans on counseling. 

Rather, we’re talking about people who made the journey from “gay” to “straight” using a variety of tools. Some did use one-on-one counseling with a therapist they chose. Many participated in peer support groups that they could stop attending at any time. It is safe to say that most people who have achieved lasting change have taken advantage of some combination of professional help, peer support and spiritual disciplines. 

Opponents of the Church’s teaching and, by extension, many of the proponents of Fiducia Supplicans claim that meaningful, healthy change is not possible in principle. Yet the “ex-gays” we’ve interviewed have changed enough that they are, for all practical purposes, living heterosexual lives. 

I challenge those who are skeptical about the Church’s teachings to consider what makes this possible. If Jesus is nothing but our “imaginary friend,” how is it possible that numerous people have had encounters with Jesus that enable them to do something our critics claim is impossible in principle? I will leave this question for the skeptics to work out for themselves. 

The confusion in the Catholic Church generated by Fiducia Supplicans is not going away any time soon. I think the approach I am suggesting has the potential to cut through at least some of the confusion. The people who once embraced an LGBT identity and now organize their lives around different commitments are more numerous than you may think. Their lives can help us cut through the rhetoric. 

Besides, Our Lord is working through them. Highlighting their experiences has the potential to win souls for Christ. Isn’t that reason enough?


Jennifer Roback Morse is founder and president of the Ruth Institute. The organization’s report, “Refuting the Top 5 Gay Myths,” summarizes the research up through June 2023, on many of the points made in this article.