The Catholic Church has been told to act swiftly to shut down groups across Scotland that promote homosexual conversion therapy.
Priests have come under heavy criticism for their promotion and management of branches of Courage International, a Vatican-approved programme which campaigners claim has long-standing links to so-called ‘cure therapy’.
Since 2017 the church in Scotland has strengthened its connections to the programme, with half of Scotland’s eight dioceses and archdioceses now hosting meetings run by local priests.
Across Europe only Italy has more chapters of Courage than Scotland.
While Courage claims it does not officially endorse the use of conversion therapy by its branches, its teaching and insistence LGBT people must remain chaste falls within Stonewall’s definition of these conversion techniques.
Campaigners and politicians have said the church must act to end all links with Courage International.
Courage’s branches in Scotland launched almost three years ago after a UK tour by Courage director, Father Philip Bochanski.
The Diocese of Paisley was the first area of Scotland to launch a Courage chapter in late 2017, organised by Bishop John Keenan.
Bishop Keenan has travelled across the world for conferences linked to conversion therapy techniques, including with a delegation of young people from Scotland during a July 2019 trip to Courage International’s annual conference in the United States.
The former Glasgow University chaplain gave the closing speech at the gathering last year, where he said he had “admired Courage for decades”, before acting as the keynote speaker at an online conference run by Courage during lockdown in April.
Following the launch in Paisley, two groups – in Glasgow and the Diocese of Motherwell – were started by local priests in 2018 as part of a Scottish expansion.
Bishop Keenan’s successor as University of Glasgow chaplain, Father Ross Campbell, also set up his own Courage chapter in Scotland, before joining him on the journey to Courage’s conference in July 2019.
Father Campbell reportedly carries out his ministry off campus to avoid confrontations with LGBT campaigners. He says his work as Courage chaplain for the Archdiocese of Glasgow is done separately from his work as university chaplain.
A priest working with schools and youth groups in North Lanarkshire also continues to operate a Courage branch, launched in 2018.
Father Martin Delaney, who works at St Aloysius’ Catholic Church, Chapelhall and Sacred Heart, Salsburgh, works as chaplain for schools in Motherwell and is in charge of youth ministry for the diocese.
Father Delaney has also repeatedly used his social media platform to promote chastity as the only option for people ‘suffering’ from same-sex attraction, including sharing posts by Courage International on Twitter.