Colorado Diocese Offers 12-Step ‘Leave Homosexuality’ Program

The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs is borrowing and adapting the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program to create what it dubs pastoral care and support for gay men wanting to leave their same-sex attraction behind.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

“It’s not about therapy and not about activism,” said the Rev. Larry Brennan, diocese director of priest formation. “It’s about support.”


“The exercise of sexuality is reserved for marriage, and that can only happen between a man and a woman,” Brennan said.

Jim Fitzgerald, executive director of Call to Action, a national progressive Catholic group headquartered in Chicago, is skeptical of Twelve Steps of Courage because he contends homosexuality isn’t sinful.

“It restricts people’s freedom to be the kind of person they were created to be,” Fitzgerald said of Courage.

But Brennan says the program is not for people comfortable with their gay lifestyle. “The people we want to reach are those who experience this as a burden,” he said.


“This is a population that is underserved,” Brennan said. “They are not comfortable with the gay agenda and not comfortable with family oriented (events).”

This isn’t new. The Twelve Steps of Courage program, as it’s known, has reportedly been around for over 20 years, and has over 100 chapters worldwide, though its effectiveness — or lack thereof — is less well publicized.

The idea of offering pastoral care and support doesn’t sound particularly threatening, and as the Rev. Larry Brennan points out above (if one overlooks his dropping the phrase “gay agenda”), the program is designed to offer support to those seeking it, and not to convert or cure.

Read the steps however, and one quickly sees how opportunistic and, in fact, dangerous this so-called Twelve Steps of Courage program is.

Here they are as featured on the The Twelve Steps of Courage website:

We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality and our lives had become unmanageable.

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood Him.

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.

We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.

We made the direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of God’s Will for us and the power to carry it out.

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The steps as rendered above blatantly reinforce feelings of self-loathing and shame that someone facing problems with their sexual orientation may have. It also implies being gay is a form of mental illness (“restore us to sanity”), something categorically rejected by the overwhelming majority of the medical community, and on several occasions makes remarks about the defects and moral failings of those being treated.

Never does the program (or Courage website) mention the fact that so-called “pray away the gay” therapy – or support as it is being called here – has a negligible success rate beyond anecdotal testimony, and never does it cite the serious concerns of the medical community over what damage attempting to change or mute a person’s sexual orientation can have on that person’s mental state. 

The Human Rights Campaign, among other groups both secular and religious, have condemned the diocese for this move:

“The diocese should be ashamed for selling this snake-oil therapy that mental health professionals have denounced,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Programs like this say they offer hope but in reality they demean and denigrate LGBT people’s sense of self-worth.”


“Homophobia, bias and discrimination are what make it difficult for people to accept and be open about their sexual orientation,” said Solmonese. “Those who wish to give counsel to people struggling with their identities should offer acceptance, not rejection.”

The APA task force on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation notes that those seeking sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) are often from religious conservative backgrounds and stresses cultivating acceptance as being among appropriate responses to anxiety and depression over a patient’s sexual orientation, saying on its website:

Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.

What the Twelve Steps of Courage program actually does is reinforce the notion that a person’s non-heterosexual identity is wrong, against God and is destructive. The issue here is that the diocese is billing this program as appropriate and effective support for gay people when it clearly comes with an agenda.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to brainchildvn.


William C
William C22 days ago

Thanks for caring.

W. C
W. C28 days ago

Thank you for the information.

Susanne R.
Susanne R5 years ago

I'm guessing that anyone who has signed up for this program is not really homosexual, because a true homosexual would know that this program offers nothing but nonsense. I wonder how many priests have signed up.

What they really need to set up is a support group for altar boys...

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

damn hate is such a blinding force, if these morons werent blinded by their hate they would see how absurd this all is

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

I don't care what they call it, or don't call it -- it ain't gonna work, because homosexuality is inherent at birth.

Mac R.
Mac R7 years ago

Riff Severn, James Stewart and Tom Y, the latter two are usual suspects with negative comments on gay issues. I just wonder why you guys seem so focused on gay issues???????????

But Riff, ol' buddy, God told me today that you are completely wrong on everything you've ever thought. God does NOT want you to hate people and deny them rights. God said that all these laws against gays throughout history were wrong and he is going to fry your butt in Hell for eternity just for the evil things you think all the time and the hateful things you say and the way you have twisted and misinterpreted everything he ever said and because you are so violent in your thinking.

He told me that you are an abomination in his eyes because you are evil and cold in your heart.

I think you had better put some serious thought into jumping on the glory road to Heaven early, because God just doesn't want you here spreading hate and lies.

God means business, Riff, and he's pissed at you! He is just tired of hypocritical liars twisting his words and meaning around to suit their own prejudices and hatred. He told me he's gonna smite you when you least expect it. Watch your back. Jehova is a vengeful God. You can run, but you can't hide from him, since Sodom and Gamorra got destroyed, and it was the only place, I guess, where God couldn't seem to "see", since he had to send Abraham there to check and report back to him about what was going on there. But that's it! He sees everywhere else!

Christine Heynen
Christine Heynen7 years ago

(Sigh of frustration) This article outlines a few of the very reasons I stopped going to church, mainly because of my anger levelled at the Roman Catholic church. I was a practicing catholic up until the end of 2005. Also, my father is a non-recovering alcoholic who attends AA meetings, and AA isn't working. He persists in his abusive behaviours and blames his family for them. He was always (physically, financially, verbally, emotionally) abusive and AA is making him even more so. I've read the pamphlets the organization hands out and it really frustrates me to read that AA's founders believe that everyone else in the addict's life is at fault for the addict's behaviours, and say that none of the coping strategies we use to cope with our loved one's addictions are very helpful. They're dead wrong. Only the addict can control the addict's behaviour; (example)--nobody else pours the booze down the alcoholic's throat; the alcoholic does that him/herself. AA is nothing but an organization for abusers. People really need to understand that homosexuality isn't something they can change. It's part of the person's identity and they can't change it no matter how much they may want to and try to. The best thing for conservative Catholics to understand is the fact that they need to accept and appreciate Gay people for who they are and what they are capable of doing. DIFFERENT IS GOOD. LOVE IS NEVER WRONG!!!!

Yani M.
Yani M.7 years ago

Nut-cases (Catholics et la, 2011) this will be a highly successful program at increasing homophobia, creating mental illness and destroying lives. Nothing new there as Catholics et la (2011) are part of team self-righteous and can do no wrong.

Tom Y.
Tom Y7 years ago

There will be men seeking out this program despite the ridicule it's received. It offers hope, for one thing: they don't have to go on trapped in the same destructive patterns that's been marketed as a proud life. Sexual addiction, however it manifests, is soul-destroying, and it's the Catholics (among others, not all of which are necessarily faith-based) who will acknowledge that problem with them, instead of offering a facile pretense that it's somehow okay.

Darya T.
Darya T.7 years ago

As some one who is in recovery (12 years) thanks to a 12 step program, I see this as a misuse of the tools of the program. I began to accept who I was after doing the 12 steps, so In fact it HELPED me join the LGBT community.
Homosexuality is a deep part of who one is, so I don't think they'll find many takers, but while we're at it:
Religion Anonymous
Republicans Anonymous
Dumb White Guys anonymous
Mormons Anonymous
12 step addicts Anonymous
yeah...maybe they are on to something.