- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001

In a seeming reversal of Catholic Church principles, Catholic University of America has booted a conference of ex-homosexuals and their families off its campus.

The 10th annual "Healing for the Homosexual Conference," which begins today, is sponsored by Parents and Friends, a D.C.-based group for ex-homosexuals, their families, and sympathetic clergy and various activists.

Parents and Friends director Anthony Falzarano says he was notified 22 days ago that Catholic University considered the group´s application fraudulent because of ads taken out in The Washington Times and in the Catholic Herald, a diocesan newspaper.

Catholic University has also refused to return the group´s $3,200 deposit for meeting rooms and on-campus housing.

"It´s scandalous a college would try to close down this conference," Mr. Falzarano said. "If you´re going to tell the homosexuals not to be gay, the church — Catholic and Protestant — must open up their doors to the repentant homosexual."

CUA spokesman Victor Nakas said Mr. Falzarano misrepresented the intent of the conference — giving the impression it would deal with ministering to victims of child abuse — when he signed the contract April 3.

"We do not rent space when people come to us under false pretenses," he said.

The conference, which is heavily weighted with Catholic speakers, has registered 80 persons from 11 states. Speakers include the Rev. Paul Scalia, pastor of St. Patrick´s Catholic Church in Spotsylvania, Va., and the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The conference has since relocated to Trinity College, a Catholic institution across the street from CUA.

"Trinity was gracious enough to give us a room to hold the event in and take care of some of the meals," Mr. Falzarano said, "but we had to get an off-campus caterer to do the evening meals. We still have not found the rooms for these people."

When he asked Catholic University to at least give conferees housing, if not a place to meet, CUA refused again.

"It was part and parcel of the same misrepresentation," Mr. Nakas said. "He breached the contract for both the conference and the place to stay."

Parents and Friends has had a rocky time organizing its conference, starting in early May when the lead speaker, New York psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, canceled.

Dr. Spitzer had planned to present his new study on 200 persons who had transitioned out of homosexuality. He withdrew due to adverse reaction after first presenting his findings May 9 at an American Psychiatric Association meeting in New Orleans.

"I got a lot of angry e-mails," he said yesterday. "I just felt that my study would not be evaluated dispassionately if I appeared at a Christian Right-sponsored meeting. That´s what the gay press has been saying. It is important for me to perceived as a nonpolitical scientist."

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said she did not know why Catholic University refused to host the conference, but added that the church still considers homosexual acts sinful.

Georgetown University hosted a similar conference in June 1997, sponsored by the American Philosophy Institute, which opposes homosexuality. The university rejected pleas by homosexual groups to pull the plug on the meeting, saying it was neither endorsing nor sponsoring the conference.

"There´s a lot of debate going on in the Catholic Church on this issue," said Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. "This incident with Catholic University is similar to the Georgetown conference. It seems that [the university] is finding a pretext for Christians on their side of the issue to not meet there."

The Rev. Tom Morrow of St. Catherine Catholic Church in Wheaton, who is speaking this weekend at the conference, says he called the president of Catholic University about the matter, only to be told it involved a flaw in the contract.

Both sides agree that earlier this spring, Mr. Falzarano told Catholic University he needed space for "a Christian educational conference for the sexually broken and their parents according to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Mr. Falzarano says, "I discussed it with their campus ministries´ people as to it being a conference for the sexually broken. I invited the conference team to listen to my talks. I had nothing to hide."

Mr. Nakas said Mr. Falzarano gave CUA officials the impression the "sexually broken" wording was about child sexual abuse.

"Then during the week of May 14, we learned he had misrepresented the purpose of the conference," he said, referring to newspaper ads proclaiming the conference as a "Catholic/Protestant ministry offering Christ-centered hope to the repentant homosexual and their families."

"When we found out the purpose of the conference was different than we had applied for, we contacted him on May 17," he said. "We do not rent space to people who misrepresent themselves. If the conference had been described to us as it was in the ad, it´d be a completely different story."

Mr. Falzarano, who says the call actually came in late the afternoon of May 18, said the CUA conference office accused him of not disclosing the true nature of the conference.

"We met all their contract stipulations, took out a $1 million insurance policy, met all the conditions," he said. "I think they were trying to find any kind of loophole. I don´t know if gay activists put some pressure on them and they didn´t want controversy on campus or if there´s a liberal on their board of trustees or someone in the archdiocese who pulled this string. We assumed they knew the reputation of our conference since we´ve been in town 13 years."

Mr. Nakas explained the content of the conference had nothing to do with the university´s decision. "We are not judging this proposed conference program or its agenda on its merits," he said.

As for the $3,200 deposit, "We are willing to return the money," Mr. Nakas said, "if he were to drop the threat of any lawsuit because we have counterclaims of misrepresentation. We lose money if we do not rent those rooms."

Mr. Falzarano said, "We told them we need the money, for we are a small grass-roots organization. They said that if we were willing to sign a document indemnifying the Catholic University of America, they´ll release it immediately. Then I called their legal counsel, who told me we would have to sign a document saying we cannot discuss this publicly. That was the straw that broke the camel´s back. They knew we needed the money for the conference."

Mr. Falzarano borrowed $2,600 from a donor to pay the deposit at Trinity College.

"They have a nondiscrimination clause that says they do not discriminate on the basis on sexual orientation," he says of Catholic University. "Are they telling us they´ll have homosexuals on campus, but not ex-gays?"

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