Father D. Paul Sullins
Father D. Paul Sullins promoting pseudoscientific conversion therapy in defense of the faith | via YouTube

The child-like rationale for conversion therapy is evident yet again.

The “thinking” goes that if conversion therapy works then sexual orientation is a choice which, in turn, justifies adverse Church teachings and discrimination.

A recent YouTube video promotes pseudoscience and conduct that is known to be harmful.

Fr. D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic convert, is a married priest. Sullins retired from the faculty of Catholic University of America and is now in the employ of Ruth Institute, an anti-LGBTQ hate group run by Jennifer Roback Morse.

For years, Paul Sullins has been trying to prove that conversion therapy (sexual orientation change efforts or SOCE) is safe and effective. Sullins’ endeavors, on behalf of the teachings of the Catholic Church, challenge the settle science that conversion therapy is futile and harmful.

Most of Sullins’ BS, including this video, is not published. From time-to-time Sullins publishes his bigotry to pay-to-post journals with cursory peer-review. Among Sullins’ outlets is a “journal” based in Egypt.

As for the relevant science, the American Psychological Association reached the conclusion that SOCE is ineffective and harmful more than ten years ago and there is no new evidence contrary to the APA’s findings. At best SOCE can teach gay people how to pretend that they are straight.

Paul Sullins is trying to justify conversion therapy by saying that the research demonstrating self-harm or the ideation of self-harm due to conversion therapy is flawed.

Let us assume, for the moment, that Sullins’ analysis is correct (it is not — I’ll get there). Two facts remain:

“I don’t trust Sullins’ statistical controls any more than a statement from Trump about the size of his pecker.”

  1. There remains no evidence that conversion therapy is effective.
  2. The harms of conversion therapy are not limited to suicide and suicidal ideation. Other harms such as diminished ego-strengths and diminished self-esteem are far more prevalent than people thinking about or actually offing themselves. (See legislative quote below.)

In the video, Sullins claims that “the main basis” for conversion therapy bans is the potential for suicide.
D. Paul Sullins Bullshit

That is a lie; a half-truth. For example, the findings of the California legislation banning conversion therapy for minors includes (emphasis added):

The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts, and issued a report in 2009. The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.

“… a person who seeks conversion therapy is more apt to have diminished self-esteem due to religious shame.”

To attack the science, Sullins uses the Blosnich Study. Sullins does not quote directly from the study. Sullins claims that the study concludes that conversion therapy leads to suicide. Sullins goes on the claim that the study is flawed because (according to his review of the data) the suicidality occurred prior to engaging in the “therapy.”

I don’t trust Sullins’ statistical controls any more than a statement from Trump about the size of his pecker. That aside, the study might confuse causation with correlation. It is quite possible that the conversion therapy is not the cause of suicidality. Rather, a person who seeks conversion therapy is more apt to have diminished self-esteem due to religious shame.

What the study concludes (in part):

Over the lifetime, sexual minorities who experienced SOCE reported a higher prevalence of suicidal ideation and attempts than did sexual minorities who did not experience SOCE.Public Health Implications. Evidence supports minimizing exposure of sexual minorities to SOCE and providing affirming care with SOCE-exposed sexual minorities.

I can be conjectural too:
Were SOCE not an option then more people shamed by their sexual orientation might seek affirmative therapy. That might reduce suicidality in advance. Moreover, it might eliminate the laundry list of adverse mental health consequences presented by example in the California legislative ban (see above).

I have not seen the data. Furthermore, I have not analyzed how Paul Sullins manipulated the data.

“More tolerance and less bullshit would save lives,”

Here is a thought:

If the Catholic Church would stop shaming gay people then those folks would not seek the false hope of conversion therapy and would likely feel better about themselves. Furthermore, additional positive results would occur if the Church would stop teaching that gay people are “objectively disordered.”

Those teachings do not align with the science regarding sexual orientation. Furthermore, those teaching encourage heterosexual people to be prejudiced.

When it comes to the issue of suicidality, Father Sullins should realize that minority stress syndrome is probably the greater influence on self-esteem. Paul Sullins, after all, is a purveyor of minority stress.

In other words, at the risk of repeating myself, the most effective solution to self-harm is, as a society, to cease the behaviors that cause people to seek out conversion therapy in the first place. That would be more effective than simply banning the pseudoscience. More tolerance and less bullshit would save lives.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.