Conversion therapy is still happening in Catholic spaces—and its effects on L.G.B.T. people can be devastating
J. Frank Pate had one of the easier experiences. Mr. Pate, 50, is a Catholic “revert,” who spent his young adulthood as an evangelical experiencing what he called “unwanted same-sex attraction.” When he returned to the Catholic Church at age 36, his experience with conversion therapy began.
Mr. Pate said his Catholic therapist, like many who attempt to help patients change their sexual orientation, believed that homosexuality was caused by childhood sexual abuse or alienation from one’s parents: what Mr. Pate described as “a simple checklist” of traumas. At the time, Mr. Pate thought this explanation might fit, especially since he had struggled with sexually addictive behaviors. The therapist offered a tantalizing prospect: “He believed in complete healing of wounds and traumas,” Mr. Pate recalled, and that “it’s possible to be free of pain, whether it’s emotional or physical.”
“Conversion therapy” is an umbrella term, now used mainly by opponents of the practice, to cover many approaches intended to create a heterosexual identity for someone who experiences same-sex attraction. The Williams Institute, a research center on L.G.B.T. concerns based at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, estimates that 698,000 L.G.B.T. American adults under the age of 60 have received conversion therapy. This is a small minority of L.G.B.T.-identified people, but that minority likely includes a disproportionate share of the devout and people who are most active in their churches.
The Williams Institute estimates that 698,000 L.G.B.T. American adults under the age of 60 have received conversion therapy.
It is obviously hard to study something as intimate as sexual orientation. Most such studies have small sample sizes, and all face the difficulty of recruiting participants without biasing the results. But one larger study of current or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found that “sexual orientation is highly resistant to explicit attempts at change”; even one of the studies most positive toward the possibility of orientation change found that fewer than a quarter of the highly motivated participants actually “converted” to heterosexuality.
In 2009 the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution discouraging therapists from “promoting or promising change in sexual orientation.” Since then, 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy for minors; the ban in Washington, D.C., also covers adults. Six countries ban the practice either entirely or for minors.
The nonprofit world is also taking action. The Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives, an initiative whose founders include James Martin, S.J., recently issued a call to abolish conversion therapy. The Trevor Project, which works to prevent suicide in L.G.B.T. youth, partnered with Q Christian Fellowship to launch the Good Fruit Project with the same goal.
In order to understand the inner experience of conversion therapy, I interviewed nine people who sought or were pressed into therapy to change their sexual orientation under Catholic auspices, several of whom received this therapy within the past 20 years. Although only a small minority of L.G.B.T. Catholics will ever seek conversion therapy, the assumptions underlying that therapy often influence the message many gay Catholics hear at home, in the confessional and from friends and mentors. And it can have a devastating impact on their understanding of their identity and their self worth.
Leaving Space for the Cross
Mr. Pate was 38 when he began working with his therapist in an attempt to change his sexual orientation. In the next year, Mr. Pate said, he “courted a woman” in his parish. When the relationship ended, he recalled, “there was certainly a sense of failure, because I ended my first and only dating relationship with a woman, but also...there was a kind of absence of empathy [from his therapist] for her—or for me that I had added to her wounds.”
Mr. Pate said that he did not experience orientation change, but that his therapist turned him into “a poster child” for conversion therapy. “By the time I got into his private practice, I had already been invited to be the [same-sex attraction] witness at some of his seminars.” This hunger for “success stories”—and the paucity Mr. Pate found when he looked around for people who had been “cured” by his therapist—is a recurring theme among those I spoke to about conversion therapy.
Like several interviewees, Mr. Pate was also involved with Journey Into Manhood, an experience described on the organization’s website as “a 48-hour immersion in intensive self-discovery and personal-growth work” run by the organization Brothers Road. Brothers Road describes itself as “a non-profit, multi-faith, international fellowship primarily of men from bisexual or same-sex-attracted backgrounds who—for our own, deeply personal reasons—typically do not accept or identify with the label ‘gay’ and prefer instead to explore and address underlying issues and embrace our authentic masculinity.” The website states that the weekend experience “is designed specifically for men who are self-motivated to address unresolved issues” and “distress” about their attractions. It is not therapy, but it offers exercises ranging from journaling to “psychodrama,” intended to process emotions.
The problem is that there’s still this undercurrent that [same-sex attraction] is a problem to be rid of, and that I’m not whole, healthy, good, complete as long as I still have it.
Mr. Pate said that the ongoing support group provided by Journey Into Manhood offered him brotherhood and acceptance—but he added, “The problem is that there’s still this undercurrent that [same-sex attraction] is a problem to be rid of, and that I’m not whole, healthy, good, complete as long as I still have it.”
Rich Wyler, founder of Brothers Road, said by email that he was saddened to hear this and wrote, “[W]e emphasize... ‘If you gain nothing else from this weekend, we want you to know that you are GOOD AND VALUABLE JUST AS YOU ARE [sic], right now, unchanged, and even if you never change.’” He wrote, “[o]nly 90 minutes of the 20- to 25-hour program is focused more or less directly on sexual orientation” and that the organization “emphasize[s] that not everyone is called to marriage and marriage cannot be seen as evidence of having achieved ‘success’ in this work.” (Several interviewees recalled otherwise.)
Mr. Pate was quick to note: “I hear a lot of our [gay] siblings say, ‘I’m a survivor of conversion therapy,’ and I don’t put myself in that category. I don’t see it as something that was entirely or even mostly detrimental.” Even so, he described feeling pressured to accept reductive theories of homosexuality from a therapist who he felt was so eager for Mr. Pate to get married that he could spare no empathy for a potential partner, a sentiment echoed by several interviewees about their respective therapists.
Mr. Pate now thinks his therapist did not leave enough space for the Cross—and for the possibility that he, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests, might experience his sexuality as “a trial” or cross to be borne rather than an illness to be cured. He also found communities of openly gay people living the Catholic sexual ethic. He cited Revoice, an annual conference founded in 2018 to “support and encourage” L.G.B.T. and same-sex-attracted Christians who embrace “the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality,” and Eden Invitation, a Catholic community for people exploring issues of sexuality. He also cited the “Side B Community,” a term originating in the Gay Christian Network to describe L.G.B.T. believers who practice a traditional sexual ethic.
Mr. Pate now thinks his therapist did not leave for the possibility that he might experience his sexuality as “a trial” or cross to be borne rather than an illness to be cured.
Mr. Pate now considers himself a celibate gay man. What he most wants to show people about the church now is: “Everybody’s welcome here. Everybody belongs.” His story is the gentlest version of what I heard from my interviewees. But one factor was the same in virtually every interview. I asked Mr. Pate if his therapist ever talked with him about what his future could be like if he did not become straight.
After a long pause he said, simply, “No.”
The Catholic media personality Milo Yiannopoulos recently began calling himself “ex-gay” and announced plans to open a “reparative therapy” clinic in Florida. The response of many Catholics is likely to be: That’s just fringe stuff. Catholics don’t push conversion therapy. But several interviewees described Catholic institutions promoting and practicing orientation-change therapy.
In fact, Catholics helped to develop the theories used by many proponents of orientation change. Richard Fitzgibbons, a Catholic doctor who is the director of the Institute for Marital Healing, promotes treatment for what he calls “same-sex attraction disorder.” He was a confidant of Father John Harvey, who died in 2010 and who founded Courage, a group described on its website as a Catholic apostolate “for men and women who experience same-sex attraction.” Although Courage does not promote orientation-change therapy as an official part of its mission, Dr. Fitzgibbons maintained close ties with Courage and influenced Father Harvey’s view of homosexuality. In 1999, Father Harvey and Dr. Fitzgibbons co-authored Homosexuality and Hope, a pamphlet published by the Catholic Medical Association, which advocates therapeutic “prevention and treatment” of same-sex attraction.
Another Catholic, Joseph Nicolosi, who died in 2017, was a co-founder of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a secular group formed in 1992 that is now called the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity. Dr. Nicolosi and the association heavily influenced Catholic approaches to homosexuality. He appeared on the Catholic television station EWTN and the popular radio show “Catholic Answers Live,” and he spoke at Courage conferences.
Attempts at conversion therapy in minors seem to have particularly harmful results.
Attempts at conversion therapy in minors seem to have particularly harmful results. A 2020 survey by the Trevor Project, found that “LGBTQ youth who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past 12 months.” But in a 2009 interview with the Catholic news site Zenit, Dr. Nicolosi said of young people experiencing same-sex attraction: “So when a 15-year-old boy goes to a priest and says, ‘Father, I have these feelings, I have these temptations,’ that priest should say, ‘You have a choice; if you don’t want to be gay, there are things that you can do.’ The boy should not to be told [sic], ‘God made you this way.’”
In 2001 Father Harvey wrote: “For those who really want it, reparative growth is a possibility and happens regularly. Men and women leave behind not only the homosexual lifestyle but also the very feelings of same-sex attraction. While all can investigate this option, teens and young adults are especially invited to consult competent therapists.”
Dr. Nicolosi distinguished his reparative therapy from conversion therapy, in part citing client-defined objectives. Mr. Wyler of Brothers Road spent two years in reparative therapy with a therapist at Dr. Nicolosi’s clinic in Los Angeles, and said he was able to “de-eroticize [his] same-sex attractions, both in feelings and behaviors.” He is now married to a woman. In response to being told of the experiences of my interviewees, he said Brothers Road avoids talking about same-sex attractions using terms like “healing,” as it implies a sickness, and also “avoids talking about causation, because it is unprovable and may be unique to different individuals.” Mr. Wyler said that the “real goal is peace, not sexual-orientation change,” but that “sexuality can be fluid,” and “many [men] experience changes in their identity or sexual behaviors” that help to bring their actions in line with their beliefs.
But for all those I interviewed, their experience was very different. Some of the people I interviewed had walked away from attempts at changing their attractions deeply traumatized. Several left the church; at least one was driven to the brink of suicide. Others simply found that therapy did not make them straight—and neither did it offer guidance in living as a Catholic who is gay. Each was left wondering if they had a future in a church where all the saints seem to be straight.
Finding a ‘Fix’
Feeling that there is no future if you cannot “fix” your sexuality can lead to tragedy. In 2019, 24-year-old Alana Chen took her own life. Ms. Chen came out as a lesbian in high school—after which, The Denver Post reported, “she was shamed and told she would go to hell by clergy and church counselors.” Another article in The Denver Post reported that Ms. Chen had increasingly struggled with self-harm and thoughts of suicide. After a psychiatric hospitalization in 2016, she attributed her suffering to the shame caused by the counseling she received in Catholic settings.
Mark Haas, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Denver, told The Denver Post that Ms. Chen was “never once” directed to conversion therapy by the archdiocese. However, earlier that same year, the archdiocese co-hosted a conference with Desert Stream/Living Waters, a group that, among other things, attempts to “restor[e] persons with unwanted same-sex attraction.” A group protesting the conference hung a banner on archdiocesan property that featured a quote attributed to the Desert Stream/Living Waters founder, Andrew Comiskey, and that read in part, “There is no such thing as a ‘gay’ person...That is a popular myth.”
Feeling that there is no future if you cannot “fix” your sexuality can lead to tragedy.
The people I interviewed said Catholic institutions may not widely promote conversion therapy, but the messages gay believers hear in Catholic spaces help promote the idea that conversion is possible. Many gay Catholics have heard, over and over, that nobody is “born gay”; that homosexuality is typically caused by trauma; that being gay is a purely negative experience from which they have nothing to learn, and from which the broader church has nothing to learn. Many have been told that there is “hope” for them if they can manage to marry someone of the opposite sex. These beliefs are not, in themselves, conversion therapy. But they provide theoretical grounding and urgent motivation for the quest to become heterosexual.
A journal entry from shortly before Ms. Chen’s death, written as a letter to herself and read aloud by her mother at Ms. Chen’s funeral, echoes the fears expressed by many of my interviewees: “I know you don’t understand how you can be loved or redeemed. I wish you could see that the people that love you...don’t see you as someone that needs to be fixed or different than who you are.”
In researching this story, I remembered a gay Catholic friend describing a girl he liked as “my last hope”—his last chance at heterosexuality. I also remembered a Catholic mother whose child had just come out asking a support group, “What did I do wrong?” My friends have had priests in the confessional urge them to seek conversion therapy. They have tried sports to become more masculine. They have learned a deep, reflexive suspicion of their longings for intimacy, friendship and love. They have dealt with parents’ guilt over their orientation and their fear that being gay separates them from God. The specific theories and practices of conversion therapy draw on a deep well of silence and shame that affects all gay Catholics, including those who never step inside a therapist’s office.
‘A Highly Compliant Patient’
Tristan is a tomboyish professional in her late 20s, from an orthodox Catholic family. (Like several interviewees, she was reluctant to use her real name because she works for a Catholic institution.) Her family would pray for gay people—but only as sinners and political opponents. Just admitting that she might be gay, she said, “felt like I was giving in to a temptation.”
As she began to sort things through, she “was going to Mass multiple times a day most days, and just feeling like the crazy church lady,” she said with a small laugh. The stress and anxiety led to insomnia and eventually to a mental breakdown. Still, she said, she wasn’t seeking conversion therapy. However, the Catholic psychologist from whom she sought help would not listen.
Tristan did not think of her sexuality as the only issue she was dealing with, but when she raised other concerns, she said, her therapist seemed to think being gay was the central problem. Therapy itself became a source of pain. She spent months suicidal, wishing for death.
Many gay Catholics have heard, over and over, that nobody is “born gay.”
Tristan said her therapist assured her that he was not a “reparative therapist.” But she later learned that he had trained under Joseph Nicolosi, and much of what he told her showed Dr. Nicolosi’s influence. She said her therapist scolded her for “dressing like a boy”; he praised her for being “a highly compliant patient.” Even when some of her closest friends argued that her therapy experience did not sound healthy, she said, “I remember thinking anybody attacking him and his work with me was because they were attacking [Catholic] orthodoxy.”
Tristan applied to join an order of women religious and was turned down. She dated men. Her therapist and her spiritual director both seemed to think that marriage was her only “shot at happiness.” So when her relationship with a man ended, she said, “I think something in me snapped. I was just like, ‘I’ve been trying so hard. And playing within all of the rules I know how,’” and yet she was left without hope.
She recalls that her spiritual director and therapist both said that the pain she was feeling was good, because it meant she really loved her ex-boyfriend. But in reality she was on the edge of suicide because she saw “no way that I could live and be happy.”
She decided to live, even if that meant “embracing [her] identity.” She confronted her therapist and said, “I feel like you don’t think I can be happy and healthy if I’m gay.” In her recollection, he said: “Yes, that’s what I think. I think you need to sort through this and try again with a guy.” Instead, she left his practice.
Her therapist and her spiritual director both seemed to think that marriage was her only “shot at happiness.”
Tristan is not sure yet where her life will go. She has explored relationships with women, even though she still is figuring out “the moral piece” and how her sexuality and faith might find harmony. Instead of a therapist who told her not to talk to anyone (including her boyfriend) about her orientation, she has a protective community.
And instead of constantly wanting to die, she is now exploring what life might have to offer.
Grieving a Community
Some of my interviewees had conversion therapy imposed on them by parents, therapists or religious superiors. But some Catholics actively seek out orientation-change therapy. For people like Christopher Dowling, a Texan in his early 30s, it can feel like the only way to stay a part of the church community.
“The church was my family,” he said, because of an unstable home life. At his Catholic college he began considering himself “same-sex-attracted” and found his desires “coming out sideways in all these addictive behaviors,” from pornography to hookups, driven by shame.
He tried therapy. An early therapist “was very progressive and L.G.B.T.-affirming, and said I should come out and date,” but Mr. Dowling rejected that idea out of hand in favor of more conservative approaches. For most of his 20s Mr. Dowling did therapy once a week—including trying cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, and Internal Family Systems therapy.
Mr. Dowling found the common orientation-change narratives—that same-sex attractions are the product of parental behaviors and/or trauma—plausible because they did describe his situation.
Mr. Dowling found the common orientation-change narratives—that same-sex attractions are the product of parental behaviors and/or trauma—plausible because they did describe his situation: “I did have a distant father and an overbearing mother, and I was a victim of sexual abuse.” He hadn’t encountered any Catholic discussions of what it means to be gay led by people who didn’t have these traumas. So he poured out tens of thousands of dollars on books, therapy sessions, retreats, courses with the Theology of the Body Institute and several retreats at the John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Theology of the Body Institute did not practice orientation-change therapy, but Mr. Dowling said that in his counseling and confessions there, he found that his orientation was always discussed as “something that was a result of wounding that happened in my formation” and that could be changed. The four 30-hour courses he took at the institute reinforced his belief “that I would be healed by learning about [homosexuality] enough and praying enough.” (The institute did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Mr. Dowling cited Dr. Bob Schuchts, founder of the Healing Center, as particularly influential, both on his own thinking and in the church. He described “Dr. Bob, as we all lovingly call him” as “an amazing, loving man,” who nonetheless convinced him of what he now sees as “misinformation” about the nature and origin of homosexuality, attributing a “homosexual inclination” to problems in family relationships, sexual trauma including use of pornography, the lack of a proper development of masculinity and other “wounds”—ideas he later heard from priests in the confessional.
Dr. Schuchts, author of the upcoming book Be Restored: Healing Our Sexual Wounds Through Jesus’ Merciful Love, disagreed with the labeling of his work as of “misinformation,” stating that all of the materials from the John Paul II Healing Center have approval from the local bishop and his books have obtained an imprimatur. In a phone interview, he said he hopes to help people to gain an understanding of the “integrality of the gift [of one’s sexuality],” asking “what is God’s intention for the gift and how is the gift being expressed?” He said that often the work can be emotionally difficult and when people “react against that, they’re reacting against those areas of abuse or trauma that they haven’t yet faced, and then it becomes politicized rather than what the intent [is], which is for people to be loved and accepted and healed, healed in their person, healed in their chastity, healed in their integrity.”
Mr. Dowling noted that the therapists who tried to help him change his sexuality were “well-respected [and] well-trained."
Today, Mr. Dowling believes he has found his path. He said, “I’m living with a man and want to pursue gay marriage.” Still, he said it was a “huge grief to ‘break up with’ being an orthodox Catholic,” adding that the Catholic Church had provided “every job I’ve ever had, every friend I’ve ever had.”
Mr. Dowling noted that the therapists who tried to help him change his sexuality were “well-respected [and] well-trained...using proven therapeutic models,” like cognitive behavioral therapy. What made conversion therapy damaging for him was not lack of credentials or unsophisticated methods, but what he now believes was a faulty end goal: orientation change. “The finish line never came,” he said.
A Sea of Mixed Messages
Many men I spoke with said that orientation-change efforts included pressure to become more “masculine.” Kent (a pseudonym), speaks deliberately, with long pauses and many qualifiers, as his Canadian accent peeks out here and there. He began conversion therapy in New York City in the late 2000s. Kent was raised Catholic and said, “The first people I came out to were priests whom I trusted.” In college, Kent said, he became “one of those self-radicalized conservative Catholics,” reading contemporary apologetics and traditional Catholic websites. Kent said that subculture provided a certainty to which he aspired. Its emphasis on avoiding near occasions of sin also meant he avoided exploring the meaning of his orientation. He “wanted really badly to be good, to be worthy,” he said, adding with a deep sigh that he believed in what he was being taught.
He also began to feel a call to the priesthood, which “made the stakes [of his sexual orientation] that much higher.” When a Catholic spiritual director suggested that some people might be “called to” gay relationships, Kent “ran in the opposite direction of that. That was scary for me.” He was first introduced to orientation-change literature by a priest who turned out to be gay himself. In this sea of mixed messages, Kent said, the orientation-change approach “coincided with my own unreadiness to explore this part of myself...[a] combination of religious fervor and wishful thinking.”
Hoping to “toughen up” and build “those male bonds that I believed I was missing,” he lived with several other Catholic men. But living with men who didn’t know he was gay, and who often expressed homophobia (at which Kent tried to laugh in response), proved so grueling that he became physically ill. After he moved out, he began therapy with Philip Mango, whom he described as “the de facto trusted Catholic orthodox therapist in New York at the time.” At his recommendation, Kent attended a Journey into Manhood weekend, followed by two years in a Journey Into Manhood weekly support group consisting mainly of Conservative and Orthodox Jewish men. (Dr. Mango did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Hey, what if I died without having really investigated and explored this part of my life?
Kent said a common activity was to “deconstruct” a recent experience of sexual attraction, identifying aspects of the attractive man that represented something the support group member felt himself to be lacking. Then the men would seek out activities that could fill what they believed to be gaps in their masculinity or self-confidence. Kent, for example, was encouraged to learn a sport. (Mr. Wyler said that J.I.M. does not recommend sports as a part of its program.) Kent tried judo for a year and a half. He recalled being “really, really bad” at it. “I would be afraid, I would get the runs before every class because I was so scared of it, but I was so determined,” he said. “I showed up every week in Long Island City, [N.Y.,] and [got] thrown on the mat over and over again.”
He moved to San Francisco, a change he described with a laugh as “very jarring!” Then “in 2015 I hit this wall,” Kent said. “I’m really lonely and depressed; this isn’t working. The thought crossed my mind, ‘Hey, what if I died without having really investigated and explored this part of my life?’” He found a Catholic church that he described as “very affirming,” where he met Catholics without his “hangups” around homosexuality. “That’s been really healing,” he said, “and it’s been the help that I needed to stay practicing.” He is in a relationship with a man now but finds that because he spent so long interpreting his emotions as expressions of something lacking in himself, he still struggles to connect with his own emotions, “to feel pleasure.”
As he began to leave conversion therapy behind, Kent read gay narratives like The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World, by the psychologist Alan Downs. To his surprise, these authors’ work reflected some of the same elements of orientation-change literature: “shame and feeling alone and disconnected from your peers.” But the secular psychologists arranged these elements in a different order, he said: “You are born gay. That results in a feeling of shame because of the way society has been discriminatory against gay people, and that shame further pushes you to isolation.” He added, “This is what makes the...conversion therapy narrative so compelling: It takes seriously those experiences that we’re ashamed of. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to change your sexuality—or that that is a healthy thing to try to do.”
Many of the people I spoke with had to rebuild the most basic aspects of their faith after they left orientation-change behind. Some turned to Protestant churches where they found more emphasis on grace. Some, like J. Frank Pate, rediscovered a connection to the Cross instead of being ashamed of the sacrifices and difficulties associated with their sexuality. Others turned to Eastern Christianity for its emphasis on God’s work of resurrection in the soul. Each has had to find new communities and new models for relationship. And they have discovered that the experiences that once caused only shame are sources of wisdom, which they hope to share with the broader church.
The experiences that once caused only shame are sources of wisdom.
John (a pseudonym) is the music director for a Catholic church. He went to a Journey Into Manhood weekend shortly after graduating from a Catholic college, on his parents’ urging, and then did weekly therapy. Like many of my interviewees, he remembers the J.I.M. community warmly but feels that both J.I.M. and his Christian therapist pressured him to focus on his sexual orientation instead of addressing his real concerns. John felt an unspoken belief within J.I.M. that “success” meant marriage to a woman—an ideal he found “damaging.” As for conversion therapy, he said it left him feeling “broken,” and “eventually I came to the conclusion that it was trying to fix something that couldn’t be fixed.”
When John first found gay Catholics sharing their faith (for example, in the writings of the lawyer and blogger Chris Damian), he said, “I wept.” He slowly began to explore a positive vision of his sexuality within Catholic teaching. He found other gay Catholics and formed a small community of support. Eventually he also found a partner. John was clear that he was committed to a Catholic sexual ethic: “We almost broke up because I said, ‘I’m never gonna be able to give you what you want.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care about that. I want to be with you.’” When we spoke, John’s partner was preparing to be received into the church; he is now a Catholic.
John described a journey out of darkness, isolated hookups and porn and shame, into light. He is learning to view being gay as a gift. “I may not fully understand it,” he said of his current life and his partner, “but we both have found a lot of healing and beautiful joy that we’ve never found before, taking this walk together.”
Additional reporting by Kerry Weber.
Correction: Due to an editing error, the source of a sign hung outside the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in the archdiocese of Denver was incorrect. The sign was not hung by the archdiocese but by a group protesting the conference.