L'Espresso's Michele Sasso went undercover in Turin to attend a meeting of the controversial Catholic group
Italian weekly L'Espresso sent journalist Michele Sasso undercover to a meeting of Courage, an international group linked to the Catholic Church that aims to "cure" people of homosexual activity.
Sasso attended his first Courage session in the northern Italian city of Turin in October, and wrote a highly critical account of his experience in the L'Espresso article published this week. He wrote that Courage treats gays and lesbians like recovering alcoholics whose only option for a good life is total abstinence.
Before his first meeting, Sasso — who'd concocted a story of coming out the day before his wedding — spent an hour talking to a Courage program coordinator who said he had successfully given up thoughts of "sex and pornography" and planned to marry a woman with whom he had a platonic relationship.
Sasso then sat in a circle with other men and women to watch Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a documentary film about three Catholics struggling to reconcile homosexuality with their faith. After acknowledging their sinful same-sex attractions, group members were asked to accept prayer, chastity and community support as the only means for salvation.
After the meeting, Sasso was bombarded with texts and phone calls encouraging him to stay with the group. "There was no concrete advice for those who were suffering and repressing their instincts, for those who were seeking comfort, love and companionship," Sasso wrote. "The group dynamics were like those found in (religious) sects."
Sasso later contacted the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Vatican department that authorizes the creation of new Courage chapters; but an official at the office refused to comment.