Men gathering at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary this weekend will be encouraged to practice good sportsmanship and chastity.
The controversial annual event called "Sports Camp" is organized by a Catholic organization called Courage and is designed for men with "same-sex attractions."
Organizers hope playing softball and other sports will help men let go of the anxiety and shame they may still feel from playing sports as children and help them resist attractions to other men.
Father Paul Check said the camp helps men resist those attractions and strive towards chastity, fellowship, and friendship.
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"We're all struggling against different human weaknesses that we have and confusion about who we think we might be and being in good company helps us to clarify some of that and, where necessary, try to make a few adjustments; and we learn some things that help us to go out and perhaps be a little bit more confident that we can do the right thing."
Ed Coffin is with Peace Advocacy Network, a Philadelphia-based social justice group. He is troubled by the camp and its mission, and he plans to protest.
"It's very clear what this organization does is focus on turning people who are homosexual--basically trying to change them into heterosexuals or at least get them to live a completely chaste lifestyle--which requires them to not act on any of their homosexual inclinations," Coffin said. "It falls under the broader realm of conversion therapy. We do feel that this is very detrimental, that's it's psychologically damaging."
Not so, said Father Check. He said men attend Sports Camp voluntarily, to enjoy fellowship and friendship.
"The men who attend Sports Camp have the opportunity to have some fun," Check said, "to be at ease with one another in a peaceful surrounding and to develop, I think, a little bit more a sense of confidence that they can have fun in a way that is very enjoyable: outside, outdoors, running around, working up a little bit of a sweat, I suppose."
Check said he's puzzled by the protesters because the men at Sports Camp show up voluntarily to enjoy sports and have fun. He says participants say they appreciated the spirit of camaraderie and fellowship, but he's not aware of any who have regretted attending.