A Colorado family says the Catholic church, whom they sought out to help their daughter come to terms with her homosexuality, is now to blame for the young woman’s suicide.
They accuse Catholic church leaders of practicing conversion therapy on Alana Chen, reports WRAL.com, and say the practice played a role in her taking her own life.
Alana Chen was artistic and a devoted Catholic. “She was really good at everything — at singing, playing guitar, playing piano, theater,” said Carissa Chen, Alana’s sister.
“At the young age of 13, she became in love with God and Jesus and the religion,” said Joyce Calvo-Chen, Alana’s mother. “She wanted to become a nun.”
When Alana started questioning her sexuality, her mother said, she went to her priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. That initiated several years of formal and informal counseling.
“It was conversion therapy because it was rules and regulations,” said Calvo-Chen. “It was mental, spiritual abuse. I think it was shaming and degrading her. She felt like she was letting down Jesus.”
Conversion therapy tries to change a subject’s sexual orientation through spiritual or psychological intervention – a practice banned on minors in Colorado earlier this year.
“She was a lesbian and she was depressed about it, and there were a lot of conflicts with her beliefs with the church,” Carissa said.
Those conflicts culminated in one suicide attempt when Alana was 21, her family said. Three years later, she killed herself. Her body was found Monday near Gross Reservoir in Nederland.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church released a statement saying they were shattered over the death of Alana.
The statement denied any use of conversion therapy by the church. It read, “We reject any practices that are manipulative, forced, coercive or pseudo-scientific.”