An online petition is urging Cardinal Francis George to abandon plans to lead Mass at a Roman Catholic conference focusing on homosexuality because they say it will promote reparative therapy.
The treatment, also known as conversion therapy, focuses on changing a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight.
Michael Sherrard, a spokesman for the group, Faithful America, says George shouldn't lead a Mass at a conference where "... priests and therapists will be trained in dangerous and debunked techniques.that contribute to suicide and depression."
Reparative therapy has been extensively reviewed by a number of organizations, including both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
"Reparative therapy -- the attempt to change someone's sexual orientation -- was ineffective," said Dr. Kevin Osten, an expert at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.
The conference is being put together by the organization Courage, and its leaders say the group doesn't promote sexual inclination or desire but rather is solely a spiritual support group.
In an email, George said he often leads Mass when national Catholic organizations meet, and said the literature from the group speaks only of spirituality and not of therapy.
The 2013 Courage / Encourage Conference is being held through Sunday in Mundelein.