Like many teenagers, Alana Chen was sometimes not where she’d told her parents she was going. But while other teens were sneaking out to parties, Chen would tell her parents she was going out with friends and instead take the bus from her family’s home in the suburbs of Boulder, Colorado, to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church downtown.
Chen was holding on to other secrets as well. Without her parents’ knowledge, Chen’s family says, she was receiving spiritual guidance from a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas, who told her that there was something she could never tell her family: She was a lesbian.
Chen struggled for many years to keep this secret, according to her family, and tried to follow the church’s teachings. But repressing her sexuality led to serious mental health problems that caused her to be hospitalized in 2016, Chen told The Denver Post last year.
Chen eventually left the church, feeling it was impossible to reconcile her sexual orientation and her Catholicism. In early 2019, she went away to Prescott College, in Arizona, to be farther away from St. Thomas Aquinas.
She seemed to be doing better, but on Dec. 7, while on a visit home, Chen, 24, was declared missing. After a search, her body was found at Gross Reservoir in Boulder County on Dec. 9. The Boulder County Coroner’s Office has ruled her death a suicide.
Chen’s death has focused attention on how religious institutions handle the question of sexuality in their counseling, especially when the counselor’s faith teaches that homosexuality is wrong or sinful. Last year, Colorado banned gay conversion therapy for minors. That ban, however, exempts religious counselors.
That’s something Chen’s mother and sister want to see changed. They believe the religious counseling Chen received contributed to her death.
Since her passing, Chen’s family said, nobody from the Denver Archdiocese has reached out directly to them. (Haas said this is because it did not believe that contact would be welcome.) Her funeral was held at a local Episcopal parish.
“People will say different things about her suicide and how that came to be,” Carissa Chen said. “I think the church played a huge role in the years of trauma and treatment that she went through and ultimately her suicide, and they’re just going to have to live with that. We all will now.”
Continue reading at: https://religionnews.com/2020/01/29/a-young-womans-suicide-puts-focus-on-churchs-counseling-for-lgbt-catholics/ (Source)
The Alana Faith Chen foundation: https://alanafaithchen.org/