Two Australian Bishops: Respect Consciences in Vote Over Marriage Equality

Two Australian bishops have released moderated statements about marriage equality, a contrast to the sometimes heated rhetoric which others opposed to this development have adopted. These two bishops are advocating respect for the consciences of Catholics who may vote “yes” in the non-binding postal survey now underway through November 7th.

Bishop Vincent Long

Bishop Vincent Long, OFM Conv., of Parramatta published a pastoral letter on participation in the postal survey. He appealed to Catholics to “conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.” He made clear the non-binding survey is solely about civil marriages. Long continued:

“For many Catholics, the issue of same-sex marriage is not simply theoretical but deeply personal. These may be same-sex attracted people themselves or that may be the case with their relatives and friends. In such cases, they are torn between their love for the Church and their love for their same-sex attracted child, grandchild, sibling, cousin, friend or neighbour. . .As a community of disciples, we seek to accommodate, accompany and care for one another irrespective of sexual orientation, marital status and situation.”

Long said the survey was not simply about voting, though Catholics had a responsibility to be engaged citizens, but was a two-fold opportunity to affirm the ideal of Christian marriage and “to listen to what the Spirit is saying through the signs of the times.” One of those signs, Long acknowledged, was the rightful claims of LGBT people for more respect. He wrote:

“Throughout much of history, our gay and lesbian (or LGBTI) brothers and sisters have often not been treated with respect, sensitivity and compassion. Regrettably, the Church has not always been a place where they have felt welcomed, accepted and loved. Thus, regardless of the outcome of the survey, we must commit ourselves to the task of reaching out to our LGBTI brothers and sisters, affirming their dignity and accompanying them on our common journey towards the fullness of life and love in God.”

Long concluded with an appeal for Catholics to form their consciences properly and vote accordingly. During his episcopal installation, Long cited Pope Francis in his commitment to make space for everyone in the church because “the church will be less than what Christ intends it to be when issues of inclusion and equality are not fully addressed. The church in Parramatta would be a “house for all peoples.”

Bishop Bill Wright

Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle wrote an article in the diocesan magazine Aurora about the postal survey, and he placed it in the context of social change. He urged Catholics to “give careful consideration to all information that comes your way, think hard, talk a lot, pray about it, and vote,” admitting that “people of good will might honestly disagree.”

Wright looked at civil marriage equality from two angles: one which affirmed the issue; the other expressed religious liberty concerns heard elsewhere. He wrote:

“It seemed to me then, and now, that in a society where same-sex relationships are legal and gay couples can adopt and raise children, it’s a bit of a legal anomaly that their relationship itself doesn’t have a clear legal status. The church couldn’t recognise a same-sex union as a marriage, except in the limited sense of ‘a marriage according to Australian law’. But this is true of many marriages. . .The question about any proposed law is not whether it squares with church teaching or a moral ideal, but whether it is a good practical rule for people living in this society at this time. Such a ‘common good’ argument can be made that, in our pluralist society, it does more for community peace and harmony for gay couples to have a place in the recognised structures than for them to be excluded.”

Wright continued less positively with concern about the “social consequences” of civil marriage equality, specifically religious liberty issues on whether business owners should be required to provide services to same-gender couples. Non-discrimination protections would be a “failure to respect the conscientious or religious convictions of some citizens,” and he cited legal battles in other nations that have arisen over such issues. Wright was also concerned about church-affiliated schools being able to teach according to doctrine.

Earlier this year, Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst said Catholics will vote according to their faith, and this means some of the faithful will, “for various reasons,” vote yes. Two rectors at elite Australian Catholic schools have come out publicly for marriage equality, as has the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry which released a pro-LGBT voting guide this summer. Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, the head of Catholic Social Services Australia, also wrote that he would be voting “yes” in the postal survey.

Not all Australian bishops have had such respect for the faithful’s consciences. Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher “sent hundreds of flyers to city churches and published articles available on many church websites” encouraging Catholics to vote no, reported’s Archbishop Denis Hart, who is also head of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, raised the issue of church worker firings over marriage equality, though this report was later clarified that it would be up to each bishop to decide on their employment policies.

On both sides of the debate, Catholics have played a central role including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Prime Minister Tony Abbot, a staunch opponent of equal marriage. The postal survey over marriage equality, one most Australians believe is unnecessary and even quite harmful, has gotten ugly at moments. For instance, a Neo-Nazi sign that contained a message linked to a Catholic priest was found in Melbourne at one point, and Archbishop Hart did not comment on it.

It is a hopeful “sign of the times” that not only Catholics and even clergy are willing to speak about consciences being respected when it comes to civil LGBT issues, but now bishops are doing so, too.

There may be a dynamic at work for Bishops Long, Wright, and McKenna that is worth identifying, as this dynamic was certainly the case in Ireland’s referendum on marriage equality. Though many Australians are critical of the church’s teachings on LGBT equality, the sexual abuse of children by clergy has shaken the Australian church to its roots. One Sydney priest, Fr. Kevin Burke, has said of church leaders, “With our credibility being what it is, perhaps we should just shut up.”

For some leaders, this option may be best. But far more valuable are bishops who can speak pastorally about people’s lived realities, and do so humbly in the context of the abuse crisis and the church’s history of LGBT-negative statements. Silence is not better than bishops who teach messages of inclusion and respect for consciences, and acknowledge the good intentions and very personal reasons why so many Catholics support LGBT equality. These merciful and even just acts will be what rebuilds the institutional church’s greatly diminished credibility after the abuse crisis, and what will allow churches to really be “houses for all people.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 25, 2017



Transgender Candidate in Virginia Discusses Catholic Background and Route 28

Today, we offer seven questions to Danica Roem, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. If elected, Roem, who was raised Catholic, would become the commonwealth’s first openly transgender elected official. Roem is challenging Delegate Bob Marshall, a Catholic and 25-year incumbent who has focused on opposing LGBT equality. Roem corresponded with Bondings 2.0 via email.

Danica Roem

1. For our readers who are not in Northern Virginia, can you tell us a little about your background and about why you are running for state Delegate?

I’m a 32-year-old step-mom and a lifelong Manassas resident who authored more than 2,500 news stories about the greater Prince William County area as the lead reporter for the Gainesville Times from 2006-2015. I’m running to fix Route 28, bring high-paying jobs to Innovation Park, fill the office vacancies in Manassas Park and raise teacher pay in Prince William County and Manassas Park so it’s not the lowest in Northern Virginia. I believe we can accomplish all of those items together while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth. No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or who you love, you should be welcomed here for who you are, not for what other people tell you you’re supposed to be.

2. Can you share a little bit about your Catholic background? Has your Catholic background had an influence on your involvement in politics?

I was baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. After attending kindergarten through third grade at Loch Lomond Elementary School in Manassas, I attended Catholic schools for the next 13 years, including five at All Saints Catholic School in Manassas, four years at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax (Class of 2002) and four years at St. Bonaventure University in western New York (Class of 2006), where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Mass Communication.

My Catholic background introduced me to a quote from St. Francis de Sales that I repeat often on the campaign trail: “Be who you are and be that well.” Meanwhile, the social justice teachings from the church that are inclusive of other people–particularly taking care of the poor, homeless, neglected, abused and forgotten–are extremely important to me.

3. A lot of transphobia comes from religious groups.  Why do you think this is so?

It’s a conflict between a literal interpretation of the Bible and the lived, experienced reality of people who deviate from that literal interpretation without reconciling what psychology teaches us. God has a place for transgender people, to,o and it’s not to club us over the head to tell us we’re supposed to be someone we’re not.

The same God who made men and women made some men transgender, some women transgender and some people non-binary. If God didn’t want transgender people to exist, we wouldn’t. If the entirety of your interpretation about what it means to be a man or woman boils down to an anatomical definition of sex, then you’re leaving out the heart and soul of what it means to experience a gender or lack thereof.

4.  How have your gender identity and spiritual identity related to one another in your life?

My own personal gender identity and spiritual identity are reconciled. I’m not afraid to say I disagree with a lot of the Vatican’s teachings on gender and sexuality, and I fundamentally disagree with the lack of power offered to women within the church. People are perfectly capable of independent thought, we don’t have to believe everything we’re told from otherwise fallible people who are just like you and me.

5. You’re running against a Catholic, Delegate Bob Marshall, who has taken positions against the LGBT community, including introducing a “bathrooms bill” similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law that would mandate people use restrooms according to their assigned sex at birth. What message do you have for Catholics like Marshall who do not endorse LGBT equality?

If I filed a bill so Catholic priests have to use a facility different than anyone else, that probably wouldn’t go over too well though it would be easy to justify it by saying, “Well, too many Catholic priests abused boys and young men, so they can’t be in the same restroom as boys and young men.” In fact, reading that very sentence probably elicited some sort of reaction from you, likely either, “That’s so offensive!” or “Ha, you tell ’em!” It shouldn’t have made you comfortable or uncomfortable; it should have made you simply recognize the absurdity of filing such a bill. We don’t do that because it’s discriminatory,  it singles out and stigmatizes a specific group of people based on the actions of a criminal minority. And it’s impossible to enforce.

Meanwhile, there has never been a case in American history of a transgender woman sexually assaulting another woman in a restroom but transgender women are treated as if we’re more of a threat than the priest in the boys’ room who has a history of sexual violence. The last thing any transgender person wants to do is expose the parts of their anatomy that make them different from the other people around them. It speaks to a fundamental lack of understanding about how gender dysphoria works to suggest otherwise.

Transgender women are women, transgender men are men, gender non-conforming people are people and we all just need to pee.

Regarding equality more broadly, it’s simple: if two consenting adults want to get married, celebrate their joy, don’t tell them they’re abominations. If you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against for who you are, let alone told to be someone you’re not, then don’t discriminate against other people for who they are and don’t tell LGBTQ people they’re not supposed to be LGBTQ. Some people take time to figure out what’s best for them and they may try out several different identities until something fits. Some people know who they are and when they figure it out, they’re set. So leave them alone.

6. Religion, gender, sexuality are often volatile topics.  How much of a role do you think they will play in campaigning for the office you are seeking?

They only play a role when I’m asked about them or I’m trying to find common ground. What other people say about religion, gender and sexuality is their business. When I’m knocking on doors, I’m talking about my plan to fix Route 28.

7. If you win the election,  you will be the first trans person to hold elected office in Virginia, and one of a only a small number of LGBT elected officials in the country. Do you see yourself as an LGBT role model?

If you mean a role model for LGBTQ people who focus on improving infrastructure while running for office, sure. Otherwise, I don’t call myself that but if other people see me as a role model, that’s their business. I’m running to fix Route 28. Seriously. That’s why I’m doing this. When we replace the traffic lights in Centreville with overpasses, I’ll retire from politics and actually have a life again. So, note to anyone who doesn’t want me in office long: if you want me to go away, then hurry up and fix Route 28. I’ll gladly step aside when it’s done. I have exactly zero political ambition beyond the General Assembly. I’ll never run statewide. I’ll never run for Congress. I’m running to do a good job as a delegate, which vicariously means I’ll show that well-qualified transgender people are perfectly capable of dealing with public policy as anyone else who’s well-qualified.

To find out more about Danica Roem and her campaign, visit

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2017

NEWS NOTES: TEDx Talk, British MP, Gay Latinx, and More

Here are some items that you might find of interest:

1) Vin Testa, the president of Dignity/Washington, a ministry by and for LGBT Catholics, gave a TEDx talk at Salve Regina University, Rhode Island, his alma mater. The talk, entitled “Allowance vs. Acceptance,” focuses on the LGBT Catholic experience.  You can watch the talk by clicking here.

2) Jacob Rees-Mogg, a British Parliament Member who is a Catholic, has received strong criticism from his colleagues for voicing opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, using his religious beliefs as the basis for his remarks, reports CruxRees-Mogg has been identified as a possible successor to Prime Minister Theresa May as head of the Tory Party.

3) Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who came out publicly as gay, was interviewed this summer by CBC-Radio Canada’s Megan Williams.  As part of his comments, Charamsa claimed that a great deal of homophobia in the Catholic Church is caused by priests he described as “self-loathing, homophobic and homosexual.”

4) A prominent San Diego hotelier has publicly regretted his $125,000 contribution to California’s Proposition 8 campaign, which, for a time, outlawed marriage equality in the state, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Doug Manchester explained the religious basis for his contribution:  “I was asked by the Catholic bishop of San Diego, and I am Catholic, to contribute and I did. And my family was opposed to it. And I want to clarify the issue: that was a huge mistake and I have more than done everything to rectify that mistake.”

5) Xorje Olivares, a Latinx media personality, gave an interview to Cassius about growing up as a gay Catholic Mexican-American.  The interview also ventures into his spirituality and why he continues to remain a part of the Catholic Church.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 23, 2017


If Church Leaders Don’t ‘Smell Like Their Flock,’ How Can They Be Credible?

Fr. Bryan Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University, has challenged Catholic leaders to smell more like their flock on LGBT issues, if they want to be credible witnesses to the Gospel.

Massingale - What does it mean-Massingale opened his recent U.S. Catholic essay entitled “The church needs to work more closely with its LGBT members” by writing about his travels in Kenya, where, at one point, he helped with baptisms in a remote region. Entering the church, he said it “reeked with the odor of goat dung” and there were swarms of flies. This atmosphere made sense because the women gathered to celebrate were all shepherds and smelled of their flocks.

Massingale said the women “taught me what it means to smell like the flock,” his favorite image from Pope Francis about ministry in the church. He continued:

“[Pope Francis] summons us to go to those who live on the edges of what religious folks find acceptable. And then he tells us that we cannot be effective bearers of the good news unless we are willing to ‘smell like the sheep,’ that is, unless we are willing to be so intimately a part of people’s lives and endure the hardships they experience. We must be willing to put up with the flies present in their lives and smell like the sheep.”

Massingale applied this lesson to LGBT people in the church, and the need for better pastoral care with them. He wrote:

“The Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT persons has become, especially for Millennial Catholics, a litmus test for its ethical credibility and moral authority. Church documents speak about LGBT persons. But no official statement or outreach begins by speaking with them and engaging their experiences or those of their families.

“Pope Francis’ challenge to smell like sheep then hovers over the church: How can we effectively proclaim good news, much less be seen as credible, if church leadership refuses to smell like the flock? Can we become so familiar with the LGBT community’s lives, stories, struggles, and triumphs, even endure their flies, namely, the hostility of those who would ostracize them either out of ignorance or hatred?”

Massingale specifically identified the firing of LGBT church workers, citing New Ways Ministry’s list that reports on more than 60 public incidents in the last decade. These firings in particular have undercut church leaders’ credibility and harmed whole communities.

Massingale himself has come to “smell like the flock” as an outspoken advocate for LGBT inclusion. In April, he told the LGBT and ally participants at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Refuse to be silenced. Continue to speak our truth.”  At another conference this past summer, he has said we are engaged in a “struggle for the soul of U.S. Catholicism” given the bishops’ partisan campaigns.  In another essay, he wrote that the church cannot abandon transgender Catholics. In 2013, he challenged the Pax Christi USA national conference attendees to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a necessary part of attracting younger Catholics. Massingale also joined other Catholic theologians and officials in condemning proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 17, 2017

CAFOD Not Truthful about Why It Cancelled Lecture, Claims Fr. James Martin

News that several organizations cancelled lectures by Fr. James Martin, SJ, has sparked an intense conversation this last week. The lecture cancellations, which you can read about here and here, occurred because of Martin’s new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. The online attacks against the priest which led to the cancellations have come from right wing Catholic groups, which are now being given increased attention as the church grapples with how to respond to them, though at least one U.S. bishop has chastised them.

MartinInclusionCAFOD Statements Not Truthful

Fr. Martin explained that he had to “correct the record” about the reasons why CAFOD, the English bishops’ international humanitarian aid agency, cancelled a lecture by the priest scheduled for this October. Martin offered his account of events on his Facebook page.

Chris Bain, CAFOD’s director, told The Tablet that the organization “did not withdraw the invitation for Fr Martin to speak at our refugees and migration event, which was postponed, but our correspondence was not clear.” Martin would be welcome to speak at the rescheduled event next spring. Martin has said this description of events is “not entirely accurate.” He explained:

“‘There was some vague talk of ‘perhaps some time in the future. . .but it was very clear that the 2017 talk was cancelled. And it was clear why: concerns and fears over negative publicity surrounding my LGBT book. . .In the case of the Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems.'”

CAFOD has claimed their decision to reconsider inviting Martin was necessary as the organization “had a duty to consider how to proceed in the best interests of Cafod’s work.”

Martin Offers Support for Institutions

In another Facebook post, Fr. Martin offered his support for the institutions and organizations which have cancelled scheduled lectures. He said CAFOD, Theological College, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are “fine Catholic institutions” and were “victims of those terrible websites” that have attacked Martin. The priest encouraged Catholics to keep supporting their ministries, and wrote:

“The situations were so terrifically fraught with fear for these organizations: fear of protests, fear of violence, fear of bad publicity, fear of angry donors, fear of lost donations, fear of offending, and on and on. When two of the organizers called me, I could hear the anguish in their voices.”

Responding to Internet Trolls

Both Martin, in a Facebook post, and the editors of America, in an editorial, have commented on how Catholics might respond to the right wing websites which have launched attacks against the priest. The editorial in America said, at one point:

“It is likewise a mistake to ignore or dismiss those whose so-called evangelization takes the form of online attacks, and whose goal seems to be a purge of Catholic voices who do not meet their standards of purity. Those who lead such efforts are claiming a kind of parallel magisterium, substituting their own outrage for the judgement of those who occupy the church’s legitimate teaching office.

“They must be confronted, and church leaders—especially those whose viewpoints may differ from those of the persons under attack—should speak up strongly and clearly against these attacks and attempts at intimidation. The communion of the church needs to be defended—not from the peril of theological discussion but rather from that of being monitored and policed by the loudest and least loving voices among us.”

Gehring on the “Real Scandal”

John Gehring of Faith and Public Life wrote an essay in Commonweal about the real scandal happening when it comes to right wing attacks in the church. He said:

“When a group of zealots who show no sense of Christian decency and consistently target faithful people have more sway over a seminary than the cardinals and bishops who endorsed Martin’s book, it raises serious questions we can’t dismiss.”

Gehring referenced Martin’s popularity with younger Catholics who, rather than clinging to the culture wars, are focused on social justice. Lecture cancellations based on nasty attacks mean “[t]he already-thin thread barely connecting these young Catholics to the institutional church just got thinner.” Gehring added, “Self-inflicted wounds are hard to heal.”

Gehring also commented specifically on the Theological College controversy, which had the odd twist that The Catholic University of America, which oversees the seminary, claimed in a statement that the school for future priests somehow had independent authority. Noting the University would host right wing businessperson Charles Koch for a business school conference this month, Gehring concluded:

“A seminary at the only Vatican-chartered university in the country tells a priest who espouses orthodox views that he can’t speak, but the business school at the same university rolls out the red carpet for a wealthy patron of a political network that fights against a Catholic vision for the common good? It makes you wonder what the real scandal is.”

Paulist Fathers Offer Support

Calling Martin a “friend and neighbor of the Paulist Fathers,” the order said its members “were shocked and disappointed” by Theological College’s decision. The statement continued:

“Moreover, this incident exposes the ugliness and intolerance in our Church and society that is in desperate need of reconciliation and healing. . .[Theological College leaders] have sent a dangerous message to the future priests they train that encouraging dialogue and accompaniment with those on the periphery is unacceptable.”

This incident though bad could “prompt desperately needed charitable conversation and dialogue among the faithful on sexuality and spirituality.” You can read the Paulists’ full statement here.

Thankfully in these present controversies, support has poured in for Martin. But right wing attacks are nothing new for LGBT Catholics and their allies who have endured them for years. Going forward, we hope there will be a new solidarity against all those who seek to divide the church, especially those people and groups who target LGBT people and their families.

For continued updates on the Fr. Martin controversy and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 21, 2017

Bishop McElroy: Right Wing Attacks on LGBT Issues a “Wake-Up Call” for Catholics

Right wing attacks on Jesuit  Fr. James Martin’s views on LGBT issues should be a “wake-up call” for Catholics, said San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy in a new essay.

Bishop Robert McElroy

McElroy’s essay in America identified a “cancer of vilification seeping into the institutional life of the church,” namely the judgmentalism now on display against Fr. Martin. Last week, news broke that Theological College in Washington, D.C. along with a couple other institutions, had cancelled lectures by Martin because of his new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. For more information on these incidents, click here. To read New Ways Ministry’s statement on this incident, click here.

Praising Building a Bridge, McElroy admitted there is “legitimate and substantive criticism” which Martin has received. Yet recent attacks from the right go beyond acceptable discourse and should be a “wake up call” for Catholics, the bishop wrote. He continued:

“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church. Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities. . .

“The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church.”

The right wing groups have sought to “vilify” Martin by distorting his work and assassinating his character, said McElroy. Expanding his reflection beyond just the Martin incidents, the bishop explored the homophobic impulse. He said the attacks “tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture,” adding:

“The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the L.G.B.T. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. Gay sexual activity is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that L.G.B.T. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of sexual orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed. . .

“The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God.”

McElroy also identified another dimension associated with these attacks: the right wing’s “distortion of Catholic moral theology.” The bishop said what is central to Christian life is not chastity, but love. He explained:

“Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not. . .Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both.”

McElroy also pointed out how the attacks on Martin’s book echo conservatives’ rejection of Pope Francis’ pastoral approach to LGBT issues. McElroy wrote:

“Regarding the issue of homosexuality, in particular, many of those attacking Father Martin simply cannot forgive the Holy Father for uttering that historic phrase on the plane: ‘Who am I to judge?’ The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church.”

McElroy’s essay ends on a disappointing note. In his concluding paragraph, he wrote that it is “judgmentalism on both sides” which has created the divide between LGBT people and the institutional church, rhetoric similar to the “on all sides” phrasing so sharply criticized in recent secular conversations on race . Martin has been criticized for likewise saying both sides are to blame without acknowledging the power differential between marginalized LGBT people and the powerful church leaders who allow or even enact such marginalization.

McElroy’s essay, which you can read in full by clicking here, is a strong defense of Fr. Martin and a welcome acknowledgement of the prejudice and abuse that LGBT people in the church face. The dialogue over LGBT issues in the church must also address power dynamics at work in the discussion.  If church leaders claim that there is “judgmentalism on both sides,” the extremely necessary “wake-up call” to expel the “cancer of vilification”that McElroy calls for won’t happen.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Building a Bridge, reviews about it, and the conversation around it, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 20, 2017


Support Pours in for Fr. Martin After Lecture Cancellations

Support for Fr. James Martin, SJ, has been strong after lectures by him were cancelled due to pressure from right-wing websites that criticize Martin for his new book on LGBT issues in the church.

James Martin cropped
Fr. James Martin, SJ

Last Friday, Martin posted on his Facebook page that Theological College in Washington, D.C. had cancelled a scheduled talk by him. He also reported that two other talks in October, one for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York City and one for CAFOD, the English bishops’ humanitarian aid program were canceled. All of these talks were about encountering Jesus and not LGBT issues.  For New Ways Ministry’s statement on the cancellation at Theological College, click here.

Martin said the cancellations were “a result of anger or fear over my book ‘Building a Bridge,’ about LGBT Catholics.” He continued:

“In the case of Theological College, the fears were of angry protesters disrupting their Alumni Day. In the case of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Dinner, it was anger from some members over the topic of LGBT Catholics. In the case of Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems. In none of these cases was the local ordinary–in each a cardinal–in any way advocating for the cancellation of the talk. The impetus was purely from those social media sites.

“I have asked each organization to be honest about the reasons for these cancellations. That is, I told them I did not want to lie and say, “I withdrew” or “I declined” or “I was afraid to come.”

“So I share with you as much as I can in the interests of transparency, which we need in our church. And to show you the outsize influence of social media sites motivated by fear, hatred and homophobia.”

Rightwing websites instigated the attacks on Martin, referring to him as “homosexualist” and “sodomy-promoting,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. Theological College’s rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, cited the “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites” because of Building a Bridge as the reason why cancellation was “in the best interest of all parties,” reported Crux.

Interestingly, The Catholic University of America’s president, John Garvey, distanced the school from Theological College’s decision. The seminary is “under the auspices” of the university, but acted apart from direct oversight in deciding to cancel the lecture, according to a statement.

Martin’s supporters rose quickly to his defense, including an outpouring of such support on social media. Jesuits Fr. John Cecero, S.J. and Fr. Timothy Kesicki, Martin’s superiors, along with the editor-in-chief of America, where Martin works, all released supportive statements. Despite the cancellations and with such support, Martin is undeterred, saying of the rightwing websites:

“[They] traffic in hatred and they foment fear. . .Perfect love drives out fear, as we learn in the New Testament. . .But perfect fear drives out love. But I’m not deterred or even disturbed.”

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907


Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2017

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