In Interviews In All Kinds of Media, Fr. Martin Offers Insights to His New Book

As I’ve noted before, Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s new book Building a Bridge:  How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity has been the top Catholic LGBT story of the summer.  As bloggers, the Bondings 2.0 team has been challenged to keep up with all the publicity and reviews that the book has generated.

Fr. James Martin, S.J.

We’ve already covered a number of reviews of the articles, as well as posting New Ways Ministry’s analysis, so today we are presenting you a “round-up” post of the many interviews in diverse media outlets that Fr. Martin has given this past summer.  You can click on the link for each interview to read the entire text.

1. In a brief interview for America magazine, “Father James Martin answers 5 common questions about ‘Building a Bridge’ .”     When asked,  “How can you ask the L.G.B.T. Catholics to treat the church with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’?” Fr. Martin responded:

“I should have been clearer about this in the book. The onus for bridge building is on the institutional church—clergy and church officials, including lay people. Because it is the institutional church that has marginalized the L.G.B.T. community, not the other way around. But we are all called to be respectful of one another, including L.G.B.T. Catholics in the relationship with the hierarchy. Why? Because we are all Christians.”

2. Salon.com‘s Mary Elizabeth Williams spoke with Fr. Martin, and at one point highlighted his point that LGBT people are already part of the Catholic Church.  He responded:

“For Jesus, there is not ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only ‘us.’ For Jesus ,there is no one who is ‘other.’ His own ministry is about inclusion and going out to people who feel like or are treated as other and bringing them into the community through healing, through talking to them.

“LGBT people are part of the Church by virtue of their baptism, period. They’re as much a part of the Church as me as their local bishop or as the Pope. I submit that they are sometimes better Catholics because they put up with so many hateful comments, and they still persevere in their faith. That to me is real faith. The people that I know who have persevered in the Church in the face of horrible comments, who have forgiven pastors for insulting them, and who continue to participate in the life of the Church, is extraordinary. Their perseverance and their forgiveness is a real gift.”

3. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Scott Simon, host of the popular “Weekend Edition” show,  Fr. Martin explains that church leaders need to get to know LGBT people on real and deep levels.  At one point, he states:

“I think that the church has spent too much time – by that, I mean the institutional church – speaking at, preaching at, tweeting about, publishing about LGBT people without actually getting to know them and listening to their experiences and asking them questions like – what’s your experience of God like? Who is Jesus for you? What’s your experience of the church like? – because the Holy Spirit resides in LGBT people. And the church really needs to listen and to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is operating.”

4. Brian Lehrer of WNYC Radio had Fr. Martin as a guest on his talk show.  In the interview, Lehrer asks for an example of how LGBT Catholics feel excluded by the Church, and Martin answers with a terrible tale of a priest who refused to visit a gay man dying in a hospice.

5. In an interview with Crux, Fr. Martin responded to a question about how LGBT issues were treated at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family with the following statements:

“That these issues came up means that the Holy Spirit is agitating among the faithful and among the bishops, and that these questions are important questions.

“The Pope asked for the bishops to bring to the Synod the sort of questions that are being circulated in their dioceses, and they did. I think people were afraid of some of the issues, and the Holy Spirit can be frightening sometimes, but fear not!”

6. While talking with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt,  Fr. Martin was asked about the Catholic Catechism’s language concerning homosexuality.  He responded:

“I’m no theologian, but I would say that some of the language used in the catechism on that topic needs to be updated, given what we know now about homosexuality. Earlier, for example, the catechism says that the homosexual orientation is itself ‘objectively disordered.’ But, as I say in the book, saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is disordered is needlessly hurtful. A few weeks ago, I met an Italian theologian who suggested the phrase ‘differently ordered’ might convey that idea more pastorally.”

7. When asked by The National Catholic Register’s Judy Roberts as to why he focused on “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and not sexual ethics, Fr. Martin responded, in part:

“The reason I didn’t talk about chastity in my book is because Church teaching is clear on that matter, and it’s well-known in the “LGBT” community. I don’t think there’s any “LGBT” Catholic alive who doesn’t understand that teaching. By the same token, there seem to be few “LGBT” Catholics who have accepted that teaching. Theologically speaking, you could say the teaching has not been “received” by the “LGBT” community, to whom it was directed. So rather than focusing on a topic where the two groups — the institutional church and the “LGBT” community — are miles and miles apart, I preferred to try to build a bridge over areas that could be places of common ground.”

8. The Jesuit Post, a blog produced by young Jesuits, published a two-part interview with Fr. Martin about the book,  In the first part of the interview, Martin reflects on what the experience of publishing the book has taught him.  In the second part,  he discusses some specific church issues facing LGBT people (such as church employment), as well as explaining the genesis of the oft-neglected spirituality section, which comprises the second half of the book:

“For many years I’ve done–like many Jesuits, priests and religious, and lay pastoral workers–a kind of ‘informal ministry’ with LGBT people.  And I’ve found that some passages from Scripture have consistently been helpful for LGBT people who are struggling with their faith.  Psalm 139 (‘I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’) is one of them.  It’s such a powerful tool for people, and helps unlock things for them in prayer.

“Likewise, I wanted to include selected passages from the New Testament that I feel can help people gain insight into the ways that Jesus treated people who felt marginalized in his time—like the story of the Roman centurion’s servant, and Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus.   In the book, I invite readers to use some of the practices of Ignatian contemplation with these passages.  What might God want to tell us in our prayer?”

9. The Millennial Journal’s  Robert Christian asked Fr. Martin about what church members do to help stave off anti-LGBT violence globally, such as in Chechnya and Uganda, as well as locally in the form of bullying.  He responded:

“First of all, speak up.  The Gospels impel us to stand with those who are being persecuted in any way.  I don’t know how much clearer Jesus could be: he sided with those who were on the margins.  Catholic social teaching urges us to understand the meaning of solidarity. And the Catechism asks us to resist any forms of ‘unjust discrimination’ directed against LGBT people.  So in places where LGBT people are being actively persecuted, the Church should stand with them, publicly.  Other issues can clearly be seen in the light of Church teaching.  What is suicide among gay teens other than a life issue’?

“So we need to make LGBT people feel visible and valuable. We need to let them know that they are beloved children of God who are as much a part of the church as the pope, their local bishop, and me.  We need to listen to them and enter the mystery of their lives.  We need to accompany them.  We need to stick up for them when needed.  We need to be compassionate to them.  And we need to let them evangelize us.  In a word, we need to love them.”

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 11, 2017

The Impact Fr. Martin’s New Book Is Already Having

The Catholic LGBT sensation of the summer has definitely been the publication of Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s book, Buidling a Bridge:  How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.   Even before its publication in mid-June, and continuing up to today, I have been receiving daily emails about the book–reviews, inquiries, suggestions for how to use it–and the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Why has this book made such a splash, when there have been many other books about Catholic LGBT issues published over the past few decades?  It’s hard to say for sure, but I can think of several possibilities.

First, I think it is important to notice who the author is: a priest.  While there have been numerous books about Catholic LGBT issues written by theologians, advocates, scholars, and people in the pews, it has been a very long time since a priest has authored such a book.

Moreover, while some priests have written about pastoral care or theological subtlety, I can’t think of any who has tackled the thorny issue of the relationship between the institutional church and the LGBT community. I think that the topic of developing a good relationship between these two groups is comparable in intensity to the highly emotional topic of sexual ethics.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it has been put out by a major publishing house, HarperOne.  This gives the book more of a mainstream audience than most Catholic LGBT books which are usually published by religious or LGBT presses.

Of course, Fr. Martin’s renown plays a role in the book’s popularity, too.  Already well-known as one of the top contemporary spirituality writers, Fr. Martin is also much sought after by the news media as a commentator on Catholic news topics.  While his fame certainly plays a role in the book’s distribution, it’s also important to remember that Fr. Martin also took a major risk in deciding to address an issue which is fraught by controversy in the Church.

While there have been plenty of reviews of Martin’s book, it’s important to note that not all of them have been positive.  Reviewers from both progressive and conservative Catholic camps have faulted him for not writing about sexual ethics.  While the first group hoped he would be critical of church teaching about sexual relationships, the second group hoped he would have defended it more.

Some of these reviews, however, miss the main point of the book: Fr. Martin is analyzing the relationship between the institutional church and the LGBT community, not the sexual ethics teaching.  The sexual ethics teaching is, of course, important, but it is not the only issue that stands between better relations between the institutional church and the LGBT community. Much healing and reconciliation needs to be accomplished, and Martin is correct that “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–a quote from the Catechism which are Martin’s three themes of bridge-building–need to form the basis of that healing and reconciliation.

Fr. James Martin

As I have been traveling to various Catholic meetings and speaking with Catholic people who work in the institutional church across the country this summer,  almost every person I meet has told me how inspiring Fr. Martin’s book was to them.  That bit of evidence, unscientific but absolutely true, tells me that the most important audience for this book are church professionals.  That is exactly the group that needs to hear Fr. Martin’s message the most, and my experience tells me that he has been wildly successful in that regard.  The news earlier this week that Cardinal Cupich endorsed Martin’s recommendation that church leaders should use the identifying terms for the LGBT community which its members prefer is evidence that the book is having an impact in the hierarchy.

I’ve also met two groups of pastoral ministers in two different parts of the country who, independent of each other, both had the same idea:  they want to send Martin’s book to diocesan and parish leaders, including their bishops.  I believe that Fr. Martin’s message can soften the hearts of church leaders in a way that others have not been able to do.

You don’t even have to open the book to see the impact that it can have on the hierarchy.  On the back of the dust jacket are blurbs recommending the book from two cardinals (one a Vatican official) and a bishop.  What’s even more intriguing is that they are in the company of two advocates from the Catholic LGBT community–theologian James Alison and New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeanine Gramick–who also strongly recommend the book.  If anyone needs evidence that this book can build bridges, it’s right there in the fact that this disparate company of folks have been able to find common ground.

Not commented on by mostly all reviewers is the second part of Martin’s book, which is a collection of prayers, guided scripture reflections, and spirituality material.  It’s a shame that this section is not noted by reviewers because it contains some very moving, helpful, and insightful material.  If the first part of the book is the plan for building a bridge, this second part can serve as the material for that work.  It would be wonderful if church leaders sat with LGBT people and reflected with them on some of the topics presented in that second half.

While people may legitimately differ on the details of Martin’s suggestions for how each side of the debate shows “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” what I think is beyond dispute is that this book is having an immense impact on the discussion of the Catholic LGBT debate.  It has reached influential people in the Church who are in positions to make important decisions about pastoral care programs, local policies, and bridge-building opportunities.

The success of Fr. Martin’s book is the fact that he has gotten the discussion started again, and he has done so at a time when it is ripe for the wider church.  His book may not please all advocates on left and right, but he is reaching two gold-mine audiences: the mainstream of the Catholic Church and its leaders.

At New Ways Ministry, we believe in bridge-building, and have been striving to do this activity for 40 years.  One thing we have learned is that bridge building happens “by little and by little.” Fr. Martin’s book is one more little step in the right direction.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 31, 2017

 

 

NEWS NOTES: Parish Supports Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Charity; Other News

Here are some items that may be of interest:

News Notes1) The Gay Fellowship of Blessed Sacrament Church in New York City recently hosted a dance party, “Moving with the Spirit.” Proceeds from the event benefited the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga’s charity for youth empowerment named after her LGBT-related song “Born This Way,” and the Ali Forney Center in New York City that helps shelter LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.

2) Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, criticized Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s latest discriminatory action that seeks to deny Communion to LGBT people, allies, and others in the church. Duddy-Burke said of the video in which he defends his decision, “What we seek is not for others to be subject to banishment and exclusion, as we too often have been.” She added, “Banning people from the sacramental table and. . .from the rituals that provide comfort and consolation at the time of death, are egregious violations of . . . pastoral responsibility.”

3) The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement critical of the nation’s Bill C-16 law passed in June which adds gender identity and gender expression as protected classes in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. The bishops’ response was moderate, opening with a statement that transgender people deserve “compassion, respect, and love” because they are made in God’s image.

4) A right-wing Catholic organization in Chile clashed with police after bringing two buses with anti-LGBT messages on their sides into Santiago. LGBT groups were present to counter-protest, bringing their own “diversity bus,” after which the 300 or so people gathered began to fight. Police had to intervene with tear gas and water cannons to get the crowd to disperse.

5) An author in England claimed a Catholic school cancelled an educational event with her because she is a transgender woman. Juno Dawson was scheduled to speak about her latest book, Margot and Me, at Brownedge St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Preston. Buzzfeed reported that the school “had previously been widely commended for its work on LGBT issues.” The school said the cancellation occurred because of the book’s content, though it was not specified what the offending content was.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 30, 2017

 

How a Vatican Priest Learned to Build Bridges from LGBT Catholics

Of the many different reviews and assessments of Fr. James Martin’s new book, Building a Bridge, this summer, none was more personal than Fr. Thomas Rosica’s, CSB.

Fr. Rosica is the head of Salt and Light Media,  a Catholic Canadian ministry which provides education, information, and inspiration through television, radio, print, and online materials. He also serves as the English language media liaison for special events at the Vatican.  In that former role, he became well-known in U.S. Catholic media during the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

In a blog post on Salt and Light Media website, Fr. Rosica introduces his comments on Fr. Martin’s book by telling telling a story about the trepidation he initially experienced a few decades ago as he prepared to deliver a week-long mission at Most Holy Redeemer parish, San Francisco, which by then had already become known as having a mostly gay congregation.  Rosica explained that he thought the parishioners would be dismissive of Catholic ideas, and he also worried if he would have a relevant message to the many parishioners who at the time had HIV/AIDS. As he explains it:

“They knew what it meant to live on the fringes of society. I remember my reticence in accepting the invitation from the then-Archbishop’s office – thinking that no one would really come and listen to a Gospel message of hope and joy in the midst of a devastating epidemic, or that those who would come would have many difficulties with Church teaching. I was uncomfortable with the thought of being protested, dismissed or rejected by what I had believed to be left-wing radicals and Church dissidents in California!”

But Rosica said he experienced a “surprise”:

“What I experienced at Holy Redeemer Parish that week was a very powerful and moving week of prayer, dialogue and openness to the Word of God. If ever I felt to be a bridge-builder and healer, it was that week. . . . .I heard many touching stories from the elderly men and women of various ethnic backgrounds [at the parish] and their gay friends who ministered together to HIV/AIDS patients at home or in hospices, worshipped together, and served the homeless poor together in the neighbourhood. As part of that week-long mission, I spent hours hearing confessions and visiting those who were sick and alienated from the Church for various reasons. I shall never forget the moving celebration of mass and the anointing of the sick that drew hundreds to the Church one summer evening.”

Rosica said he learned a powerful lesson from the experience:

“Many of the gay persons who I met that week revealed a deep spirituality and faith. And most interesting of all, the people I met asked that we, as ministers of the Church, be people of compassion and understanding, and not be afraid to teach the message of the Gospel and the Church with gentleness and clarity even in the midst of ambiguity of lifestyle, devastation, despair and hostility. As a Church and as pastoral ministers, we still have a long journey ahead of us as we welcome strangers into our midst and listen to them.”

What I consider the most important sentence of his reflection is this one:

“Authentic teaching can only begin when we welcome others and listen to their stories.”

That sentence, so filled with true Catholic wisdom, serves as the transition to Rosica’s reflection on Fr. James Martin’s book.  He notes that the book has received many vicious attacks.  I don’t think he was discussing reviews which have had some criticism of specific points in the book, but other screeds whose tone and approach are angry and destructive.  Rosica writes:

“I shook my head in bewilderment several times as I read venom and vitriol in some of the critiques. It is one thing to critique and raise questions. It is another to condemn, disparage and dismiss. I sensed palpable fear and anger in some of the negative commentaries. I made it a point to read the book in one sitting last weekend. I was astounded that what I read in commentaries, blogs, some bishops’ messages, had very little to do with what I considered to be very mild, reflections offered by a well-known Jesuit priest who simply invited people to build bridges with those who are on distant shores. . . . Some of the criticisms reveal more about those writing them, about their own deep fears, confusion, uncertainties, anger and frustration, than they do about those for whom this book is written.”

Rosica focuses in on one of Martin’s major points: the use of proper language to refer to sexual and gender minorities.  In doing so, he notes that Martin’s proposal for more humane language is actually one that bishops around the world have also suggested:

“At the last Synod of Bishops on the Family, I was inside the Synod and watched how some courageous bishops and Cardinals of the Church challenged their brother bishops and Synod delegates to be attentive to our language in speaking about homosexual persons. . . .I am especially grateful to New Zealand Cardinal John Dew who made a fervent plea to examine our ecclesial language of ‘intrinsically disordered’ to describe homosexual persons. Such vocabulary does not invite people into dialogue nor does it build bridges. No matter how well-intentioned scholastic theology tries to describe the human condition, some words miss the mark and end up doing more harm than good. Reality is more important than lofty theological or philosophical ideas.” [Editor:  Link to blog post in this section was added by Bondings 2.0 staff for informational purposes.]

Rosica concludes with a plea for Catholics who criticize other Catholics to do so civilly and constructively.  His powerful words are instructive for all of us:

“To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ without having a passion to build bridges, enter into dialogue and listen to others is to fail in our mission. To preach the Gospel and claim to be a faithful Catholic while using blogs, videos and messages to disparage, condemn and denigrate attempts at building bridges has nothing to do with Christianity. To use clerical status, episcopal authority, or other forms of leadership to dismiss, disparage or slam the efforts of those who simply want to reach those on the peripheries is not befitting of shepherds, pastors or servants of the Lord. It has nothing to do with the Gospel! It is not who we are!”

Fr. Rosica’s message should be heeded not just in regards to discussions of Fr. Martin’s book, but in all Church discussions about LGBT issues.  As Fr. Rosica noted,  authentic teaching will only develop when we listen to each other’s stories.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 24, 2017

 

 

 

On New Catholic LGBT Book, Jamie Manson and Archbishop Chaput Find Common Ground

Fr. James Martin, S.J. seeks to build bridges with his new book on Catholic LGBT issues. While it may not be a bridge, in two new reviews, he has certainly brought together two very different Catholics: lesbian Catholic advocate Jamie Manson and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput.

J Manson 8x10
Jamie Manson

Manson reviewed the book, Building a Bridge, in her column at National Catholic Reporter. She opened by describing the book as a “storybook” which looks inviting but, she added, for LGBT activists it “may also read like fiction.” In the review, she criticized Martin for his more positive portrayal of the hierarchy:

“Martin is hardly the first Catholic, nor the first Jesuit, to write about the LGBT experience in the church. But he may be the first to write about the topic from such a privileged position inside the institutional church. . .His remarkable access to church leaders prompts him to make one of the boldest claims in the book:

‘Many in the institutional church want to reach out to [the LGBT] community, but seem somewhat confused about how to do so. Yes, I know it seems that there are some who don’t seem to want to reach out, but all the bishops I know are sincere in their desire for true pastoral outreach.’

“There are a lot of ‘seems’ in those two sentences, and they seem to suggest that LGBT Catholics, in their lack of access to the power center of the church, are simply ignorant of what’s really going on in the hearts of these men.”

Manson noted evidence to the contrary, including bishops’ silence after the Pulse Nightclub massacre which Martin said in part prompted him to accept New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building award which led to the book’s publication.

Manson also queried Martin’s treatment of homosexuality in the priesthood and religious life. The author sets up what Manson described as a “catch-22” in which he claims both that many priests and bishops are themselves gay, but also that this same group of clergy do not know LGBT people. Manson commented:

“Martin should be applauded for speaking so forthrightly about the prevalence of gay men among the clergy, but he doesn’t really reckon with the fact that it is precisely the clerical closet that makes the hierarchy’s oppression of LGBT people so outrageous and intolerable. So many bishops and priests lie about their own sexualities, some even carry on same-sex relationships, while sitting in judgment over LGBT people who are trying to live their lives honestly.”

She then addressed Martin’s encouragement for LGBT people to improve relations with clergy by  showing church leaders respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Manson responded that church leaders’ actions are too often “an abuse of power” by which, despite LGBT Catholics and their families good faith efforts, bishops have frequently dismissed Catholics’ concerns. She continued:

“More than 40 years of struggle should have taught us by now that compassion, respect and sensitivity are not enough to bring about a truly just relationship between bishops and LGBT Catholics. Even with these three virtues in play, bishops still have the power to judge and negatively impact the lives of LGBT Catholics, while operating in secrecy and lying about their own sexualities. And LGBT Catholics are expected to bear their souls to their religious leaders and beg to be heard, while also, ultimately, remaining voiceless and officially condemned by their church.”

Manson was not hopeful about the proposed bridge because she believes that even though it was most likely unintended to do so, Martin’s book shows “just how radical the lack of mutuality is between LGBT Catholics and the bishops.” She concluded:

“[F]or reconciliation to take place, it would require not simply compassion, respect and sensitivity, but a mutuality of vulnerability, self-disclosure, honesty and authenticity. . .As long as that imbalance persists, it’s hard to imagine how these roads can ever truly meet and how the bridge can possibly hold.”

RNS PHILLY CHAPUT
Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Chaput is also critical of Building a Bridge. Though his appraisal is not the same as Manson’s, he likewise questions the text for not dealing more substantively with the what he understands to be the real issues involving homosexuality and the church.

Writing at CatholicPhilly.com, Chaput said the book is “written with skill and good will,” and that Martin’s exhortation for both sides to be respectful “makes obvious sense.” He then explained:

“But what the text regrettably lacks is an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.  The Church is not simply about unity – as valuable as that is – but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth.

“If the Letter to the Romans is true, then persons in unchaste relationships (whether homosexual or heterosexual) need conversion, not merely affirmation.  If the Letter to the Romans is false, then Christian teaching is not only wrong but a wicked lie.  Dealing with this frankly is the only way an honest discussion can be had.”

It is safe to say that Jamie Manson and Charles Chaput almost always find themselves on opposite ends of the ecclesial spectrum. What is interesting in these reviews is their agreement that the book has some good points, but also that the book failed to address key substantive issues, thereby weakening any attempt to build bridges.

The similarity between these reviewers raises two questions: Does attempting to build a bridge mean that both opposing camps will be dissatisfied?  How do you build a bridge that makes opposing camps both feel that their concerns are addressed fairly?

Bondings 2.0 will continue to provide more reviews of the book as they appear.

y450-293If you have reading Building a Bridge, what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below. You can read our coverage of previous reviews in the following posts:

Fr. James Martin Responds to Critics of New Book on LGBT Issues

David Cloutier, a theologian, on “The Ignatian Option”

Lesbian Catholic Eve Tushnet’s review in The Washington Post

New Catholic LGBT Book is Praised by High Church Leaders

To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage about Fr. James Martin’s involvement on LGBT issues, click here.

You can order Fr. Martin’s book by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 16, 2017

QUOTE TO NOTE: How Gay Bars and Churches are Safe and Sacred Places

When Orlando, Florida newspaper columnist Justin Mitchell visited the Pulse Nightclub memorial this past June, it stirred him to remember the 49 victims who were killed there. It also stirred him to reflect on how gay nightclubs and churches can be quite similar spaces.

club-church-amsterdamMitchell, writing in the Sun Herald, described his journey as a gay man who was raised Catholic. There were positive moments in youth group when church elevated him in prayer, and there was also “the moment I fell out of love with mass” as pastors criticized marriage equality. There was the progressive church in college that welcomed him, and then the rejection by a former parishioner in his hometown. All of this came back to Mitchell as he watched prayer candles burn at the Pulse memorial. He reflected:

“The point of all of this, though, is that I lit that prayer candle and was brought back to my days in church. Because what many don’t realize is that a gay bar is exactly like church in many ways for the LGBTQ+ community. They both are safe spaces where its members can let go and be vulnerable. They can share their most suppressed feelings, whether it’s holding a man’s hand or praying to the man upstairs. It’s a place where, above all, you don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen to you.”

Many people around the world remembered the Pulse anniversary last month. Catholics lamented one bishop’s decree released on that very day which bans married lesbian and gay people from the most important aspects of church life.

As we move forward, these violations (and others that come to mind) of safe and sacred places are our propellants to work even harder so that there will be places like clubs and churches where all are welcome to be who they are.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 15, 2017

Reviewing Fr. James Martin’s “Building a Bridge,” Part I

Fr. James Martin’s new book on LGBT issues, Building a Bridge, has created quite a buzz in the Catholic Church.  It is currently the #1 bestseller in the category of Gender & Sexuality in Religious Studies category on Amazon.com.  The book is based on an address Martin gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award last fall. With the current buzz has come many reviews, three of which Bondings 2.0 will feature this week.

Today’s post engages theologian David Cloutier’s review in Commonweal. His piece is titled “The Ignatian Option,” a reference to Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” that proposed opponents of LGBT equality begin to remove themselves from the secular world as equal rights expand.

Cloutier applauded Martin as someone who has “consistently sought to convey the riches of Catholic Christianity in both a style and a language that is as accessible as possible in a pluralist, post-Christian culture.” In doing so, Martin “does not sacrifice sophistication in aiming at accessibility.” About Building a Bridge specifically, Cloutier commented:

“Lest this approach be taken as a mere plea for more civility, Martin insists that the greater end is that each group will actually get to know the other. ‘You can’t be sensitive to the LGBT community if you only issue documents about them, preach about them, or tweet about them, without knowing them,’ he writes. Similarly, Martin insists on prayer from the LGBT community for the bishops. His book is not meant to outline where the conversation might go but to set the necessary conditions for a conversation. This seems a reasonable initial goal of ‘accompaniment,’ allowing for an ecclesial practice that is faithful to the church’s basic claim that gays and lesbians are ‘always our children’—and always children of God.”

David Cloutier

Cloutier also named three ways by which, in his words, the bridge was “shaky.” First, he disagrees with “Martin’s initial characterization of the LGBT community as a ‘group,'” given the problems which arise in generalizing discussions and the differing issues facing transgender people. Cloutier continued:

“This overly tidy solution about naming leads to the second concern, which is whether this book is written for a socio-political context that no longer exists. At times, I imagined myself reading Building a Bridge in the early 1990s, when as a young Catholic at a very secular liberal arts college, I was learning to negotiate (hopefully with respect, compassion, and sensitivity!) LGBT issues for the first time. But on this issue, the early 1990s seem like ancient history. The idea of generous bridge-building is more difficult when anti-discrimination lawsuits lurk in the wings. Moreover, Catholics have observed decades of church-dividing strife among Protestant churches unable to make this sort of a bridge work, and Martin never hints at why Catholic bridge-building won’t end up in the same place.”

Finally, Cloutier criticized Martin for not forthrightly addressing sexual ethics, writing:

“[H]e elides the fact that the issue at the core of the LGBT community is the challenge to church teaching. I presume this omission of the question of sex is intentional, but there is a sense of ‘let’s pretend’ that seems bothersome. . .Proponents of both sides might point out that the core problem is not how to bring together a marginalized group and an awkward church leadership. It’s really about two clashing views on the fundamental truths of justice and love. Each side has core beliefs about what these claims should mean, and we need to confront why those claims are at odds.”

Cloutier, who trends conservative, called for a conversation on the bridge that would involve chastity and involuntary celibacy, to “come to discern it as a potential gift, rather than an obvious curse.” Interestingly, he wondered whether church leaders should ‘come out,’ but do so only towards the end of “communicating the possibilities of holiness in following the path of Christ” because of their celibate state. He concluded:

“Again, [the clash between Catholics] is no different from what Catholics should expect from tough conversations on issues like economics and the environment: there is a clash of fundamental moral visions that must be engaged. If we’re going to have a conversation, we might not start with that clash. But any bridge is going to have to cross these troubled waters at some point. And perhaps then we’ll see if we need a new St. Ignatius or a new St. Benedict.”

You can read coverage of lesbian Catholic author Eve Tushnet’s review by clicking here. To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage about Fr. James Martin’s involvement on LGBT issues, click here.   You can order Fr. Martin’s book by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 3, 2017

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