“Going to Wings”: A Catholic Lesbian’s Memoir of Coming Out

Sandra Worsham

Today’s post is from guest blogger Sandra Worsham, author of  Going to Wings, the memoir of her coming out as a Catholic lesbian.  (published by Third Lung Press, August, 2017, available at independent bookstores and on Amazon.com)

“The struggle of the gay Christian’s complicated effort to reconcile sexuality and faith is often overlooked by church leaders and more secular gays. But it is a complex, and deeply engaging journey.”     –George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

It has taken me seventy years to write my “coming out” memoir, Going to Wings, because I had to live it in order to write it. When I was twenty-seven years old, I tried to tell my mother that I was gay. That day of “The Telling” was a dividing point in my life. My mother’s reaction was so bad that I couldn’t follow through with my decision to be public. She said that she would have to move away, that she couldn’t live in our town if I was going to be gay.

From that day forward, and for the next thirty years, I tried to change myself. I decided that day that I would not be gay and that I would be “as good as I could be.” I would never have to feel guilty again. That period was the beginning of my leaving the Baptist Church and becoming a Catholic. The Catholic Church, I believed then, would tell me in no uncertain terms what was right and what was wrong. Not to be gay would be “right.” At age twenty-seven, I gave myself to the Catholic Church. For twenty-five years I played the organ for the Saturday night vigil, and I cantored the Psalm. Singing the Psalms was my way of praying. And I formed a close celibate relationship with my good Catholic friend, “Teeny.”

After my mother, and later, Teeny, died, I realized that for all those years, I had buried a part of myself. I got on Match.com and met someone. I began to explore all of me, even the part that I had hidden. I met Letha and, on Valentine’s Day, 2010, we were legally and spiritually married at the Second Congregational Church in Bennington, Vermont. That summer we had a wedding reception at our home in Milledgeville, Georgia, complete with a tiered cake and a guest list of over fifty people, straight and gay. I didn’t send my parish priest an invitation, but someone in the church showed him hers. She needed the priest to tell her that it would be “all right” if she attended. He told her no, that her attendance would signify approval. Then he called me into the rectory and fired me from playing the organ. This priest, who had only been at our church for a few months, didn’t know me, and he didn’t know about my many years of faithfulness to the church. Yet, I hung my head in shame and left the rectory.

As I left, he called out to me, “You and Letha are welcome to worship with us.”

I stopped and turned, “Can I receive the Eucharist?”

“Well, no, not that,” he said.

Letha and I tried to find a church together. But on the Sundays that she didn’t go with me, I knew that no church was going to give me the close feeling I had to Jesus that I had found in the Catholic Church. Yet, I was not welcome to receive communion, and I could no longer play the organ. Finally, after several years of trying other churches, I went back to talk to the priest. I told him that I was angry with him, that I needed to forgive him, and that I wanted to come back. I told him that I wanted to receive the Eucharist. He asked me if I could go to one of the surrounding churches, but not to ours. “Where you went wrong,” he said to me, “was making it public.”

I talked with Sister Jeannine Gramick from New Ways Ministry who told me that the priest could not refuse me if I came to him in the communion line. “They are not supposed to presume,” she said. She told me that my going to communion might make the priest feel uncomfortable but that he would get used to it. I talked with the priest again before I went back to communion, not in the confessional, but in a face-to-face conversation. I told him that I had missed mass for a long time. I told him that I had tried to join the Reformation. I did not refute my marriage, I did not express sorrow for being in a gay relationship, and I did not ask his permission to receive the Eucharist.

Sister Jeannine told me that I had a mission:  the more people I told about being gay,  the more tolerant people would become. But she warned me that things would not be easy, that the servant could not expect more than the Master. Many times when I go to mass, the priest seems to rise up like a big black shadow with wide bat wings, obscuring my view of the altar. I keep reminding myself that there is hope in Pope Francis.

Letha and I are happy. We have a good marriage. I sit in my chair and read and write. She draws intricate designs on a pad. I’ve written my story as a book, Going to Wings  which has been published, and the enthusiasm and support have been overwhelming. I have told my story, and Letha designed the cover.

What about the title Going to Wings? On Tuesdays we meet our friends for dinner at The Brick, a restaurant in downtown Milledgeville, Georgia. When they first invited us to come to “Wings,” I thought, Cool! An expression of new-found freedom!

“Nope!” they said. “The chicken wings are cheap on Tuesdays.”

But for me, “Going to Wings” means a lot more than that.

–Sandra Worsham, September 15, 2017

 

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CATHOLIC LGBT HISTORY: DignityUSA Issues Guidelines for Holy Unions

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s  feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions of Bondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

DignityUSA Issues Guidelines for Holy Unions

It has been two years since marriage equality became the law of the land in the U.S., but it has been twenty years since an LGBT Catholic organization here in the U.S. issued their own guidelines for same-sex marriage, way ahead of the general population.

In August 1997,  The Washington Blade, the LGBT weekly newspaper of the District of Columbia metropolitan area, wrote an article about DignityUSA releasing a new set of guidelines for lesbian and gay couples preparing for a marriage ritual referred to as a Holy Union (which at the time would not have been a legally binding ceremony).  The news article explains:

“At its national convention last week, Dignity released its guidelines for the holy union of same-sex couples.  The guidelines, which also include a registry of couples that have joined in a ho9ly union, stemmed from a two-year research effort.”

Peggy Hayes, who was then a DignityUSA board member and currently the organization’s Operations Manager, explained a bit of the rationale for issuing the guidelines:

“We’d love the Catholic Church to bless our unions, but we’re not going to wait for them.  We believe that Gay and Lesbian couples can express their love for each other. . . Many of the chapters were looking for guidelines and the task force put together some sample services, ince all the chapters do the services differently.”

According to DignityUSA’s current website, the guidelines, known as “The Couples Ministry Resource Guide,” was produced by the organization’s Couple’s Ministry Task Force, comprised of one couple from each of the organization’s seven regions. One of the task force’s first activities was to conduct a survey about “the needs and desires of the local chapters with regard to Holy Unions.”

In addition to establishing rules for eligibility of a couple for a Holy Union ceremony, resources for preparing the ceremony, and ways to support couples both before and after their commitment, the document also established an official registry of couples.  The document describes the need such a record:

“In its effort to support and validate committed relationships, DignityUSA has established a National Registry of Holy Unions. This registry is part of Dignity’s commitment to recognizing and honoring couples who have made a decision to have a Holy Union that satisfies the Holy Union Guidelines set forth in this resource guide. It is also documentation that we, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and, transgender people, do have and desire long-term monogamous relationships that are consonant with Christ’s teaching and Christian values, and are loving, life-giving, and life affirming.”

The guidelines were released at DignityUSA’s national convention in Boston in July 1997, which was entitled “We are called. . .Prophets to the World.”   In the Blade article, Marianne Duddy-Burke, who was then the outgoing President and is currently the Executive Director commented:

“The conference was very energizing and empowering.  We want to answer the question, “What is the unique role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics to the world?’ “

In religious contexts, we usually think of a prophet as someone who calls a community to live up to their ideals of justice.   In more common parlance, a prophet is sometimes thought of as someone who can predict the future.  In the case of DignityUSA’s guidelines on Holy Unions, the organization was a prophet in both senses of the word:  they reminded the Catholic community of its responsibility to act justly towards lesbian and gay couples, and they envisioned a world in which same-gender couples would one day be recognized by the world.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 27, 2017

Scottish Parish Announces “All Gay Catholics Are Accepted and Welcomed”

A Catholic parish in Scotland made a splash on social media recently when it posted a statement that “all gay Catholics are accepted and welcomed” by the church.

saint_brides_mar_2014_002
St. Bride’s Catholic Church

St. Bride’s Church in Cambuslang posted its welcoming statement on Facebook late last month, reported The HeraldThe statement began by saying the welcome contained within it was one that pastor Fr. Paul Morton wanted reiterated. The post continued:

“In God’s house all are welcome and are the blessed and loved children of God. There should be no place in our language or our attitude which allows for prejudice or exclusion.

“Anyone who is gay and who wishes to share or discuss this with Fr Morton please feel free to come to the parish house. Also any family member who wishes to discuss or share this please come along.

“We must do everything we can to redress the harm that has been done in the past by the negative stance we seem to have taken up. We must join with others who are seeking to build a more inclusive society.”

In May, the parish posted a statement acknowledging that lesbian and gay people often feel excluded, and saying the parish wants “to emphasise in the strongest terms that we are a welcoming and inclusive parish.”

Not surprisingly, the parish’s statements have been well received and shared widely. Yet being a parish that openly affirms LGBT people can also be risky. It seems the people of St. Bride’s are willing to take a risk because they understand the realities of harm and exclusion which too many lesbian and gay people face. Fr. Morton’s recent homily on the Gospel story of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13: 44-46) offered insight into the relationship between risk and faith:

“Jesus tells a slightly risky story here in this parable and maybe it wasn’t lost on his listeners. . .Cautious, conservative, narrow is sometimes things that people say about people who have faith. But this parable seems to saying something different: that we are reckless, that we are gamblers, that we are risk takers, that we fly high, not content with what life offers we are looking for something more, the peril of great price, the hidden treasure. . .

“The parables very often give us not answers but leave us often with more questions than answers. Here is a question: are we a Church of the comfortable or a Church of risk takers?”

Over time, more Catholic parishes have chosen to take risks. They have taken intentional, public steps to become welcoming spaces for LGBT people and their families. Bondings 2.0 recently reported on how much New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly parishes has grown in the last two decades, reflecting the movement’s growth.

In this age of Pope Francis and a reinvigorated conversation about Catholic LGBT issues, let us hope and pray more parishes will follow St. Bride’s parishioners in their eagerness to share messages of unconditional welcome.

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. To keep up to date on this and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 by entering your email in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 3, 2017

 

A Pastoral Approach to the Celibacy vs. Relationship Debate

In London’s Catholic Herald, Msgr. Keith Barltrop offers sound advice to pastoral ministers working with lesbian and gay people, particularly in the area of the celibacy vs. relationship debate.

Barltrop, who is Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ representative to the LGBT Catholics Westminster group which meets at the Farm Street Jesuit parish in the Mayfair section of London, is also a chaplain to the Courage group in that city.  He is thus in a unique position of participating in a parish-based ministry which welcomes all, and a one-on-one spiritual direction ministry which aims at helping lesbian and gay people lead chaste lives.

Msgr. Keith Barltrop

Barltrop begins by observing that lesbian and gay ministry is not different from other forms of ministry in the church:

“Pastoral care of homosexual people is essentially the same as all ministry: seeking to communicate the unconditional love of Christ and his Church, and to accompany people on their journey towards holiness. But in practice this particular ministry encounters powerful feelings of pain and anger which can cause difficulties.”

[Barltrop, who in the past has advocated that the Church accompany transgender people through their processes of transition, mostly limits the discussion in this article to lesbian and gay people.]

Yet, he does observe some important distinctions:

“LGBT people often feel hurt by the Church, either because of the way its teaching comes across, or through concrete experiences of rejection, or both. Those from non-Western cultures are sometimes even in danger of their lives, while some other Catholics seem threatened by the very existence of gay people and react angrily towards attempts to accommodate them within the Church.”

Barltrop also makes the important distinction that a wide variety of opinions and attitudes about personal sexual involvement exists among lesbian and gay Catholics.  Some seek intimate, committeed sexual relationships, some seek casual sexual involvement, others seek to lead chaste lives.    Despite these different perspectives, Barltrop finds a common thread:

“. . . [O]ne thing is common to virtually all LGBT Catholics today: they will not take the Church’s teaching on trust, but must learn from experience. Even those who hold a very traditional attitude have likely arrived at it through many experiences.

“This being so, ministers to gay Catholics need two main resources: a moral theology that can face the critical scrutiny of life experience; and a well-grounded spirituality of discernment. These can help LGBT Catholics look honestly at their behaviour, see where it is leading them and discover alternatives where indicated.”

Barltrop’s recommendation is a holistic moral theology that, like Pope Francis, emphasizes discernment over rules:

Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP

“The moral theology I have found most helpful in this ministry is that of the Belgian Dominican Servais Pinckaers, who shows that from biblical times to St Thomas Aquinas, Catholic moral theology was essentially based on the search for true happiness, on earth and in heaven, and on the cultivation of virtues leading to it – a happiness deeper than mere pleasure, and consisting above all in communion with God and his holy people.

“A theology based on observing rules was a later distortion, and led by reaction in the 1960s to an equally unhelpful liberalism.

“In Pinckaers’ perspective, moral theology does not just define what one is allowed to do, or the minimum one must do, but joins hands with spirituality in promoting the search for holiness through loving God and neighbour to the uttermost. Ignatian discernment of spirits is the obvious spiritual partner for such a theology.”

I could quibble with some items in Barltrop’s argument, such as when he says that lesbian and gay people feel rejected by the church  “because of the way its teaching comes across.”  While that may be true for some,  I think there are two things amiss in that statement:  1) It’s not just the way the “teaching comes across,” but the substance of the teaching itself which causes feelings of rejection; 2) Many gay and lesbian people feel rejected because, well, they have been rejected directly by messages that they are not welcome.

But, generally, I find his argument, and especially his conclusion, to be very helpful.  Indeed, I think that many lesbian and gay Catholics have already gone through such a moral/spiritual process as they navigated and negotiated their seemingly conflicting identities of being Catholic and homosexual.  Unfortunately, many of these Catholics have had to go through that process without the support of pastoral ministers because for too long, too many pastoral ministers had subscribed to the distorted theology of observing rules.  Barltrop’s alternative is one of accompanying instead of dictating.

Conservative Catholics will probably not like Barltrop’s proposal because it doesn’t provide an answer that can be applied in all situations.  While I am not familiar with Pinckaers’ writing, it seems that by focusing on the goal–happiness through “the search for holiness through loving God and neighbour to the utmost”–he puts the discussion of morality in a different context, one that mirrors more the ministry of Jesus, who addressed people’s individual needs and situations rather than focusing on whatever the current interpretations of the Law were.

To read the entire text of Baltrop’s commentary, click here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 11, 2017

 

 

New Study Examines Religious Acceptance of LGBT Equality

I was all ready to say “Ho-hum” when I read the opening paragraphs of a Huffington Post news story about a new study which finds that Catholic people are more supportive of LGBT issues than most people generally think.  I’ve read this story so many times before, I was ready to say. For at least a half-dozen years, almost every survey that has appeared about religion and LGBT topics shows that Catholics lead the way among religious groups on supporting equality measures.

But, just as I was about to click through to another story (in the old days, I would have said “turn the page to another story”), I noticed that the reporter said the researcher of this new study was attempting to answer “why, despite the fact most world religions have proscriptions against homosexual practices, some nations are much more tolerant than others.”

Okay, now I wanted to read on.

The new book-length study, Cross-National Public Opinion About Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes Across the Globeis the work of Amy Adamczyk, a sociologist at the City University of New York.  Adamcyzk’s study says that several factors influence tolerance and support of lesbian and gay issues, including that while faith is an important factor, so are cultural elements.  The Huffington Post reported one piece of information that I thought was fascinating:

“One recent study found that gay Polish immigrants in Chicago were much more likely to retain their Catholic identity than gay men in Warsaw who were raised Catholic.

“Only one of the 27 gay men raised by two Catholic parents in Warsaw remained Catholic. Ten of the 23 men in Chicago were still Catholic.

“The perceived hostile environment in Poland forced many gay men to make a hard choice and declare themselves atheists, researcher Hubert Izienicki discovered in in-depth interviews.

” ‘In contrast, the gay respondents in Chicago find themselves in a religiously pluralistic and immigrant society, which allows them to retain their religious tradition and Catholic identity alongside their identity as gay men,’ he reported.”

When democracy is spread, the new political culture can sometimes weaken the hold that religious institutions which oppose equality have over people.  The following evidence was offered:

“. . . [In] nations such as predominantly Catholic nations such as Spain and Brazil, which have moved from authoritarian governments to democracies, the changes in acceptance have been considerable.

“In the early 1990s, 38 percent of Spanish adults and 70 percent of Brazilian adults said homosexuality is never justified. In the current decade, just 8 percent of Spaniards and 36 percent of Brazilians hold similar views, Adamczyk noted.”

Pointing to the recent news story of Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcoming an LGBT pilgrimage to the local cathedral, Adamcyzk said that personal messages from religious leaders have an important role to play in promoting equality: “It really helps when religious officials come out and say we’re tolerant,” she said.

Adamczyk’s study also shows that strong polarization between religious and LGBT issues is not only harmful socially, but personally:

“What does not work is polarization, where some gay rights groups or religious communities view each other with hostility, cutting off the possibility of dialogue and often adding to the mental health struggles of people seeking to reconcile their religious and sexual identities.”

This last point highlights the need for bridge-building between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church–an idea receiving a lot of attention lately due to Fr. James Martin’s new book Building a Bridge.

One final quotation from Adamczyk tells me that this researcher is not only a highly-skilled researcher and analyst, but someone who recognizes that there is a lot involved in this study that is more than just numbers and graphs:

“No matter how one describes the conflict, on every side of the divide we find individuals and communities that try to make sense of their lives and live with integrity towards their own values, towards the people that matter to them, and towards what is sacred in their lives.”

Yes, in the end, the debate about LGBT equality in church and society is less about culture wars and more about human dignity, love, and the divine.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 7, 2017

 

Catholics Angered by Bishop’s Attempt to Exclude Lesbian and Gay Couples

Catholics have reacted strongly against Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree prohibiting people in same-gender marriages from participating in the church’s life.

Bishop Paprocki (1)
Contact Bishop Paprocki

Bondings 2.0 reported Thursday on the decree released by the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. In it, Bishop Paprocki instructs pastors to bar people in such marriages from receiving Communion, participating in liturgical ministries, entering RCIA programs, and being granted funerals. You can find an initial report by clicking here.

Yesterday, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, released an open letter to Bishop Paprocki that you can find by clicking here. Today’s post highlights from other Catholic leaders.

Fortunate Families, a network of Catholic parents with LGBT children, published its own letter to Paprocki. The Board referred to the decree as “a hard-hearted document” in which the bishop shows “no pastoral sensitivity, no attempt to dialogue about the positions taken and no effort to reach out to our LGBT children.” The letter continued:

“In denying [LGBT people] the reception of Communion and funeral rites you effectively excommunicate them. Your decree indicates that a dying person who is living publicly in a same sex marriage may be given Holy Communion only if he or she repents. Is being in a same sex marriage on the same level as a person who denies the Creed? Imagine someone in a committed loving relationship for his or her entire life having to choose on his or her deathbed whether to discount a life of love and receive the Body and Blood of Christ or continue a commitment of integrity.”

Fr. James Martin, S.J., who recently published a book on Catholic LGBT issues based on an address he first gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge-Building Award, posted on Facebook:

“If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. . .they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a ‘sign of unjust discrimination’ (2358).”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a statement:

“It is simply cruel and shameful to refuse burial or Communion to those who seek the grace and comfort that our Church offers at some of the most difficult moments of life. This is reminiscent of the appalling practice of denying Communion, funerals, and burial to people dying of AIDS at the height of the epidemic. . .[The decree] is unchristian and demeaning. It is totally unworthy of our Catholic faith.”

John Freml, a married gay Catholic in the Diocese of Springfield, told The State Journal-Register the decree “puts priests and other church workers in a difficult position.” Another Catholic in the diocese weighed in:

“Cindy Carlson Rice, also a Springfield Catholic, said she was implicitly told she couldn’t approach for communion because of her support for her daughter’s same-sex marriage. . .said the decree was ‘a smack across the face’ to those LGBT Catholics who have stayed involved in the church.”

In the same article, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said that Bishop Paprocki’s decree goes beyond previous restrictions imposed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and other prelates. DeBernardo added, “Paprocki is an anomaly and is not in the mainstream of Catholic thought (with this decree).”

Also quoted was Christopher Pett, the incoming president of DignityUSA, who said:

“Bishop Paprocki’s decree makes it very clear why so many (LGBT) people and their families feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church and why so many leave it. . . .

“This document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme. It systematically and disdainfully disparages us and our relationships. It denies us the full participation in the life of our Church to which we are entitled by our baptism and our creation in God’s image.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter told NPR News that he “can’t imagine a cruder thing more at cross purposes with what the Holy Father is trying to do,” and that “privately, 95 percent of other bishops in the U.S. are reading [the decree] and are horrified. Even the ones who are pretty arch on same-sex marriage think this is too far.”

Bishop Paprocki is defending the decree, telling The Washington Post, “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.”

New Ways Ministry recommends you to send your own letter to Bishop Paprocki, and we encourage you to communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with him. 

Contact information:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Catholic Pastoral Center

1615 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757

Phone: (217) 698-8500

Email:  tjpaprocki@dio.org

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 24, 2017

Related Article

The Chicago Tribune, “Springfield bishop: No communion, last rites, funerals for same-sex couples

 

Lesbian Catholic Reviews Fr. James Martin’s New Book on LGBT Issues

As Jesuit Father James Martin launches his new book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” he explained in a Washington Post essay why he wrote the book in the first place. Also published in the Post a few days later was lesbian Catholic writer Eve Tushnet’s review of the book.

y450-293Martin began his essay by noting that, after 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last year, there was near silence from the United States’ 250 or so bishops about the victims’ LGBT identities. Martin said this silence was “revelatory,” continuing:

“The fact that only a few Catholic bishops acknowledged the LGBT community or even used the word gay at such a time showed that the LGBT community is still invisible in many quarters of the church. Even in tragedy its members are invisible.”

Martin lamented the “great divide” he witnesses in the church between LGBT Catholics and institutions, suggesting his ministry has included ways to heal the divide. He continued:

“But after the shooting in Orlando, my desire to do so intensified. . .So when New Ways Ministry, a group that ministers to and advocates for LGBT Catholics, asked just a few weeks after the Orlando tragedy if I would accept its ‘Bridge Building Award’ and give a talk at the time of the award ceremony, I agreed. The name of the award, as it turned out, inspired me to sketch out an idea for a ‘two-way bridge’ that might help bring together the institutional church and the LGBT community.

“My aim is to urge the church to treat the LGBT community with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (a phrase from the Catechism of the Catholic Church) and encourage the LGBT community to reciprocate, reflecting those virtues in its own relationship with the institutional church.”

To read about Fr. Martin receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge-Building Award last October, where he spoke first about this latest LGBT venture, click here. You can also watch Fr. Martin’s video explanation of why he wrote Building a Bridge below or by clicking here.

But Eve Tushnet, in her review for the Post, says Martin’s work “is not the book I’ve longed for” on Catholic LGBT issues. Her main criticism is that Building a Bridge never addresses sexual ethics, and a corollary critique that there is no mention of lesbian and gay Christians who are celibate. Tushnet wrote:

“For example, why is this conversation so hard in the first place? ‘Building a Bridge’ doesn’t raise the question of why LGBT people and the Catholic Church so often seem like two separate, hostile camps. The Catholic sexual ethic is this book’s embarrassing secret. It’s never mentioned, and so the difficulties the teaching itself poses for gay Catholics in our culture are never addressed.

“I’m deeply sympathetic to the attempt to have a conversation about gay people and the church that never mentions sex or chastity; too often even the most “respectful” statements from the Catholic Church hierarchy have a strong flavor of “Jesus loves you, but here’s how you’ve got to behave.” But I’m not sure it’s wise to write as if all the church is asking is for gay people simply to be nicer.”

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Eve Tushnet

While Tushnet may have wanted a book that dealt with sexual ethics and celibacy, that is not the intended scope of Martin’s book. His focus is on the process of dialogue, not theological questions. The relationship needs to improve to even begin to address the thornier questions.

Tushnet does rightly point out that more should be asked of church leaders than just respect and sensitivity. They should offer as well, “repentance and amends for the ways in which they’ve made so many churches hostile to gay members, treating us as problems to be fixed or silenced.”

Having stated these criticisms, Tushnet also acknowledged the value Building a Bridge has for the church. The priest’s “Prayer for When I Feel Rejected,” based on Psalm 139, is very moving for her, and she believes it can help LGBT Christians know God’s love for them more deeply. Tushnet concluded her review:

“If Martin’s book, with its biblical reflections on God’s loving creation of us and Jesus’ unconditional welcome, can help LGBT people and our families experience and trust God’s tenderness, he will have laid the foundation stone for social change and spiritual renewal.”

For more information about Building a Bridge, or if you would like to order a copy, visit Fr. Martin’s website by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 6, 2017