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

Philippines Abp. Says It’s Okay for a Gay Man to Marry a Lesbian Woman. Huh?

Archbishop Oscar Cruz
Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what a bishop was thinking when he makes a statement that is so incorrect and irrelevant.  A case in point is the news from the Philippines that retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz recently said that it would be permissible for a gay man and lesbian woman to marry because procreative possibility would be present.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes the archbishop’s statement, made during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal:

“May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”

Archbishop Cruz, who has served as an auxiliary bishop in Manila, the nation’s capital, and as head of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, was also a Judicial Vicar for the nation’s bishops’ conference.  Despite his education and experience, his remarks reveal an amazing lack of knowledge about the dynamics involved in intimate sexual relationships.  A Filipina LGBT activist was quick to respond with statements that reflected not only a more humane approach, but one that is also more in line with what the Catholic church really teaches about sexual relationships.  Gay Star News reported:

Angie Umbac
Angie Umbac

“Filipina LGBT rights activist Angie Umbac told Gay Star News she is ‘speechless’ at the comments of the Archbishop. . .

“Umbac, who campaigns for Filipino LGBT rights organization Rainbow Rights, said that people should marry ‘not because their parts “fit”‘ but ‘for the right reasons’.

‘I’d like to believe that human beings are more than the sum of their parts,’ said Umbac. ‘How about the brain? The heart? The soul? At what point do love, free will, and self-respect come in? They are important components of marriage that the Archbishop’s careless statement choose to ignore.’

The archbishop’s comments didn’t stop there, though.  He went on to acknowledge that homosexuality is a permissible reason to receive a marriage annulment from the church.  While this is true, this statement also highlighted the illogic of his statement about a gay man marrying a lesbian woman.  Salon.com writer Mary Elizabeth Williams was quick to point out this problem:

“But if the Catholic Church can sanction marriage between lesbians and gay men, Cruz also acknowledges it can also retroactively declare that it was never even legitimate in the first place. In the same speech, the Archbishop admitted that homosexuality was valid grounds for annulment, though he added it is rarely invoked.”

The Philippines is currently considering a proposal to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and the Catholic hierarchy is, predictably, opposed to it.   Despite the hiearchy’s opposition to LGBT equality, a recent Pew poll showed that the Philippines population, overwhelmingly Catholic, is very accepting of LGBT people.

An incident such as this is a reminder that our church leaders are in deep need of education about sexuality and human dynamics.  One can try to think of reasons why Archbishop Cruz made such a wrongheaded statement:  Did he let personal homophobia get the best of him?  Was he caught up in some sort of political fervor to try to block the nation’s marriage proposal?  Is he so totally removed from the lives of real people that he is unaware of the many elements that are involved in relationship-building?

Whatever the reasons, the best thing he can do now is to apologize and promise to educate himself better not only about LGBT people, but about basic Catholic teaching about sexuality and relationships.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

U.S. Bishops Launch Bulletin Insert Campaign as Marriage Equality Spreads

marriage equality 4This week, Delaware became the eleventh state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality, and Minnesota seems poised to become the twelfth state next week.  The Supreme Court justices are deliberating two cases on marriage equality, and their decisions should be announced by the end of June.

In response to all of this news, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced a campaign of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice for Catholics, to encourage Catholics to oppose marriage equality.   They have developed a bulletin insert to be used in May and June across the country, offering ideas and actions for Catholics to enact.

The bulletin insert text describes the campaign:

“For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court is considering two cases about whether or not marriage should be redefined to include two persons of the same sex. These cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.” [emphasis theirs]

The announcement of the campaign has inspired commentary from secular writers.  At ThinkProgress.com, Zack Ford thinks that the comparison to Roe v. Wade is inaccurate:

“This comparison to Roe v. Wade has been made several times in regards to these cases, but it remains unclear what exactly the intention beyond that comparison really is. Though the two have often been juxtaposed in the past as key social issues, they don’t actually compare substantively. Public opinion on marriage has consistently trended toward equality, while public opinion on abortion has remained split. Marriage is something that all people already have access to, but it only serves people who are heterosexual — a very different circumstance from the general question of whether a woman has a right to an abortion at all.”

Ford believes that this comparison is designed to promote future action against marriage equality:

“What this comparison does forebode is future attempts to curb back the rights of same-sex couples after marriage equality is achieved. Just as conservatives have resisted Roe by curbing women’s access to abortion as much as possible — like in North DakotaKansas,  andArkansas — they may try to limit same-sex couples’ access to marriage. Certainly, objections about violations of “religious liberty” already speak to this, suggesting future attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. These efforts seem less likely to succeed, though; so far, California’s Proposition 8 is the only example of a setback for marriage equality after it’s already been in place, and that becomes a moot point should the Court knock it down.”

Paul Constant, on a blog for Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper thinks that Ford is too pessimistic:

“Once the world doesn’t end in states that legalize gay marriage, and once more examples of happily married gay couples are seen in the media, this is going to be a dead issue . . .” [emphasis his]

In a more impatient vein, Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing on Salon.comgives a brief summary of rebuttals against marriage equality opponents:

“It bears repeating that if the idea of two men or two women pledging themselves to each other in a manner that grants them legal protection and societal validation ticks you off, that’s your thing. But for heaven’s sake, stop pretending that marriage isn’t a man-made institution, one that we humans have defined in different ways throughout the course of history. Stop forgetting that if you’re looking for “traditional” marriages, the Bible itself is chock-full of them — defined by incest, rape and bigamy. Stop conveniently ignoring that the church says that matrimony is for the procreation of children but doesn’t restrict the elderly or infertile from enjoying the benefits of religiously sanctioned unions.”

(For a succinct history of how marriage has changed in church and society, see chapter 8 in New Ways Ministry’s Marriage Equality:  A Positive Catholic Approach.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry