In Chechnya and Abroad, Today’s LGBT Martyrs Killed for Hatred of Love

Editor’s Note: Content in today’s post may be disturbing to some readers as it deals with violence against LGBT people, including a brief description of such violence.

Pope Francis is celebrating a liturgy for contemporary martyrs today, held at the church of St. Bartholomew in Rome which functions as a shrine for martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Those remembered will include persecuted Christians, pastoral ministers killed because they worked for justice, missionaries, and resisters against totalitarian regimes, reported Vatican Radio.


“Jesus is Beaten,” from series “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by David Blanchard

I want to remember LGBT martyrs as well: those people who have been killed because of their gender and/or sexual identity or because of their advocacy for LGBT human rights. In particular, I remember LGBT people in Chechnya who are en masse being kidnapped, tortured, and even murdered. One Chechen gay man told the BBC:”If beating you with their hands and feet is not enough, they use electric

“If beating you with their hands and feet is not enough, they use electric shock. . .They have a special black box and they attach wires to your hands or ears. The pain is awful. It’s terrible torture. . .They used to detain people before all the time to blackmail them. . .Now [the aim] is the extermination of gay men, so that there are none left in the republic.”

Once they are released from these torture scenarios, the now outed victims have faced reprisals from their own families, including at least two honor killings, according to The New York Times. While Chechnya’s president denies any persecution, human rights groups based in Russia are secretly helping to evacuate LGBT people from the country.

Critics will contend LGBT victims of violence are not martyrs; they were not killed because of odium fidei (hatred of their Christian faith). But in early Christianity, the word “martyrdom” meant a witness to the truth of faith. Today’s LGBT martyrs are witnesses to the truth of how God created them, and thus witnesses to the Creator. They include high-profile leaders who demanded equality, like Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato or U.S. gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk. They also include those who simply refused to deny a God-given identity, like the many transgender people, particularly women and people of color, murdered each year.

Though it is the Easter season liturgically, this is also a time of crucifixion for too many people. Blessed Oscar Romero, himself a martyr, challenges us, as the people of God, with these words:

“For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of [God’s] images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between [the person] and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.”

No, murdered LGBT people are not universally martyrs odium fidei, but I consider them martyrs odium amoris, or for “hatred of love.” This designation is an emerging, though not yet canonical, category for those killed because they died acting for the common good. As such, they demand to be remembered and honored by the church.

Pope Francis may not share my thinking or specifically include LGBT martyrs in his prayers today. Sadly, he has too often remained utterly silent about LGBT victims of violence. I am unaware of any church leader who has expressed solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya. This makes our prayers, as LGBT people and allies, all the more important and urgent.

Who are the LGBT martyrs that are special to your heart?  Please name them in the “Comments” section of this post so that we can pray to them and with them today and in the future.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 22, 2017

Next weekend, Frank Mugisha, the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the leading LGBT advocacy organization in that country where homosexuality is criminalized, will be speaking at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. For more information, visit

0 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Coming first to mind on my own list of American martyrs who were tortured and killed because of how they loved others: Matthew Shepard.

    I will tell you in absolute truth: I once had a vision — in a dream — of Matthew himself, clad in a rainbow-hued robe, surrounded by an entire choir of white-robed angels. I have no idea where or how or why such a vision would be generated, if it did not represent a glimpse of heavenly glory and truth. “St. Matthew Shepard: Ora Pro Nobis”.

  2. Martin
    Martin says:

    LGBT martyrs have been commemorated at San Bartolomeo al’Isola during LGBT Catholics Westminster’s 2 pilgrimages to Rome in 2015 & 2017. On both occasions we received warm welcomes from the priest-in-charge and community members. In 2015 we sang Evening Prayer, using much of the following text, and on 4 March 2017 we celebrated this Morning Prayer Liturgy:

    Introduction : This celebration of a short form of Morning Prayer takes place in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola. The church, built in 997 on an island in the River Tiber, is on the site of a Roman temple, renowned for its healing powers, and stands next to a hospital from which St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, may have been founded by the monk Rahere, in 1123. It is said that he fell ill on pilgrimage in Rome, had a vision of St. Bartholomew, and founded Bart’s on his return to London.
    The Basilica is the titular church of Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, and in 1993 it was entrusted to the care of the Community of San’ Egidio. Student members of the Community now gather here for liturgy and prayer, using the surrounding halls and rooms for their activities in favour of the poor.
    Following Jubilee Year 2000, St. John Paul II wished that the memory of the witnesses of faith of the 20th Century were made visible in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew. Six side-chapels are dedicated to new martyrs of Asia, Oceania & Near East; Latin America; Africa; Communism; Nazism; Spain & Mexico. Our celebration will remember all victims of homophobic and transphobic violence.

    O God, come to our aid
    O God, make speed to save us
    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
    as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

    Hymn : Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs
    1. Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs, holy women, holy men,
    with our love and admiration, greet we your return again.
    Worthy deeds are theirs, and wonders, worthy of the name they bore;
    we, with joyful praise and singing, honour them for evermore.

    2. Faith prevailing, hope unfailing, loving Christ with single heart,
    thus they, glorious and victorious bravely bore the martyr’s part
    by contempt of every anguish, by unyielding battle done;
    victors at the last, they triumph with the host of angels one.

    3. Therefore, all that reign in glory, strong and sure with Christ on high,
    join to ours your supplication when before him we draw nigh,
    praying that, this life completed, all its fleeting moments past,
    by his grace we may be worthy of eternal bliss at last.

    Psalm 33 (34)
    Antiphon: The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.
    (repeat after Cantor)

    1. I will bless the Lord at all times, with praise ever in my mouth.
    Let my soul glory in the Lord, who will hear the cry of the poor.

    2. Let the lowly hear and be glad: the Lord listens to their pleas;
    and to hearts broken, God is near, who will hear the cry of the poor.

    3. Ev’ry spirit crushed, God will save; will be ransom for their lives;
    will be safe shelter for their fears, and will hear the cry of the poor.

    4. We proclaim the greatness, of God, your praise ever in our mouth;
    ev’ry face brightened in your light, for you hear the cry of the poor.

    Antiphon: The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.

    A reading from the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians (6:1-4)

    We urge this appeal upon you: you have received the grace of God; do not let it go for nothing. God’s own words are: In the hour of my favour I gave heed to you, on the day of deliverance I came to your aid. The hour of favour has now come; now, I say, has the day of deliverance dawned. In order that our service may not be brought into discredit, we avoid giving offence in anything. As God’s servants, we try to recommend ourselves in all circumstances.

    Short Responsory

    R Hear us, Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against you. repeat
    V Listen, Christ, to the prayers of those who cry to you.
    R Hear us, Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against you.
    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
    R Hear us, Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against you.

    Benedictus Antiphon: Not on bread alone are we nourished, but on ev’ry word of God.

    Blest be the God of Israel, who comes to set us free;
    who visits and redeems us, who grants us liberty.
    The prophets spoke of mercy, of freedom and release;
    God shall fulfil that promise and bring the people peace.

    God, from the House of David, a child of grace is given;
    A Saviour comes among us to raise us up to heaven.
    Before him goes the herald, forerunner in the way,
    the prophet of salvation, the harbinger of day.

    On prisoners of darkness the sun begins to rise,
    The dawning of forgiveness upon the sinners eyes.
    God guides the feet of pilgrims along the paths of peace.
    O bless our God and Saviour with songs that never cease.

    Repeat antiphon

    Intercessions : Prayer in Honor of Those Whom Jesus Loved
    (adapted from Joan Chittister OSB )

    Gathered by the Spirit, let us pray that Christ, the living stone, rejected by his own, might bring justice and healing to our broken world, holy inclusion and welcome for all in the people of God, and grace and peace to each person here, and those whom we love: sung response :

    Jesus who loved the Samaritan woman, outcast proclaimer of your name,
    let us love and support all those who proclaim your name to LGBT communities.
    Jesus who loved the lepers whom others called unclean, let us see the glory of creation everywhere, in everyone. Jesus who loved the one condemned with him and promised him heaven by virtue of his faith, give us the faith to broaden our vision of the reign of God. sung response

    Jesus who loved the hemorrhaging woman, long ignored and thought to be intrinsically disordered, give us hearts large enough to embrace those whom the world calls bent. Jesus who loved the tax collector the community feared, enable us to put down our fear of those who are different from ourselves. Jesus who loved the Roman soldier, foreigner and oppressor, help us to love those who make exiles of our gay, lesbian and trans brothers and sisters. Jesus who loves us in all our humanness, all our glories, enable us to love those whose glories we have failed to see. sung response

    You who called women disciples in a male world, who confronted leaders of the synagogue with their sins of injustice, who sent out your disciples to the whole world,
    give us the courage to stand with our gay, lesbian and trans brothers and sisters, their families and those who minister to and with them. Give us the grace to confront rejection, to ease loneliness, to calm fears and to belie a sense of abandonment. Give us all the grace to own our sexual identity, whatever its orientation, as another manifestation of your goodness. sung response

    Give us the vision to recognize and reject the homophobia and transphobia around us, in our own hearts, as well. May we and the church of Jesus open our hearts and homes and sanctuaries to LGBT communities, to the glory of God they bring in new voices, with different faces. Give us a courageous faith, held by prophets, saints and martyrs in history, and witnesses of our own time: Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Lazarus, John the beloved, Perpetua and Felicity, Sergius and Bacchus, Anselm, Joan of Arc, Aelred, Paulinus, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, the pink-triangled of war, Dag Hammarskjöld, Harvey Milk, Alfredo Ormando, victims of the Soho bomb, Matthew Shepard, Mychal Judge, Henri Nouwen, Robert Nugent, Giles Hibbert, all those known and unknown, young and old, those whose lives ended through murder or suicide – in moments of silence we remember them ……
    sung response

    And we remember all who have asked our prayers: for the San Egidio Community, for the Carmelite Community of San Alberto, the members of Nuova Proposta and Il Sorgente, the LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, and for our special intentions …… And we now pray in the words that Jesus taught his disciples: Our Father ……

    Concluding prayer
    Through our annual Lenten observance, Lord, deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ and make it a reality in the conduct of our lives. Hear your people and strengthen us in our pilgrim paths as we journey from ashes to the living font of resurrection, through Christ our Lord. Amen

    The Lord bless us, and keep us; the Lord make his face to shine on us and be gracious to us; the Lord turn his face towards us and give us his peace, and so bring us to everlasting life. Amen

    Let us go in the peace of Christ – Thanks be to God
    +/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+/+ Music reproduced under Calamus licence. Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, ICEL. All rights reserved.

  3. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    Who is my LGBT martyr? Jesus himself: ‘tempted in every way that we are…’. And why did he die? For love.

    Sadly, his church has provided both the context and impetus for violence against LGBT folk, both by what it has said about them and by its outspoken silence when they have suffered injustice and discrimination.

    Blaine Pascal said that ‘men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction’. The Church has too often provided that conviction, however unwittingly.

  4. Carolyn Shalhoub
    Carolyn Shalhoub says:

    Fr. James Martin, SJ spoke out on Facebook and Twitter in solidarity with the gay killings in Chechnya.

  5. kittkatt123
    kittkatt123 says:

    Is the Pope mentioning any LGBTQ people? Father Mychal Judge deserves to be included. He died in the 9/11 terrorist attack while ministering as chaplain to the firefighters — and he happened to have a gay orientation.

    You asked for names of LGBT martyrs who are special to our hearts. Mychal Judge is a favorite of mine and many others… although he was not killed for his sexuality like many of the others.

    I also want to lift up some of the most recent LGBT martyrs: those killed in Orlando in the Pulse massacre almost a year ago:

    Thank you for lifting up the LGBTQ martyrs as the Pope remembers contemporary martyrs. You made an inspired choice by connecting the gay Passion of Christ with the current attacks in Chechnya.

    I created a whole section on LGBTQ martyrs at:

    May they rest in peace and in power!

  6. Sheila Peiffer
    Sheila Peiffer says:

    Thanks, as always, Bob for a great article and special thanks to Martin above for the liturgy – much appreciated. We lift up our hearts together!


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