There are Catholic saints who were “probably gay,” said Jesuit Fr. James Martin, the well-known author, against online commenters critical of Bishop John Stowe’s attendance at New Ways Ministry’s Symposium two weeks ago.
Martin posted a news story to his Facebook page about spiritual reflections Stowe gave at the Symposium. The priest, who has more than a half million followers online, commented on the story, “Another sign of welcome and building bridges.”
But some followers were critical of Stowe and Martin. Walter Maczynski said, “Any canonized saints would not be impressed.” That is when Martin offered his powerful reply:
“Some of them were probably gay. A certain percentage of humanity is gay, and so were most likely some of the saints. You may be surprised when you get to heaven to be greeted by LGBT men and women.”
While some commenters joined Maczynski’s criticism, most people affirmed Fr. Martin’s idea and shared their own stories of being an LGBT Catholic or having a loved one who is. This post was similar to Martin’s 2014 post when he said the sexual orientation of theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who some have theorized was a gay man, should matter in remembering him.
The Advocate noted that Martin was recently appointed by Pope Francis to be a consultor for the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, and he has also spoken out for LGBT equality:
“Martin has a history of LGBT advocacy within the Catholic Church. Last summer, he released a viral video on Facebook imploring Catholics to “stand with… their LGBT brothers and sisters” in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
“Afterward, he penned a book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. He was honored by New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBT group, with its Bridge Building Award for his work.”
He recently challenged another priest to be more supportive of transgender people, an act one journalist described as a “holy mic drop.”
The communion of saints is a very powerful aspect of the Catholic imagination, and thus there have been many efforts to celebrate Catholic saints who would today likely identify as LGBT. Catholics remember those holy people in our history who have practiced radical hospitality or lived as their authentic self in defiance of the cultural norms of their times. For example, one artist has created queer depictions of popular saints, and there is a significant devotion to Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, the saint of 9/11, who was gay.
LGBT Catholics and allies can once again thank Fr. Martin for his outspoken advocacy for a church where all people are welcome.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 13, 2017