More Bishops Offer Support for Fr. James Martin’s LGBT Book

More bishops have offered their support for Fr. James Martin, SJ’s book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge, though not all episcopal reviews have been positive.

In a press release from publisher HarperOne, three bishops newly added their voices to the conversation:

“JOHN STOWE, Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky: ‘Building a Bridge, by Father James Martin, describes the ‘culture of encounter’ that Pope Francis frequently espouses…. With a heart sympathetic to the suffering that LGBT people of faith have experienced and a love for the Church, Father Martin describes how this encounter can be fruitful and liberating journey for those on both sides.’

“JOHN C. WESTER, Archbishop of Santa Fe: ‘This courageous work is necessary reading for all who wish to build up the Christian community and to give witness to the Gospel message of inclusion.’

“JOSEPH A. FIORENZA, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston: ‘In Building a Bridge, Father Martin urges a much-needed calm conversation among all Catholics and the LGBT community based on the full meaning of the gospel teaching of love and respect for every human person. This book helps the whole Church engage the mandate of Jesus to minister to all…. I recommend it for parish, schools, and family discussions.'”

The release also mentioned other bishops who have made supportive statements publicly, including Cardinals Joseph Tobin of Newark and Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. You can read Bondings 2.0‘s coverage of bishops’ reviews and the larger conversation around Building a Bridge by clicking here.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence had a less positive reaction to the book, writing about it in the diocesan newspaper Rhode Island Catholic. Tobin took up the theme of opening doors, commenting at one point “if we’re going to open doors, let’s be sure that they lead to eternal life, and not to the path of destruction.”

The bishop also admitted that, though writing a column about the topic, he had not in fact read Building a Bridge. He echoed criticisms of prelates like Cardinal Robert Sarah that Martin “neglected to present and explain the fundamental teaching of the Church about homosexuality.” Tobin continued:

“In reflecting on Fr. Martin’s desire to build bridges, I thought of the iconic ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ in my hometown of Pittsburgh, constructed in the 1960s. It seems that after the bridge was started, because of poor planning and various construction snafus, it couldn’t be anchored on the opposite river bank; it couldn’t be completed and, thus, for several years dangled perilously over the waters of the Allegheny River. . .[Martin] is building a bridge to nowhere.”

Tobin, who again has not read Building a Bridge, said Martin’s discussion should begin with the church’s sexual ethics teachings against homogenital acts and marriage equality. Martin has explained repeatedly why he chose to forgo a discussion of sexual ethics, though many other reviewers have continued to sharply criticize him for this decision.

Without generalizing too broadly, Martin’s book is defining more clearly the contrast between bishops consecrated or elevated by Pope Francis and those bishops appointed by his predecessors. Cardinals Tobin and Farrell, Archbishop Wester, and Bishop Stowe are all Francis appointments. Cardinal Tobin welcomed LGBT pilgrims to the Newark cathedral earlier this year, and Bishop Stowe spoke at New Ways Ministry’s symposium. These actions not only affirm the book in words, but they enact the very encounter and bridge building for which Martin calls. This step forward is good news indeed.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 17, 2017

2 replies
  1. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Building a Bridge—A Personal Experience

    Last Saturday, 14-October, I attended the Dioceses of Fresno [CA] Congress 2017. We are also celebrating 50 years as a Diocese—Siempre Adelante—Always Moving Forward. I attended a work shop titled “Social Justice Ministry.” It was based on Evangelli Gaudium—The Joy of the Gospel. I believe social justice is a very important part of being a Roman Catholic; nonetheless, the attendance was meager. The up-side was it was a more intimate gathering that allowed me to be more open in my participation.

    The facilitator was Jim Grant, Director of social justice ministry for the diocese. There were twelve talking points about social justice needs in the diocese. We are a far flung geographic area of the San Joaquin Valley a large rural agricultural area including the two moderate sized metropolitan cities of Fresno and Bakersfield. We are also the home of three national parks—Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.

    Near the conclusion of the workshop I proposed, “We are ignoring the elephant in the room. What about an outreach to the LGBT community?” The presenter followed up with why I posed that question. I replied, “Because I am a member of the LGBT community, and we need to have a respectful conversation.” The presenter immediately asked, “Have you read Fr. Martin’s book ‘Building a Bridge?’” I replied, “The day it was released.” Grant then spent some time about the conversations the first part of the book suggested.

    I believe I’m getting a call that makes me feel queasy. But then, the gospel has a way of doing just that. What to do? But, if I do not respond, then who? Grant closed the workshop with the invitation to contact his office to explore avenues of social justice. I am resolved that I must do so.

    Reply
    • John Hilgeman
      John Hilgeman says:

      Don, you may have felt a bit queasy, but you did a courageous thing, and opened up a discussion where it was needed. Kudos to you. You may also have opened up the minds of people and started something going that will have a ripple effect in the local Church.

      Reply

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