As the conversation around Fr. James Martin’s most recent book Building a Bridge continues, more voices have spoken in affirmation of Martin and his call for dialogue between the Church and the LGBT community.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago spoke openly in support Martin on November 6th at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Responding to a question about Martin’s book and the ensuing battles on social media, the cardinal said, “He really is one of the, if not the foremost evangelizer in the Church today, especially for young people.” In further expressing his support for Martin, Cupich said, “I appreciate what he’s doing.”
Although Martin has faced a tremendous amount of criticism and pushback via social media platforms from far-right Catholics, Cupich said that many of the people who condemn Martin actually failed to read his work. The cardinal’s response to Martin was to invite him to speak in the Archdiocese of Chicago:
“I felt it was a matter of justice to speak up on behalf of him and to support him, but then also to do something actively, proactively, and that is invite him here and give him a platform to speak to people about the topic that he likes to talk about most, namely Jesus.
“[…] It seems to me that you have to take a stance sometimes and say ‘this is wrong.’ And just because you have all of this hyperbole and many ways of diminishing this man who’s done nothing but live his life in a way that helps other people and to have his name dragged through the mud for no good reason, sometimes you just have to stand up and say, ‘enough of this, we have to do something about it.”
Support for Martin and his work is surfacing from other leaders in the Church. Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta recently served as a panelist for a discussion on “Racism in America.” During the panel discussion, a question was asked about how the Catholic Church supports black and brown LGBTQ people. In his answer to the question, Gregory referenced Martin and referred to Building a Bridge as a “wonderful book.” He said, reported CSPAN:
“A wonderful Jesuit, James Martin, has written a wonderful book in which he challenges the institutional Church, his Catholic Church, my Church, to be in dialogue with the LGBT community to build bridges. And that has challenged a lot of people in my Church because you don’t want to build a bridge if you already think you’re on the right side of the cliff. But that’s I think where we have to go next.”
In light of the vitriol that Martin has received from various right-leaning Catholic groups, it is encouraging to note the advocacy from leaders in the Church hierarchy, Catholic lay people, and those who are not members of the Catholic Church.
The Greyhound, an online news blog of Loyola University Maryland published an essay by Karl Dehmelt in support of Martin, who is an alumnus of the school. Dehmelt concluded:
“And, through approaches and arguments centered on reason combined with careful attention to Church history and doctrine, the controversy surrounding Martin, our fellow Greyhound, can serve as a vehicle for empathy, enlightenment, and as an example of finding God in all things.”
Another media outlet, the Deconstructionist Podcast, described as a podcast about “building new faith,” interviewed Martin shortly after Building a Bridge had been released. The podcast producers, two Protestant men, were very receptive to Martin’s message in the book and at the end of the interview extended a “standing invitation” to Martin to come back and be interviewed again.
Cardinals, Bishops, Jesuit institutions, and members of other Christian denominations clearly continue to seek to extend their support to Martin and his central message in Building a Bridge. Easy as it may be to become frustrated and angry at the cruel responses that Martin has received, statements of support ought to give us hope that the core of Martin’s work is coming through loud and clear. That message, which should be emphasized over and over again, is that Jesus welcomed people who were on the margins. And we are called to do the same, Martin said in the The Deconstructionist Podcast, noting:
“I hate to tell people, but Jesus reached out to people on the margins. Like it or not.”
—Lizzie Sextro, New Ways Ministry, November 18, 2017