Jesuit Father James Martin is again making waves with the second edition of his book Building a Bridge, about the relationship between LGBTQ Catholics and the Catholic Church. In a recent interview with US Catholic, Fr. Martin discusses his continued work and the new edition of his book.
The Jesuit priest says the continued reactions to the book have been intense, and he hopes the new version of the book can continue to be helpful for LGBTQ Catholics and their friends and family saying:
“It dawned on me that it’s having someone in a collar say these things, from the pulpit that is really resonating with people”
“The variance comes from the selectiveness of the application of church teaching. It’s usually only applied to LGBT people, and usually only in regard to their sexual morality. For example, LGBT teachers in Catholic schools have been fired because of their sexual orientation. We don’t fire Catholic school teachers who are single and living together before they’re married, which is also against church teachings. How many teachers are in that situation? Nor do we fire teachers who are divorced and remarried without an annulment. Nor do we fire teachers who use birth control. The selectivity of focus on LGBT people and their sexual morality is, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sign of “unjust discrimination.” We choose to overlook some of the other matters because we’ve accommodated those situations. But somehow the LGBT person is seen as the greatest and the worst and the only sinner in the church now.”
At the suggestion that Catholic leaders were bending in order to accomodate a quickly changing culture, Father Martin replied:
“Any extension of mercy to people on the margins will always cause people to grumble. But that’s what Jesus did, so that’s what we’re called to do. It’s pretty simple. You cannot argue with the fact that Jesus continually went out to people on the margins. You also cannot argue with the fact that the LGBT person is the most marginalized person in the church. There’s no question.”
When asked how he continues to do the work of ministering to LGBTQ Catholics even as it becomes difficult, Father Martin again looked to Jesus:
“If it’s someone who’s unwilling to listen to anything, Jesus says you may need to shake the dust off your feet and move on. But for most people, all it takes is an encounter with an LGBT person and to listen to his or her stories.”
He also looked to social media as both a resource and a burden for LGBTQ Catholics:
“On one hand, it enables people to discover stories they may not have heard of before. For example, for a young LGBT person who’s stuck in a place where he or she doesn’t feel accepted, it could be a real lifeline. By the same token, there are a few sites on social media that really traffic in hatred, homophobia, and personal attacks and that basically just create more fear. Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.” There are some sites that bring peace, unity, and concord into the church and the lives of Catholics, and there are some sites that create division, discord, and despair in the lives of some Catholics. We have to look at them carefully and discern which are healthy and which are unhealthy. The New Testament says, “Perfect love drives out fear,” and we know that, but perfect fear also drives out love. Be aware of that, and always work for the love.”
But, Father Martin went on to say that even he has a breaking point:
“I have to stop reading certain comments, websites, or articles when I know they’re not helpful and they’re just attacking me. I realized those types of comments aren’t coming from God. Why would I engage them? Thoughtful critiques are one thing, but a good deal of the reaction to me and my book has just been hysterical, ad hominem, personal vilification, so why would I even pay attention? I always compare it to walking down the street—I live in New York—and hearing a person shout out, “You’re a murderer!” I know I’m not a murderer. Why would I listen to that? Why would I listen to something that’s not only false but also mean? A lot of these people seem so Catholic that they are barely Christian anymore.”
Martin was moved to write Building a Bridge about LGBTQ Catholics and their relationship to the Catholic Church, after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting and the lack of an institutional church response. An opportunity presented itself when New Ways Ministry presented him with its Bridge Building Award in October 2016. His speech at the award ceremony served as the bulk of the text for the book which became Building a Bridge. A second version with additional resources was published recently, and Martin continues to speak to parishes on the relationship between LGBTQ Catholics and the church at large.
–Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, May 3, 2018