Italian Archbishop Writes Preface to Book on LGBT Issues in Catholic Church

Archbishop Matteo Zuppi

An Italian archbishop has written the preface to the Italian edition of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s book on LGBT issues in the Church, Building a Bridge.

Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna wrote the preface for book, in Italian titled Un Ponte de Costruire.  America Magazine published an English translation of the preface, which can be read by clicking here.

The archbishop said Martin’s book was “useful for encouraging dialogue, as well as reciprocal knowledge and understanding.” He also affirmed Martin’s decision to refer to LGBT people with the terms they use to call themselves  (e.g., lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender), saying it was “a necessary step for beginning a respectful conversation.”

Addressing the question of church teaching, Zuppi wrote:

“One cannot deny that homosexual persons express a variety of positions concerning their circumstances, and that many of these positions cannot be accepted by the church. Even greater is the complexity of their lived experience as it relates to faith in God, whether within the Christian community or outside of it. The church’s teachings concerning the standing of homosexual persons are clearly and synthetically expressed in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. They serve as the starting point for Father Martin, who doesn’t wish to challenge them in any way.

“These teachings have not been followed up with a commensurate pastoral program—one that doesn’t simply restrict itself to the cold application of doctrinal guidelines, but instead transforms them into a journey of accompaniment. Until now, the approach has often been ad hoc, merely a quick response to the appeals (some appropriate, and others not) of homosexual persons and groups, and often with a view toward their restraint, especially for believers (instructive examples, albeit with differing perspectives, can be found in the experiences of Catholic homosexual groups, like Courage and other groups hosted in parishes and dioceses across Italy).”

Zuppi’s proposed solution to better pastoral care is an affirmation of “a wise pedagogy of gradualism,” an idea that was quite controversial during the Synod on the Family but has found resonance in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He continued in his preface:

“The intent of the book is to help pastors develop an attitude of understanding, as well as a capacity for accompaniment, towards their homosexual brothers and sisters. And also vice versa, because there is also the mirror temptation to close oneself off or to assume ideological positions. The book aspires to support the Christian community’s yearning for a Gospel-driven life, and to cultivate pastoral relationships that yield fruit for the Kingdom. No authentic journey of spiritual growth can leave the truth of both the Gospel and church doctrine aside; but charity and the truth of the gospel demand both availability and the capacity for dialogue.

“And so yes, there is indeed a bridge that needs continuous ‘building’—to come to the title’s other half—with this sizable segment of the people of God, L.G.B.T. persons, who express their belonging in the church in many different ways. Doing nothing, on the other hand, risks causing a great deal of suffering, makes people feel lonely, and often leads to the adoption of positions that are both contrasting and extreme. Such ‘building’ is a difficult process, still unfolding, as we are clearly able to see from the Italian translation.”

Zuppi, who was appointed by Pope Francis and is known as the “Italian Bergoglio,” quoted the pope’s writings repeatedly in his preface, shoring up his position against any conservative critics in Italy who might suggest he has defied church teaching by endorsing Martin’s book.

Commenting on Facebook, Martin said the preface by Zuppi was “a huge vote of confidence by an important prelate” for LGBT ministry in the Church. The archbishop of Bologna’s voice is but the latest church leader to endorse Martin’s book. A number of other bishops, along with Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, have publicly affirmed the book’s value in fostering dialogue in the Church. The Italian edition and other foreign language editions now coming out are being published just as a revised and expanded English edition has appeared this spring. You can read Bondings 2.0’s interview with Martin about that edition by clicking here.

For more information on the Italian edition of Building a Bridge, click here. For more information on the revised and expanded English edition, visit Amazon, or check your local bookstore.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 23, 2018

7 replies
  1. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    Archbishop Matteo Zuppi overturns everything Fr. James Martin has accomplished, or might ever accomplish, when he writes in his preface to “Building a Bridge” that regarding official Vatican teachings as published in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Fr. Martin “doesn’t wish to challenge them in any way” (their words).

    Those teachings label LGBT people as nothing but heterosexual, cisgender people who choose to be disobedient, dishonest, destabilized, defective, disordered, deviant, disabled, diseased, depraved, demonic, and doomed. [ Source: Paragraphs 1603, 2333, 2337, 2347, 2351, 2352, 2357, 2358, 2359, 2360, 2366, 2370, 2373, 2376, 2396 in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 25 March 1995, ]

    These superstitions have always been, and still are, the crux of this matter. Well-meaning authors are pointless and useless until this science-denying folklore — cast in stone by the Vatican’s teachings — is defeated.

    The Vatican eventually abandoned the false cosmology of its sun-revolves-around-the-earth teachings, but it will never do likewise regarding its LGBT teachings so long as men like Zuppi and Martin keep writing that they “don’t wish to challenge those teachings in any way” (their words).

    Challenge is the first step toward reform.

    The Vatican’s LGBT teachings were written to allow no middle ground. Failing to challenge them means staying subservient to them.

    • Sarasi
      Sarasi says:

      Yes, I am in full agreement with you. No reputable university in the world teaches what the catechism says, even remotely, about being gay or lesbian. And no one over at the Vatican seems inclined to pick up a contemporary textbook of psychology to find out what the science is. Moreover, the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which is offering degrees–and is supposed to be an institution of science under Francis–selectively chooses a tiny number of texts to scaffold its ideology of gender and sexual orientation.

  2. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Both Fr. Martin’s and Archbishop Zuppi’s pastoral approach of evolving dialogue is both correct and timely. At some point in the course of the Church’s dialogue with the LGBTQ community, we the LGBTQ partners in this dialogue must speak our truth clearly and at the same time protest the language of the Catechism. We are at the point of “meet and greet”. The reaction to Building A Bridge shows that this is not an easy task but an important one. It is early days. Evolution and change happens. We pray that our Conscience be respected, and our anger not be misconstued as hate. But we are angry, and the words of the Catechism still hurt.

  3. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    If one wants to accompany an Indian person on their journey through India, one needs to do so with an open mind – a mind willing to explore, to learn new languages and customs, and to experience the journey as a fellow traveler, guided by a person who knows what it is to be Indian in India.

    Starting the journey with preconceptions on what the journey should be, or what the reality should be, is no better than taking a trip as a English colonizer bringing ideas of what is best for people of another culture and attempting to insert them into someone else’s culture, having in the back of one’s mind along the way, what one thinks India and the Indian companion should be.

    Furthermore, the archbishop equates Church teaching with the teachings of the small group of men who comprise the college of bishops, forgetting that the Church includes people of many cultures and varieties and genders, including LGBT people.

    There are certainly some Gospel values which are human values as well: the values of treating one as one would want to be treated, of caring for the least, and other such values taught and lived by Jesus, and the Buddha, and Gandhi, and by so many other visionaries and humanists throughout the ages.

    But the moral theology about sexual behavior, no matter how old or how insistently taught, is certainly not on the same level as those basic teachings of religious and humanist traditions of love and respect. So no matter how well-meaning the archbishop may be, unless he proposes accompanying LGBT people through our journeys as a fellow traveller with an open mind, willing to learn, he would be no better than an English colonizer whose unstated intent is ultimately imposing his values and behaviors on the people he proposes to accompany.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      All of the above critiques — but especially Ned’s and John’s — are splendidly relevant and bang-on. The truth on the ground, as I’ve said before, is that virtually NO contemporary Catholic under the age of 30 believes that any faithfully-bonded loving relationship could be invalidated by the incidental chromosomal identity of two people who love one another. Bottom line: LOVE is the Prime Directive. Why do some members of the clergy find this fact so difficult to accept? Perhaps enforced (and completely unnecessary and counterproductive) clerical celibacy has something to do with this obstruction to understanding and uplifting the Primacy of Love?


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