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, https://www.harperone.com/jamesmartin/, or check your local bookstore.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 23, 2018