“What would it mean for the institutional church to welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics?” That is the question posed by Fr. James Martin, SJ, in a new column for America where he shares three recent steps towards inclusion.
The first step is a lecture given by theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale, in which he opened with the words, “I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian.” Martin reported:
“The lecture, entitled ‘The Challenge of Idolatry for LGBTI Ministry,’ delivered at the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics in Chicago, encouraged his fellow L.G.B.T. Catholics to remember that they are ‘equally redeemed by Christ and radically loved by God.’ . . .
“Such openness makes the church more inviting, especially for L.G.B.T. people who wonder if there is a place for them. Examples like Father Massingale’s help them feel welcomed and loved. As he said, ‘I didn’t do this to “come out.” But to let God’s love for us all to “come forth.” ‘ “
Massingale explained to Martin via email that he spoke especially to those LGBTQ people and advocates working in contexts which are more dangerous, commenting:
“I said what I said because people are suffering horribly because of who they are and how they love. And I couldn’t ask them to continue being courageous if I wasn’t willing to be courageous, too.”
Second, Martin shared about the opening of a new LGBTQ ministry at St. Clement’s Church in Chicago. Called “Affirmed,” the ministry began when young adult Catholics “felt strongly” that the parish needed to be at the “forefront” of LGBTQ inclusion efforts, according to the director of evangelization and faith formation Michael Bayer. The group’s chair, Katherine Abel, mentioned the support of the Archdiocese of Chicago as essential for the ministry to begin. Affirmed is the latest in the many outreach efforts made by parishes like St. Clement’s on New Ways Ministry’s LGBTQ-Friendly Parishes listing.
Finally, Martin reported on Bondings 2.0‘s post about Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C.’s positive comments to a transgender Catholic. At a Theology on Tap session, Gregory told a trans questioner during that they “belong to the heart of this Church,” and mentioned as well his positive dialogue with the Catholic parents of LGBTQ children while archbishop in Atlanta. Martin described Gregory’s remarks as “a wise, loving, pastoral answer.”
These steps towards inclusion are helpful in fulfilling Massingale’s call for LGBTQ people and allies to “cultivate a sense of hope.” He explained during his address that hope is not optimism:
“Hope is very different. Hope believes that good ultimately triumphs over evil . . . but not always. And that the victories often come at a terrible cost; in the process many will pay a very high price. In the words of Arthur Falls, an African American civil rights activist and a member of the Chicago Catholic Worker in the 1960s, when asked what gave him hope in the struggle for justice, he replied: ‘When you work for justice, you don’t always lose.'”
There are many losses in LGBTQ ministry when church workers are fired and bishops make negative comments. But keeping hope alive is essential, and it is a good exercise at times to remind ourselves of the progress being made.