The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:
Father James Martin, SJ, author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, was received this morning by Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican.
Fr. Martin, whose book is based on the lecture he gave when he received New Ways Ministry’ Bridge Building Award in 2016, has become a leading advocate for LGBTQ ministry in the Catholic Church. Since the publication of the book in 2017, he has been tireless in spreading the word about LGBTQ inclusion in the church’s pastoral life.
This meeting with the pope refutes the unjustified barrage of criticism he has received from a minority of church leaders and other anti-LGBTQ sectors of the church. Even more so, it recognizes that Fr. Martin’s approach to LGBTQ pastoral ministry, already praised by bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, has won the approval of the highest levels of the church. It is a clear signal that Pope Francis is calling the church to conversion away from the negative messages it has sent in the past about LGBTQ people.
Besides recognizing Fr. Martin’s ministry, this meeting is also an affirmation of the thousands of Catholics around the U.S. and around the globe who have been reaching out pastorally to LGBTQ people and their families in the ways that Fr. Martin has described in his book. This is a day of rejoicing for the many lay people, nuns, priests, brothers, deacons, theologians who have quietly and persistently, often in the face of harsh and insensitive criticism, continued to follow Jesus’ command to reach out to all people, especially those marginalized and misunderstood. It is a day of celebration for LGBTQ Catholics who have longed for an outstretched hand of welcome from the church that they love.
This meeting is one of the many ways that Pope Francis has been sending out the message that he wants the church to do more affirming pastoral initiatives with the LGBTQ community. Just this past weekend, it became known that the pope restored priestly functions to Fr. James Alison, a prominent, openly gay theologian. Earlier this year, the pope greeted a group of LGBTQ and ally pilgrims from the Westminster Diocese, England, who attended the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square. He has met with a transgender Catholic man, received a gay former student along with his partner, invited and met with Bishop Jacques Gaillot, an advocate for LGBTQ people and relationships, affirmed the transgender ministry of an Argentinian nun, and wrote a friendly note to a group of LGBTQ Catholics which meets in Florence, Itay. In 2015, a group of New Ways Ministry pilgrims received VIP seats for the Ash Wednesday papal audience in St. Peter’s Square.
For a full list of Pope Francis’ statements and actions concerning LGBTQ issues, click here for New Ways Ministry’s catalog.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 30, 2019