As 2,000+ students, teachers, and campus ministers from Jesuit high schools, colleges, and parishes gathered in the Washignton, D.C. metro area this weekend for the annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ), justice for the LGBTQ community took center stage.
Emma Menchaca-Chavez and Regi Worles, students and co-chairs of this year’s IgnatianQ Conference to be held at Regis University, Denver, told an IFTJ plenary session that justice requires seeing and loving one another as whole. This idea, they said, was radical because we live in a world that has taught queer folks to be small and not demand to be seen and loved. To counter that societal dismissal, Menchaca-Chavez and Worles argued that we need a new, whole love that requires truly engaging to build a meaningful and intersectional community with others.
To that end, Fr. James Martin, SJ, spoke to hundreds of participants about his personal journey building relationships with LGBTQ folks and about how the Church might build that meaningful community with its LGBTQ family.
Fr. Martin reminded those gathered that LGBTQ Catholics are full members of the church, who are wonderfully made by God, and imbued with gifts and talents that they contribute as members of the Body of Christ. Though they are often treated like lepers by the Church, LGBTQ Catholics long to know God just as any other Christian does. Just as God loves LGBTQ folks, so should the Church.
That love that the Church should share with the queer community is that whole love Menchaca-Chavez and Worles spoke about—not a superficial, tolerating love, but one that imitates Jesus’ caring love for those on the margins. This love celebrates queer folks, suffers when they suffer, stands with them as members of the same family.
Fr. Martin closed with a plea to the pro-life Church. He said, “I am pro-life. I would invite you to be pro-life across the board. That includes being pro-life for your LGBT brothers and sisters because that is what Jesus would do. And if you’re not trying to be like Jesus, what’s the point?”
Two workshops addressed LGBTQ issues in Catholic education.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Robert Shine of New Ways Ministry led a workshop to help personnel from Catholic schools and universities develop more just policies and programs for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff.
Sr. Jeannine noted that just policies for LGBTQ people are in keeping with Catholic teaching. Unfortunately, people often test the value of these policies on the basis of Catholic sexual ethics. This focus on sexual ethics, according to Sr. Jeannine and Shine is incomplete. Rather, the more fundamental Catholic teachings of human dignity, equality, and the common good should govern our policies on institutional levels.
Jack Raslowsky, president of Xavier High School, New York City, led a conversation about creating welcoming high schools. Students who attended spoke about the different realities from which they come. Some students, like those at Xavier, have very inclusive schools with gay-straight alliances and other supports. But other Catholic schools are quite restrictive with a culture of silence about LGBTQ issues. Raslowsky emphasized the importance of taking action after leaving the workshop, even if it is small steps.
If schools were to adopt policies that respect each person’s human dignity and the common good, they would be helping to teach that discrimination is incompatible with Church teaching. In crafting policies that use these fundamental Catholic teachings as their basis, we can, like Jesus restore the wholeness to an entire community of people who have, in the words of Menchaca-Chavez and Worles “been broken by violence and hate.”
As Fr. Martin, Sr. Gramick, Shine, Raslowsky, and others have noted, for our young people, LGBTQ inclusion is a given. It was obvious at IFTJ that our young people are not fighting only for mere inclusion in the Church. They already include their LGBTQ siblings. They already recognize the wholeness of their queer family. Our young people are hungry for justice for their LGBTQ family. It is not a single, isolated issue, but an inseparable component of the integral justice the Ignatian family inherits from Jesus, its founders, and its martyrs.
We, the Church, are already starting to see prophetic action from our young people, challenging how we treat LGBTQ people and all those on the margins. The rest of us will be left with the decision to either follow them in loving all people “wholefully” as Jesus would or reject the radical hope of these young people (and by extension, Jesus) and continue to erase, silence, make invisible, and exclude LGBTQ folks at our own peril.
Looking to develop LGBTQ initiatives for your Catholic school? Consider hosting “Creating a Spirit of Welcome: LGBTQ Issues in Catholic Schools,” a workshop facilitated by New Ways Ministry and designed to fit the unique character of your school community. The program includes presentations, discussions, real life examples, small group activities, and discernment of next steps. For more information on the workshop, click here.
—Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, November 22, 2019