Distinguished Jesuit author, Rev. James Martin, S.J. returned to Fairfield to discuss building bridges with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
Catholics therefore have a responsibility to make everyone, particularly people who feel marginalized, feel visible and valued.
The topic of a recent lecture by Rev. James Martin, S.J. centered on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community which Fr. Martin characterized as both “contentious and combative,” and at times “very warm and welcoming,” and possible ways to repair and strengthen it.
“Much of the tension in that relationship,” Fr. Martin attributed to “a lack of communication and a great deal of mistrust between LGBT Catholics and the hierarchy,” and he suggested that “what is needed is a ‘bridge’ between that community and the institutional Church.”
Those gathered in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola on Wednesday evening were invited by Fr. Martin to think about that “bridge” while reflecting on both the Church’s outreach to the LGBT Catholic community, and the LGBT Catholic community’s outreach to the Church, because “good bridges take people in both directions.”
Fr. Martin emphasized that the catechism of the Catholic Church reminds individuals to treat each other with respect, compassion and sensitivity. “Respect means acknowledging that the LGBT community exists—they are in our Church.” He pointed to the model of Jesus, “who recognizes all people, even those who are invisible or feel invisible in the larger community. He reaches out specifically to people on the margins. Catholics therefore have a responsibility to make everyone, particularly people who feel marginalized, feel visible and valued.” Fr. Martin pointed out that respect also means acknowledging that LGBT Catholics bring unique gifts to the Church such as forgiveness, perseverance and compassion, though they are often made to feel unwelcome in their parishes. “The Church needs to listen finally to LGBT people which we have not been doing,” Fr. Martin said.
Fr. Martin quoted the definition of sensitivity, “…an awareness of the understanding of the feelings of others,” and connected it to Pope Francis’ call for the Church to be one of encounter and accompaniment. He illustrated once again, the example of how Jesus treated people on the margins —“Welcome, encounter, listening, respect, compassion, sensitivity.”
Addressing members of the LGBT community who were present, Fr. Martin referred to the accounts of many who have recounted to him, “‘So many people tell me that I am not a part of the Church, or I’m not a good Catholic, or I’m not Catholic.’” In closing he said, “Every LGBT Catholic has been called by Jesus Christ himself into the Church and has been baptized. So the next time anyone says you are not Catholic, or you don’t belong to the Church—you just hold up your Baptismal certificate and say, ‘yes I do.’”
A prolific writer, Fr. Martin is editor at large of America magazine, the national Catholic review and is the author of 12 books, including his latest, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect. His books have been read across the globe and translated into Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Swedish and Slovenian. His work has appeared in Catholic publications such as America, Commonweal, U.S. Catholic and The (London) Tablet, and he has written for print and online publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, O Magazine, Slate.com, the Huffington Post and Washington Post. Fr. Martin has been featured on National Public Radio, PBS, Comedy Central, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the History Channel, the BBC, National Geographic TV, Voice of America and Vatican Radio.
His lecture, Building Bridges: Civility in the Catholic Church Discourse and Merciful Engagement of the LGBT Community, was sponsored by the Canisius Academy, the Center for Catholic Studies, the Fairfield Jesuit Community, the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and the Center for Ignatian Spirituality.