March 22, 2018 (Joseph Sciambra) – On March 17, 2018, Jesuit priest James Martin spoke about Catholic LGBT outreach at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. He was introduced by Jenny Naughton, who immediately declared: “I'm the proud Catholic mother of a gay man,” followed by thunderous applause. Naughton is a master catechist for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founded the gay-affirmative support group “Always Our Children” in 2007. She is currently an “associate board member” for the pro-gay marriage dissident Catholic organization “Fortunate Families.”
After the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, Deb Word, then president of Fortunate Families, released the following statement:
Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children's lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children[.]
At the beginning of his presentation, Martin said he would not accept questions from the audience:
One of the reasons that I don't take questions in these situations is because often people sort of stand up and start screaming and tend to hijack the conversation.
Most of James Martin's presentations and talks during the book tour for Building a Bridge have been recorded and uploaded to YouTube. There is no evidence that anyone ever interrupted him by screaming. In fact, Martin's typical procedure includes answering questions from the audience only when they are submitted in writing and then screened by a moderator.
Martin began his presentation by stating:
The Church has a responsibility to make everyone feel visible and valuable. Visible. Recognizing that LGBT Catholics exist has important pastoral implications. It means carrying out ministry that some dioceses and parishes already do well. Particularly in this archdiocese, I know many parishes – for example, I know St. Monica's, that has a flourishing LGBT ministry. The parish that I go to, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York, which is where this picture is from. [A photo of various members from the Out at St. Paul ministry appears on the overhead screen.] That's the pastor, Gil Martinez, and the group Out at St. Paul…a flourishing ministry.
St. Monica's in Santa Monica hosts St. Monica Catholic Community Gay and Lesbian Outreach (GLO), where former member Arthur Fitzmaurice once served as the chair of the archdiocese's Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons. At the L.A. Religious Education Congress, which repeatedly features Fitzmaurice as a speaker on LGBT issues, he openly criticized The Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2015:
The paragraph [in the Catechism] on homosexuality – which describes it as 'intrinsically disordered' while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians – is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning 'pornography, prostitution, and rape[.] … To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil.
On July 16, 2017, James Martin addressed “Out at St. Paul.” He had previously spoken to the group on March 2, 2017. In the past, Out at St. Paul sponsored and promoted a Mass at the site of the Stonewall Riots, “countertraditions” to Adam and Eve, and an outing to a local gay bar. On several occasions, Martin has recommended both the parish and Out at St. Paul (see video interview and a Facebook live discussion.) In a video series entitled “Owning Our Faith,” featuring various LGBT members from the Out at St. Paul ministry, a “gay” Catholic man said the following:
I think what's interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is 'gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is 'you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can't live that life.' And so that inherently is discriminatory.
Martin spent a lot of time explaining why the “gay” community should be addressed by the name of their choosing:
Everyone has a right to the name that they wish to be called by. This is not some minor concern. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, names are important. A name in the Hebrew Scripture stands for a person's identity. Knowing a person's name, in a sense, you know the person, you had a kind of intimacy with the person. And moreover, you had a kind of power over the person. That's what that means in the Scripture, that's why names are so important. That's one reason why Moses asked God to know God's name[.] … Later, in The New Testament, Jesus names Simon as Peter.
So let us finally set aside and lay to rest phrases like “afflicted with same-sex attraction.”
After a cursory search of the internet for such a term, no one within the Catholic Church has ever used “afflicted with same-sex attraction” or any variation of those words in any official Church communication or document.
If Pope Francis, the 81-year-old former Argentine Jesuit provincial, can use the word “gay,” so can everyone else.
Since the release of his book, Martin said he has heard “the most incredible stories of kind of hatred and persecution at the hands of our Church.” Yet he can relate only one or two. At the L.A. Religious Education Congress, Martin described a situation involving a gay man in a hospital who was allegedly refused an anointing by a homophobic priest. He reiterated the story to various Catholic and secular news outlets, including: CNN, The National Catholic Register, America Magazine, St. Anthony Messenger, and The New York Times.
The Church has a call to proclaim God's love for people who are often made to feel, whether by their families, neighbors, or religious leaders, that they are damaged goods, unworthy of ministry or either subhuman.
I'm thinking about whether or not I should say the next thing.
So I'm speaking by Skype in another week in Cincinnati and the diocese there found out and said that this talk, which was at a public university, the University of Cincinnati, could not call itself Catholic. It was kinda surprising. It's not a Catholic university. They had to take the word “Catholic” out of the presentation. And the diocesan spokesperson said, “It's me, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and Jamie Manson,” said we consider this a non-event. I almost tweeted out, I am happy to speak at a non-event on behalf of people who are often considered non-persons. [applause]
On March 24, 2018, James Martin is scheduled to appear as a featured speaker at a one-day symposium: “Building Bridges: A Dialogue on Faith, Catholicism, and the LGBTQ Community.” The event will take place at the University of Cincinnati. Besides Martin, those participating include dissident pro-gay marriage advocate Jeannine Gramick; LGBT activist and women's ordination-supporter Jamie Mason; and gay theologian Andy Buechel, who will moderate the panel discussion.
Jeannine Gramick, along with the late Fr. Robert Nugent, co-founded the dissident gay-affirmative outreach New Ways Ministry. Both were officially silenced in 1999 by the Vatican:
The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons[.]
In 2014, in an article about same-sex marriage and the Catholic Church, Jamie Mason wrote:
As someone preparing to enter a same-sex marriage with my partner of five years, I think American Catholics can and should accept recognition of same-sex marriage because they are Catholics. The church should revise its attitude toward same-sex relationships not simply because the culture is moving in that direction – which by itself … is no reason to alter any moral teaching – but because it has become clear that that what the church teaches about homosexuality is not true.
Andy Buechel currently teachers at Jesuit Xavier University in Cincinnati. He received his Master of Theological Studies from Notre Dame in 2007 and his Doctor of Philosophy in 2012 from Emory University. His dissertation was titled: “Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth? Perspectives in Queer Theology,” and it was later published as his 2015 book, That We Might Become God: The Queerness of Creedal Christianity.
According to Buechel:
The encounters with the resurrected Lord intensify the limitations and reductions of modern conceptions of sexual difference and sexual orientation, limitations first seen at the transfiguration. Jesus' body is not only queer in its fluidity, openness, and excess; it is queer by how it relates to other bodies erotically, drawing them towards the Divine.
In a letter to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr made the following statement about the event:
To be very clear, despite its billing, the event is in no way sponsored by, sanctioned by, or associated with the Catholic Church. In fact, one of the scheduled speakers has been ordered to not speak on behalf of the Catholic Church in the United States due to the grave error of her teaching. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 216) states in part that “no undertaking shall assume the name Catholic unless the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority is given.” My permission was not sought in this case, nor would it have been given.
Martin also spoke out against the firing of Catholic school and Church employees who are “married” to same-sex partners. He asked Mark Guevarra to stand up and invited the audience to applaud, which they did. Martin said: “We are being selective about which Church teachings matter and its usually only one: same-sex marriage.”
Mark Guevarra is a former Catholic “pastoral associate” from Edmonton, Canada who immediately accused the Church of homophobia after he was fired. However, his same-sex partner, a well known local Presbyterian pastor and LGBT advocate, made this remark:
Mark was fired this week from his job as a Pastoral Assistant. They say it's because he *gasp* has a partner and child, but they've known that for years. The real reason he's fired is because he started an LGBTQ prayer group. Let that sink in. He was fired for praying with the “wrong” people.
While its correct that the parish undeniably knew of Guevarra's personal life, the matter of his termination from employment was most likely not due to any sort of organized bigotry, but because Guevarra began an alternative LGBTQ “mass” held at the University of Alberta.
Martin also argued:
What about Church teaching? And I say, you mean one line in the Catechism? You don't mean the Gospels, do you? So we should fire people who are not forgiving, we should fire people who don't care for the poor, we should fire people who are cruel. When I said this, one bishop online said: “No, because those things are not public scandals.” [audience gasps]
On the overhead screen appears a picture Michael Templeton and his “husband.” Templeton served as a music director at a Catholic parish in Delaware before he was fired.
Martin offered the following explanation for this disparity:
Many Church leaders do not know on a personal level LGBT people who are public about their sexuality. The lack of familiarity and friendship means it's more difficult to be sensitive.
In 2015, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, reminded us of this at the Meeting of Synod Bishops on the Family. Around that time, Cardinal Schönborn spoke of a gay couple he knew who transformed his understanding of LGBT people. He even offered some qualified praise for same-sex unions. I am going to quote – you are not gonna believe this, this is the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, this is a public statement – “… one shares one's life, one shares the joys and sufferings, one helps one another. We must recognize that this person has made an important step for his own good and for the good of others[.]”
He also overruled a priest in his archdiocese who had prohibited a man in a same-sex relationship from serving on a parish council. Did you get that? The cardinal overruled the pastor.
Martin then expounded upon a new exegesis of Christ's call to repentance. In this case, he made an analogy between the LGBT community, the controversial nature of his recent statements regarding homosexuality and the resulting criticism, and The New Testament narrative concerning Jesus and Zacchaeus:
So, Zacchaeus come[s] down from the tree and then my favorite line, from the past couple of months, has been this – “and the crowd began to grumble.” Just go online, and that's what you'll see. The crowd grumbled. They don't like that because an extension of mercy to someone who is seen on the margins angers people. By the way, its “all in the crowd began to grumble.” Maybe even some of the disciples, people who thought they were with Jesus.
While still addressing the Zacchaeus analogy, herein lies Martin's theology of Catholic LGBT ministry:
An encounter with Jesus provokes conversion. Notice what is going on in this story. It's community first, conversion second. For Jesus, for John the Baptist – Scripture scholar Ben Meyer pointed out, John the Baptist's model is conversion first and then you may enter the community. For Jesus it's the opposite. He doesn't say come down from that tree if you do x, y, z … He doesn't say if you do x, y, z, I'll talk to you. He said I want to come to you. Communion first, conversion second … (It's) a beautiful story of understanding how Jesus meets people on the margins and how the Church is called to be like Jesus and, I think, in this whole discussion, which has kinda taken off in the Church about LGBT Catholics and how we are called to minister to them. We have a choice: you can stand with the crowd, who grumbles, or you can stand with Jesus. As for me, I am standing with Jesus. [applause]
Reprinted with permission from Joseph Sciambria.