'Building A Bridge' Between The Catholic Church And LGBT Community
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year outraged and saddened Father James Martin, the Jesuit priest who is editor-at-large of America Magazine and a consultant to the Vatican Secretariat of Communication. He was also disappointed that while Catholic leaders decried those killings, only a few bishops and cardinals mentioned that many of the victims were gay and the killings were a hate crime directed at LGBT people. He reflected, and the result is a new book, "Building A Bridge: How The Catholic Church And The LGBT Community Can Enter Into A Relationship Of Respect, Compassion, And Sensitivity." Father James Martin joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
FATHER JAMES MARTIN: My pleasure.
SIMON: And why did it bother you that so many church leaders didn't mention the obvious, that the Pulse was a gay nightclub?
MARTIN: Well, it seemed a real failure to try to understand that community. One of my theology professors said that in the Gospels, for Jesus, sin is often a failure to bother to love. And it seemed to me a failure to bother to love this particular community in their real moment of grief.
SIMON: You quote with approval the words of an Australian bishop who says quote, "we cannot talk about the integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression and the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons."
Why is that statement even remotely controversial to some?
MARTIN: It shouldn't be. But for bishops to defend LGBT people or put themselves out on the line for LGBT people is rather rare. And so one of the things that I try to do in the book is point to bishops and cardinals, in some cases, who are out there and who are supporting their LGBT brothers and sisters and siblings.
SIMON: Same time, you think some people who are LGBT don't understand or respect the thinking of the church. How so?
MARTIN: Well, sometimes - you know, it's not surprising they've been ignored and excluded and often fired. But I really do say that, you know, part of the two-way bridge that I call for is respect on the part of the LGBT person as well. It's a hard thing to hear for many LGBT people, but it's really part of being a Christian. And it's also good strategy. If you want to, you know, have people listen to you, I think respect is the way to go.
SIMON: But I think a lot of LGBT people are suspicious of the church - and not just the Catholic Church - because they don't want to be just tolerated; they want to be respected.
MARTIN: Absolutely. And I try in the book not to downplay the terrible pain that they have felt. And I also say that the onus is really on the institutional church to reach out to the LGBT community because it's the institutional church that has made the LGBT person feel marginalized, not the other way around.
SIMON: What do you believe the church can do?
MARTIN: Well first of all, listen. I think that the church has spent too much time - by that, I mean the institutional church - speaking at, preaching at, tweeting about, publishing about LGBT people without actually getting to know them and listening to their experiences and asking them questions like - what's your experience of God like? Who is Jesus for you? What's your experience of the church like? - because the Holy Spirit resides in LGBT people. And the church really needs to listen and to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is operating.
SIMON: Pope Francis appointed you to the Vatican Secretariat of Communication. Do you think he agrees with you on this?
MARTIN: (Laughter) I have no idea. I know that the pope - his five most famous words may be - who am I to judge? - which is about gay people. And I know that he has gay friends. You know, one of the people that he met with during his papal visit in the United States was a gay friend and his partner. So he's open to what he calls a culture of encounter and accompaniment. He's certainly in favor of listening to people and meeting them where they are. And so on that page, you know, we agree.
SIMON: You suggest in a couple of sections of the book that there must be priests who are LGBT, but they are faithful to their vows of chastity.
MARTIN: Yeah, I know them. And, you know, by saying that a priest is gay, it doesn't mean that he's breaking his promise of celibacy or his vow of chastity or, you know, lesbian nuns. And one of the challenges for the church is to recognize these people and to see them as the gifts that they are as all LGBT people are to the church. They are gifts, beloved children of God who bring certain gifts and certain talents to our church, to the community.
SIMON: Father James Martin - his book, "Building A Bridge: How The Catholic Church And The LGBT Community Can Enter Into A Relationship Of Respect, Compassion, And Sensitivity" - thanks so much for being with us.
MARTIN: My pleasure.
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