Since Building a Bridge, a book on ministering to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, was published, I have been asked—at Catholic parishes, retreat centers, colleges and universities and conferences—a few questions that recur over and over. The most common are: “What can we say to gay people who believe that God hates them?” “How can we help young people who feel tempted to suicide because of their sexual orientation?” And “What can we say to gay or lesbian Catholics who feel that their own church has rejected them?”
Another common question is about the church’s official teaching on homosexuality, homosexual activity and same-sex marriage. Usually these questions are asked not by Catholics who are unaware of the church’s teaching (for most Catholics know the teachings); rather they are asked by Catholics who want to understand the basis for the church’s teachings on those topics.
Building a Bridge intentionally steered clear of issues of sexual morality, since I hoped to foster dialogue by focusing on areas of possible commonality; and the church hierarchy and the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics remain far apart on these issues. It also makes little sense to begin a conversation with topics on which the two sides are the farthest apart. Overall, the book was about dialogue and prayer, rather than moral theology. (As a Catholic priest, I have also never challenged those teachings, nor will I.)
But for a meaningful encounter to occur between the church hierarchy and any community, it’s helpful if both groups understand one another as much as possible. As I mentioned in the book, good bridges take people in both directions.
So it’s important to ask: What is the church’s official teaching on these issues? As an aside, since the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a compendium of church teaching on various topics, does not address bisexual or transgender persons but rather “homosexual persons,” I’ll refer here to gay and lesbian people to be more precise.
Continue reading on America: The Jesuit Review.
Excerpted with permission.
James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America, the Catholic magazine, and consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, a post to which he was appointed by Pope Francis in 2017. He is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Jesus: A Pilgrimage and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.
I’ve had the privilege of conducting two interviews with my friend Father Martin on this topic, published here and here. In the first interview, when I asked,
If you think a Catholic theology of same-sex love is possible, what might it look like?
…Father Martin responded,
…I don’t enter into matters of moral theology. …I’m trying to map out the very first steps in a dialogue, because before we can get to any discussion of anything, the two groups [LGBTQ Catholics and the church hierarchy] have to speak to one another.
The article excerpted above (and I do urge you strongly to click through to read it to the end) seems to be an expansion of his response to my question.
Another Jesuit priest who is familiar with and supportive of my work feels that Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians can work together productively—on the basis of a millennium of shared Tradition—to articulate a theology of sexual and gender diversity in human nature and Christian life, one that takes fully into account the need for chastity, broadly understood, as an integral dimension of our common life in Christ.
Father Martin sees his role as one of laying the groundwork—or rather, building the bridge—for this theological task to commence in earnest. In drawing our readers’ attention to his recent article, Orthodoxy in Dialogue wishes to invite both Catholics and Orthodox to utilize our online publication as a forum for this shared theological work to take place.
Giacomo Sanfilippo, Editor
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