‘Bridge Church, LGBT with respect, sensitivity, compassion’

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Building a Bridge by Fr. James Martin, S.J.

RESPECT, compassion and sensitivity — virtues from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) — could pave the way for unity and reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, says American Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin.

In his book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” Martin used the image of a bridge to unite the Church and the LGBT community to end the “us versus them” mentality.

He cited the lack of communication and mistrust as causes of the tension between the two groups.

To bridge the gap, Martin called on the Church to respect the LGBT community by recognizing their existence and contribution to society.

“[The] LGBT community exists and [the Church should extend] to it the same recognition that any community desires and deserves because of its presence among us,” he wrote.

Martin said earning the respect and trust of the members of the hierarchy was essential in influencing the Church’s perspective on LGBT.

“The members of the Church— popes and councils, archbishops and bishops— speak with authority in their role as teachers. [T]o do that, we are called to listen. Their teaching deserves our respect,” he wrote.

Martin added that this respect should be supported by acts of compassion, which begins with listening to the stories of the LGBT community about rejection and humiliation by society and the Church.

LGBT Catholics have felt unwelcomed, banned and insulted by the Church, he said.

Martin also pointed out that sensitivity involves the Church not treating the LGBT community as sinners.

“Rather, it is that Jesus continually reached out to all those who felt marginalized in any way. Jesus’s movement was about inclusion. He was creating a sense of ‘us,’” he wrote.

However, Martin argued that the process of understanding that they are loved by God as they are and the process of finding their place in the Church remain difficult for the LGBT community.

Adapted from an address he presented to New Ways Ministry, an organization that ministers and advocates for LGBT Catholics, “Building a Bridge” offers a map for cultivating the bonds that unite us as God’s children.

Martin stressed that the work of the Gospel cannot be accomplished if one section of the Church is radically separated from other parts.

In Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation titled Amoris Laetitia, the Pope said every person should be respected regardless of their sexual orientation.

“While ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence,” Pope Francis wrote.

The book also includes stories from the LGBT community, biblical passages and questions for reflection, providing a powerful and promising voice in a time marked by rage, prejudice and conflict in the LGBT community.

In 2016, Martin received the “Building a Bridge Award” from New Ways Ministry for equality and respect for LGBT Catholics.

He was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication in 2017.

Martin is an editor at large of America magazine, published by the Jesuits in the United States. Ma. Alena O. Castillo

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