‘Respect, compassion and sensitivity’

Fr. James Martin shares what it means to for the Catholic and LGBTQ+ communities to live in harmony

By Chiara Profenna | February 10, 2023 10:30am
Photos courtesy of America Magazine and Harper Collins.

Fr. James Martin didn’t choose to be a spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community during his priesthood. His advocacy grew out of a necessity to support the community after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016.

At the time, this event was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But with little support from Catholic leaders, Martin felt compelled to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

During a live webinar on Jan. 30, Martin discussed his journey into advocacy and “How the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ Community Can Live Out Gospel Inclusion.” The event was co-sponsored by the Garaventa Center, Student Affairs, Campus Ministry and the Office of International Education, Diversity and Inclusion.

This webinar comes after statements made by Fr. John Donato in his email to students in August 2022 to foster intentional dialogue and create an inclusive community. 

“We ask for your support as we take steps together to build communities that are inclusive, genuinely caring for every student, and equipped to respectfully and critically engage with differences,” Donato said in the email.

Motivated by these promises to the student body, Donato reached out to Martin asking him to be part of the conversation.

At the event, Martin began by sharing what inspired his support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“What struck me, in addition to the terrible tragedy at the time, was the real sort of tepid response from many Catholic leaders,” Martin said. “Very few bishops said anything, and those that did say something, most of them didn't even use the word gay or LGBTQ.”

He saw how the LGBTQ+ community was becoming invisible to the church, and sought to change this reality. 

“I felt that they did not have and do not have many people to advocate for them,” Martin said.

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 writes about the necessary changes that need to be made between the two communities.

“The original book talked about it being a two way bridge,” Martin said. “The church should reach out to the LGBT community and that the LGBT community should also treat the church with respect, compassion, sensitivity.”

Since writing this book, Martin has become known for his support of the community and his positions of editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America and consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications.

During the event he also answered questions submitted by the UP community about supporting LGBTQ+ people and overcoming obstacles they face finding acceptance within the church.

You can watch the recording of the event on the Garaventa Center’s webpage.

Chiara Profenna is the DEI editor of The Beacon. She can be reached at profenna23@up.edu.