Washington D.C., Jun 29, 2017 / 12:10 pm
There's been a lot of chatter about Fr. James Martin's new book, "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity," and given the topic, it's understandable why. Pope Francis' call to "encounter" has reinforced the necessity for Catholics to go bring the Gospel to those on the margins. Within American society at large, one of the most visible minorities on the margins are those who experience same-sex attractions or identify as LGBT, and ministry to this community has been of special concern among faithful Catholics in recent years. At the same time, both communities have borne legitimate struggles, as the Church faces pressures to choose between its teachings and public service, and those who identify as LGBT – including celibate Catholics who abide by Church teaching – have for years faced violence, ridicule and discrimination for their attractions.
The book contains many good and practical explanations for why conversations between these groups can come to a standstill. Fr. Martin points out how the scandal of the sex abuse crisis or mistreatment by persons in the Church can make it difficult for members of the LGBT community to listen to the Church's guidance. Additionally, he explains to members of the LGBT community why it's important to respect the teaching authority of the Church. Advice like this is clarifying and can help facilitate conversations with more patience and understanding. The book closes with a series of prayers and spiritual reflections, some of which provide a welcome antidote to the Pelagian poisons of our time: Fr. Martin rightfully reinforces God's love for all his children in a world that places terms and conditions upon our human dignity and worth.
Yes, all of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God and face the consequences of our actions. But all of us are created in the image and likeness of God; it is not our action or inaction, but God's grace, which secures our salvation. I can only hope that these reflections provide spiritual fruit for all of the book's readers who feel rejected, neglected, hurt, or who think their deeds somehow have rendered them unworthy of God's love, particularly readers who experience same-sex attraction or identify as part of the LGBT community.
However, there were other aspects of the book that were troubling.