Father James Martin: When L.G.B.T. issues are pro-life issues

A woman signs the wall outside the Pulse nightclub while visiting the memorial in Orlando, Fla., June 12, the one year anniversary of the mass shooting. (CNS photo/Scott Audette, Reuters) 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics often feel ignored, marginalized, excluded, insulted and even persecuted by their own church. Since my book Building a Bridge was published a year ago, I have heard stories from L.G.B.T. Catholics who have been treated like dirt by priests and other pastoral workers in their church.

A few months ago, for example, a woman who worked in a hospice in a large city in the Western United States asked me if I knew any “compassionate priests” in her archdiocese. She explained that the local parish priest assigned to provide pastoral care to the hospice was refusing to anoint a dying man—because he was gay.

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A lesbian woman, who was not in any sort of romantic or sexual relationship, said that her pastor in a Midwestern small town told her that “your kind” were not welcome in the parish and that while he did not “wish you any harm,” she should look for another parish.

L.G.B.T. Catholics often feel ignored, marginalized, excluded, insulted and even persecuted by their own church.

Most poignantly, an autistic man in his 30s called to tell me that a pastoral associate at his parish  told him that he could no longer receive Communion. The man was not sexually active or involved in any relationship; he simply had “come out” to his family and friends, and only recently. The pastoral associate, calling it a “scandal,” said that the man could receive Communion “privately” in the rectory if he kept away from the rest of the parishioners. 

The church needs to listen to the experiences of L.G.B.T. Catholics in order to better treat them with “respect, sensitivity and compassion,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church asks. Before we can minister to these Catholics, we need to listen.

When we listen, we will hear not only of their experiences but also their calls for help and prayer, especially in times and places of persecution. And when our L.G.B.T. siblings are persecuted in any way, church leaders are called to stand with them.

Catholics are often surprised to learn that in many parts of the world today, L.G.B.T. persons are liable to experience appalling incidents of prejudice, violence and murder.

Before the church can minister to L.G.B.T. Catholics, we need to listen.

In some countries, a person can be jailed or even executed for being gay or having same-sex relations. Indeed, as of this writing, engaging in same-sex relations is a crime in over 70 countries, and simply being gay or bisexual is punishable by death in 13 countries.

In other words, these are questions of life and death. L.G.B.T. issues in many parts of our world are, therefore, “pro-life issues.”

In these countries, the institutional church has an absolute moral duty to stand up for its persecuted and endangered brothers and sisters, publicly. Sadly, this does not often happen, and in fact, a few church leaders have supported these discriminatory laws. But embedded in Catholic teaching is a call to stand with our L.G.B.T. brothers, sisters and siblings. The Catechism, in its discussion on homosexuality, says “every sign of unjust discrimination” must be avoided (No. 2358). More fundamentally, helping, defending and caring for someone who is being subjected to any sort of physical violence is surely part of compassion. It is part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In some countries, a person can be jailed or even executed for being gay or having same-sex relations.

Closer to home, what would it mean for the church in the United States to say, when needed, “It is wrong to treat the L.G.B.T. community like this”? Catholic leaders regularly publish statements—as they should—defending the unborn, refugees and migrants, the poor, the homeless, the aged. This is one way to stand with people: by voicing your support for them, even taking heat for them.

But where are statements specifically in support of L.G.B.T. people? When I ask this, some people say, “You can’t compare what refugees face with what L.G.B.T. people face.” As someone who worked with refugees in East Africa for two years, I know that is often the case. But it is also important not to ignore the disproportionately high rates of suicide among L.G.B.T. youths and the fact that L.G.B.T. people are the victims of proportionally more hate crimes than any other minority group in this country.

Here are some statistics from The Trevor Project, an organization that helps prevent teen L.G.B.T. suicides, which remind us again that these are often matters of life and death. They are matters of protecting, defending and respecting the lives of L.G.B.T. people.

What would it mean for the church to say, when needed, “It is wrong to treat the L.G.B.T. community like this”?

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared with straight youth.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who come from “highly rejecting” families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as L.G.B.T. peers who have reported no or low levels of family rejection.
  • In a national study, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, and 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before age 25.

The bullying of L.G.B.T. students in schools is another evil that should be squarely opposed, particularly given the Catholic Church’s long history and extensive experience with running elementary, middle and high schools.

Two years ago, in the wake of the murder of 49 people at Pulse, an Orlando nightclub that catered to a gay crowd, many were discouraged that more bishops did not immediately signal their support for the L.G.B.T. community. A few did. But imagine if the attacks had been on, God forbid, a Methodist church. Many bishops would have said, “We stand with our Methodist brothers and sisters.”

Why didn’t more Catholic leaders express sorrow for or show compassion to our L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters in Orlando?

Why didn’t more Catholic leaders express sorrow for or show compassion to our L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters in Orlando? To me, it seemed a failure of compassion, a failure to experience with and a failure to suffer with.

Orlando invites us to reflect on the implications of these failures. As James F. Keenan, S.J., a professor of moral theology at Boston College, pointed out to our class in graduate school, more often than not Jesus did not critique people who were weak but trying. Rather, Jesus criticized people who were strong but not bothering. For example, the rich man who does not bother to help the poor man by his door (Lk 16:19–31), the religious leader who does not bother to consider that someone needs healing on a Sabbath (Lk 13:10-16) and the Pharisee who does not bother to offer Jesus a welcome (Lk 7:36-45).

For Jesus, sin was, as Father Keenan said, “a failure to bother to love.” In Orlando, many in the church simply failed to bother to love.

How often do all of us fail to bother in this way?

How often do we fail to see the importance of the lives of L.G.B.T. people?

How often do we sin this way?

Robert Lewis
6 days 6 hours ago

Father Martin, I wholly agree with everything you've written, but to be convincing to the majority in the pews who inherit a distinctly American and puritanical form of homophobia, you must make it clear to them that, at the same time that you/we feel that the characterization of "intrinsically disordered" (who's not, in decadent American culture) must be rescinded, you/we are advocating a chaste lifestyle qualified by true friendships and public honesty as the remedy for the loneliness and persecution endured by the same-sex-attracted.

Tim O'Leary
6 days ago

Robert - do you believe the Scriptures and Catechism are "homophobic" by your definition, and should be repudiated if not "rescinded"?

Robert Lewis
6 days ago

I believe the Scriptures don't actually mean what you take them to mean, and I believe the Catechism needs updating with reference to what modern science is telling us about the etiology of same-sex-attraction--how it is in no way "chosen."

Tim O'Leary
5 days 23 hours ago

I am glad you do not interpret the Scriptures and Catechism as homophobic. The Catechism does not say anything about chosen orientations, only about chosen actions. I differ from you in how I interpret the Scriptures. I do so by following the interpretation of the Church, which after all, composed and compiled the New Testament.

Baron Kaza
5 days 21 hours ago

Of course you do not believe what the Scriptures say, you want to bend them to your will as oppose conforming your will to the word of God. You want Christ on your terms not His.

Theodore Seeber
5 days 5 hours ago

The puritanical form of homophobia is matched only by the puritanical form of hetrophobia exhibited by Fr. Martin and yourself. Your hatred for the order of the natural family is quite apparent. "Disordered" refers of course to the procreative aspect of sex, which in an ordered heterosexual family results in children. Many modernist heterosexual practices such as divorce, contraception, extramarital sex, rape, and child abuse *also* are heterophobic and disordered- but you say nothing against these actions.

Robert Lewis
5 days 3 hours ago

Actually, I do--and down below, even on this thread. However, I just think that many of the abuses you mention are now quite common in heterosexual romantic relationships in modern America, but that it is only the "gays" who are getting the brunt of criticism from the institutional Church and the homophobic people in the pews.

alan macdonald
6 days 6 hours ago

Fr Martin joins the leftist main stream media in getting you to think that 50% of the population is LGBT, when it is only 2.5% (Source: CDC). This homosexualist promotes this unhealthy lifestyle (70% of new HIV cases are gay males) that is anti-family.
FR Martin does not advance the Roman Catholic Church.

Robert Lewis
6 days 5 hours ago

Yes, he very much does!

Barbara Brownholtz
6 days 5 hours ago

I agree, Robert. He certainly does!

Marco Luxe
6 days 4 hours ago

Your argument works against you. If Catholics can't extend hospitality to an insignificant 2.5% of the US adult population, they've failed their catechism even when it's easy.

Tim O'Leary
6 days ago

Marco - can you accept Christians who love the person but follow the Scriptures and Catechism, or do you think the latter are homophobic in their language?

Robert Lewis
6 days ago

Oh, come on! The "Scriptures" weren't written by God, as the Muslims insist the Qu'ran was. Why would there be any need for the continuous guidance of a "Holy Spirit" in their interpretation, if they had been? They were written by men who were "guided" by a "Holy Spirit." Anyone with a grain of sense now knows, for instance, that the Gospel of John contradicts the Passion Narrative of the Synoptic Gospels, in absolving Pilate for much of the blame for Christ's execution, and thereby deeply incriminating the Jews. That's a likely historical ERROR!

Tim O'Leary
5 days 23 hours ago

Is this the same Lewis who wrote the comment above? Sounds like you are contradicting yourself - or maybe this is a just a computer malfunction - ERROR, ERROR, ERROR.

Baron Kaza
5 days 21 hours ago

What you want is complete acceptance by the Church of sodomy ie gay sex. Not gonna happen, the day the Church is purged of this filth will be blessing

Ashley Green
6 days 3 hours ago

I don’t disagree with this, but the Church and her priests need to speak out against all forms os injustice related to this issue, not just one. Specifically, they need to stand unequivocally with those who are targeted by the LGBTQP (or whatever) totalitarians who are determined to make sure that there are legal and financial repercussions to be paid for not affirming the validity of homosexual acts or same sex marriage.

Michael Barberi
6 days 3 hours ago

Thank you Fr. Martin for speaking out again in defense of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who are experiencing the most hateful forms of discrimination. For most homosexuals, they believe the doors of the Church are closed to them unless they live as brothers and sisters or live a lifetime of sexual abstinence. Even if they adhere to these requirements, the very fact that they are homosexual prohibits them from serving in any responsible ministry. The requirement of lifetime sexual abstinence is an almost impossible and unreasonable burden, save for the very few who can adhere. They cannot be married so they are in a moral dilemma. The Church does not understand this or does not care despite their double-speak. All the Church can say is to repeat 'the law', full stop.

The Church's ssertion that homosexuality is an 'intrinsic disorder' is not supported by science. The truth is that science has not determined the cause for homosexuality. Some studies point to genetics, others environment, some point to both. No one knows with certainty. Accordingly, the Church should rescind this description of homosexuality because it classifies them as 'not normal', 'weird', and 'second class citizens'. Any sexual relationship with the same sex is 'an abomination', full stop . There is no respect, sensitivity or compassion here. If they are born that way....too bad. They must pay the price because that is 'the law'.

It has been my experience that most homosexuals did not want to be born that way. Experts who have studied this issue, know that homosexuals have a sexual attraction to members of the same sex in the same way that heterosexuals have a sexual attraction to members of the opposite sex. However, none of this is important to the Church. The only thing is 'the law'. What happened to the love and mercy of Christ?

Your article is true and the height of sadness because, as you pointed out, many priests and bishops use words and perform actions that are hateful and blatantly discriminatory. This divides us; it does not unite us.

I don't have the answers here, but it my hope and prayer that the Church find a way to treat homosexuals with respect, sensitivity and compassion.

Theodore Seeber
5 days 5 hours ago

What "science" can you quote that shows that homosexuality is procreative? After all, the "order" in which homosexuality is "disordered" is the procreation of the species, NOT psychological disorder.

As far as I know, science supports that the normal natural way for human beings to reproduce is heterosexuality. Do you have some other evidence to show me otherwise?

Stanley Kopacz
4 days 10 hours ago

Nature works statistically. Of course, the primary biological purpose of sex is reproduction. But who knows what tradeoffs were made to optimize survival. Homosexuality occurrence may very well be related to tradeoffs made to optimize the overall system. So, in other words, homosexual people exist because the system, as a statistical whole, is humming along just perfectly. Look at the overpopulation problem we have now. Homosexuals haven't made a dent.

Tim O'Leary
6 days ago

The suicide rates are startling (5-8x for homosexuals, 2 of every 5 of those with gender dysphoria, etc) and rising in tandem with greater acceptance of homosexuality. They are far more than any persecuted group in history, suggesting some other cause is predominating, whether it be pathological or spiritual. These rates seem to be going up in tandem with societal acceptance of homosexuality. Report last month of rising levels of suicide among young people across the board, suggests to me a deeper spiritual pathology going on.

Tim O'Leary
6 days ago

I sympathize with much of what Fr. Martin says here. The Church should speak out against any unjust discrimination of people with homosexual inclinations. The Church should also be very careful to distinguish its love for the person from love for activities it has always taught as sinful, following the Scriptures and the Catechism. This is straightforward when the secular world understands the difference (as in depression, alcoholism, drug use, pedophilia, pornography, other sexual addictions, anorexia nervosa, and other body perception disorders, etc.), but is particularly difficult in this world of sexual confusion, since the secularists are not about love for the person but demand approval for the activity and will not accept the one without the other. They will in fact persecute one for making the distinction and people have lost jobs or livings and have been sued, threatened or ridiculed for this (as Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, Scott Eckern, Brendan Eich, Daniel & Amy McArthur, Margie Christofferson, etc.).

Robert Lewis
6 days ago

You know, I'm really deeply concerned about the obsession you have with this subject and the extraordinary bigotry you demonstrate against lgbtq people. Your real issue with this subject, it seems to me, is to stifle all discussion of these people's problems with being accepted as individuals whose "orientation" makes them extraordinarily special, in a particularly spiritual dimension (because of the nature of the "cross" they bear). My concern has little to do with you or the hatred you spew here constantly. More than anything else, it is a fear that the view you hold, should it remain predominant in the pews, is going to drive so many youths away from the Church that Catholicism might disappear from our culture, which, in my opinion, would be a catastrophe.

Stock Market Guru
6 days ago

Bob, he's simply reiterating what is in the Catechism -- you have a problem with that ?

Beyond that, as I said elsewhere, it's not about individual homosexuals who I agree are mostly harmless. It's about the "gay rights" movement and groups like Dignity and NWM and a few off-their-rocker bishops/cardinals who actually think that homosexuality can be reconciled with Scripture.

It' can't. If someone wants to try, I suggest the Episcopalian Church. They seem to update their morality every 10 years or so.

Robert Lewis
5 days 23 hours ago

And my name is not "Bob." Many people originating from the British Isles have a horror of that nickname because of its lewd connotation in our popular culture.

Tim O'Leary
5 days 23 hours ago

Mr. Lewis - I have been concerned about your obsession (the sworn masonic friendships) for a lot longer. But, how exactly do you go off the rails every time, with phrases like "extraordinary bigotry," and "hatred you spew," that have no place in civil conversation. You need to reflect why you do this. And, get some help. Please.

Robert Lewis
5 days 23 hours ago

You are the one who needs help. Your homophobia is a pathological obsession, and you are utterly incapable, it seems, of discussing the real theology of "indissoluble matrimony" and its remarkable distinction from what most heterosexuals practise in American culture, or of the theological validity of the "sworn brotherhood" (not "masonry") that was once completely orthodox, in any constructive, balanced or objective way--and it's obviously because your repulsion against and fear of the same-sex-attracted controls your thinking.

Stock Market Guru
5 days 20 hours ago

Homophobia is a made-up word. It doesn't exist. It's a non-sequiter. It literally means hatred of homosexuality or the homosexual political movement (take your pick).

We don't call people who dislike liberalism "liberalaphobes"....we don't call people who dislike Marxism "Marxaphobes" and we don't call people who dislike socialism "socialphobes."

I personally don't care anymore about homosexuality than I do about adultery, pre-marital sex, bestiality, or incest. Well, maybe incest...the point is, none of those movements or activities have a political and cultural movement trying to normalize their behavior.

Do what you want, but don't tell me to accept it.

Tim O'Leary
5 days 20 hours ago

But Bob. You cannot stop bringing up homophobia in every comment. It's like a tick. You are repulsed by the teaching of the Church so you rant and rave at anyone who quotes it.

alan macdonald
3 days 23 hours ago

Bob, please don't be so open minded your brains fall out.

Tim O'Leary
5 days 9 hours ago

Three very important links re responding to the epidemic of suicide.
From the LA Times, suicide rates are dramatically reduced for those who believe and practice their faith, especially for Catholics who go to weekly mass or more: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-church-attendance-s…
Also, this - https://aleteia.org/2018/06/08/the-suicide-epidemic-and-a-message-for-a…
Regarding the failures of the Sexual Revolution - it all started with a rejection of Humanae Vitae: https://stream.org/sexual-revolution-50-aged-like-harvey-weinstein/

K. Miller
6 days ago

Within hours of the Orlando tragedy, the Courage Apostolate, through its executive director, issues a statement condemning not only the heinous acts of the assailant, but also any action of violence or malice directed toward the homosexual community. The membership of the Apostolate also, as a community, offered prayer and assistance to the victims and their families.
Meanwhile, Fr. Martin, you, and many other Catholic leaders, refuse to even acknowledge the Courage ministry, with some leaders even going to the extreme of making false statements about our purpose, as well as our desire to live in accordance with Church teachings.
Yes, the rights of the same sex attracted Catholic man and woman are a pro-life issue. How about starting to treat the tens of thousands of us worldwide with a little respect in order to demonstrate that.

Robert Lewis
6 days ago

I myself have only one problem with the Courage Apostolate, but it's a serious one: when one goes online to find a Courage Ministry in a city, all that is available are telephone numbers and the name of some confessor. Its ministry is not public, it does not hold public services in parishes so that the heterosexual majority become welcomed to affirm and greet gay folk, and therefore everything about it seems to smack of the "closet." That is not acceptable--but everything else about it is good.

Stock Market Guru
6 days ago

Why must homosexuals -- chaste or not -- advertise their sexuality ? Would you like them in church on Sunday with t-shirts that read "Hi, I'm Bob and I'm Gay" ?

I don't want to know about someone's sexual behavior, whether it's homosexuality or some collection guy who is banging his neighbor's wife down the street.

Robert Lewis
5 days 23 hours ago

But I presume you have no problem at all with the barrage of lewd "love songs" that are pumped out from all sides in this culture, or for the sappy heterosexual "love affairs" that are everywhere on tv or the movies, and which the lgbtq folks have to see everywhere and be made to pine for similar romantic satisfaction, right? And, yes, I have no problem with a t-shirt in my church that says "Hi, I'm Bob and I'm Gay"--especially when I've seen much, much worse worn by loutish heterosexuals.

Stock Market Guru
5 days 20 hours ago

Heterosexuality is the norm and is normal, sorry, Bobby.

Robin Smith
4 days 12 hours ago

It's only normal for hetro's. Homo is normal for gay's.

Theodore Seeber
5 days 4 hours ago

I for one oppose the sexual revolution and all of its lewd love songs and love affairs- ESPECIALLY those in movies and on TV. I always hit pause and talk to my child about these issues. "Romantic satisfaction" is not something worth chasing at all; it is disordered in and of itself, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Robert Lewis
5 days 3 hours ago

I agree with you!

Theodore Seeber
5 days 5 hours ago

Finally a comment I can agree with you on Robert. Yes, Courage needs to be more visible. I think every Knight of Columbus Council, every Daughters of the Americas Court, should have a Courage chairperson.

Robert Lewis
5 days 3 hours ago

You'd probably be surprised, indeed, by how much I agree with you. As a teacher in rather elite college preparatory schools, I make a solid, reasoned argument against pornography to my students at least once a year, and, from then on, I've noticed that I become persona non grata with a good number of them. I don't care.

john collins
5 days 23 hours ago

Dear Father Martin,

Permit a question or two. Malice toward a person is always unjust. Is it possible to oppose a person’s homosexuality without at the same time being malicious toward him? What say you, Father Martin? . . . The Catechism opposes all unjust discrimination in the case of any person with homosexuality. Is it automatic that a civil law against engaging in same-sex relations is unjust discrimination?—. What say you, Father Martin?

To be sure, the Orlando nightclub shooting was a heinous act. And there are numerous malicious acts against persons with homosexuality. All these acts are deplorable, all deserve condemnation. They are all acts against persons as such, which is why they are deplorable/heinous/deserving of condemnation. . . And with this understanding in place, the last Q that is directed to Father Martin is ‘How would you define ‘gay being?’

jeanne tassinari
5 days 22 hours ago

Why would anyone oppose someone’s homosexuality or heterosexual behavior? Does anyone really think that Christ on the cross was there for any other reason than love for all of us. Each morning when I get up or any other time when I find myself judging someone else’s behavior I hear a Small still voice say to me “thank you Jeanne but I really don’t need your help today.”

Baron Kaza
5 days 21 hours ago

Such leftist drivel, how far does non-judgementalism go??? are you that morally bankrupt where you refuse to call some thing that is wrong... oh wait.. your cardinal sin is making a judgement ... Woe to thee that calls good evil and evil good.... the Small still voice says to me "pick up your cross and follow me"....

jeanne tassinari
5 days 8 hours ago

Sorry I upset you. Morally bankrupt am I? Keep on judging if that makes you happy which I some how don’t sense in your verbal violence.

Stock Market Guru
5 days 20 hours ago

Did that apply to segregationists in the South ? I doubt it...

Theodore Seeber
5 days 5 hours ago

Just to reduce the temperature, why don't we talk about opposing heterosexual behavior?

We oppose certain heterosexual behaviors in the church, mainly fornication and rape, but also contraception. We also oppose priests getting married. Four different types of heterosexual behaviors that are listed in the same section of the Catechism, Sins against Chastity, as being disordered.

When you understand why these forms of heterosexual behavior are discouraged and labeled disordered, it will be easy to see why homosexuality is discouraged and disordered.

Daniel Nieciecki
5 days 23 hours ago

The comments on any of Fr. Martin’s articles consistently reinforce my relief to be an Episcopalian.

Dolores Pap
5 days 22 hours ago

Sad, isn't? Who would want to be in the same church with them..

Stock Market Guru
5 days 20 hours ago

Then what are you, an Episcopalian, doing here ?

It's 10 PM....isn't it time for your church to split again and/or update it's morality as they do every few years ?

Daniel Nieciecki
5 days 19 hours ago

I grew up on the far side of the Tiber and was educated by Jesuits - and nearly became one. I retain some affection for the Ignatian tradition. And now it is time for a gin & tonic (the 8th or 3rd sacrament, depending on how one counts them).

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