Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) hosted a webinar featuring James Martin SJ, a strong advocate for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in the Church, to lead a discussion on why and how the Church in Australia should reach out to LGBTQIA+ peoples. Over 190 Religious, friends and colleagues, came together on 26 October 2021 to hear James speak.
James shared why he considers LGBTQIA+ ministry to be so important for the Church, explaining: “Many LGBTQIA+ people, especially youth, are at high risk of violence, harassment and beatings. They are targeted like no one else in the Church, as if no one else’s lives are complex or not fully conforming with Church teaching. They hear the worst thing from pulpits and from pastors.”
He was prompted to pursue his ministry with LGBTQIA+ people after witnessing scant commentary from the Church leadership in the USA, following the 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Outlining what an inclusive ministry would look like, James said, “We need to listen to the LGBTQIA+ people, ask them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ We should be friends with them, celebrating and suffering with them. We should advocate for them. The Church should oppose the criminalisation of homosexuality and conversion therapy, which is extremely dangerous. It should oppose violence against LGBTQIA+ people.”
James was encouraged by Pope Francis who wrote to him in June 2021, saying, “God’s ‘style’ has three elements: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is how he comes closer to each one of us. Thinking about your pastoral work, I see that you are continually seeking to imitate this style of God… I pray for you to continue in this way.”
Anne Walker, CRA National Executive Director echoed CRA Council’s belief that it is a critical time for the Church in Australia to be having this discussion.
“There has been much conversation both during and around the first General Assembly of Australia’s Plenary Council about the lack of inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community in our Church, and whether or not the Plenary Council can and will adequately name and address this,” said Anne.
“CRA believes that significant issues in our Church, such as this, should be considered from many angles – pastoral, theological and scriptural, and that listening to the Holy Spirit is at the heart of all we are called to be and do.”
One attendee thanked CRA for hosting the webinar and for James’ hopeful message, stating, “As a young queer person, it means so much to see so many different people in the Church community coming to stand in solidarity, support and pride.”
Another attendee challenged those present to reframe the conversation, stating, “Isn’t it time to stop talking about LGBTQIA+ people as if ‘they’ are not the ‘we’ in every part of the Church fabric.”
CRA President Peter Carroll FMS concluded the webinar, saying, “Pope Francis reminds us constantly, that we are all sisters and brothers, and he encourages us to dialogue, to listen and to encounter.”
“I think what Jim has suggested is that it’s important that we continue to be open and inclusive to all LGBTQIA+ people of faith, because there are many within our Church, but also to be inclusive of those who are not of faith. That continual engagement is so important,” he added.
A recording of CRA’s webinar “Building Bridges: Reaching out to our LGBTQIA+ community with James Martin SJ,” can be accessed here.
With thanks to Catholic Religious Australia.