BY FR. JAMES MARTIN, S.J. | March 30, 2018
In my work with LGBT people, I have been both alarmed and appalled by the stories I’ve heard from them about their treatment by their churches—Catholic and otherwise. An autistic gay man recently told me how his local pastor had refused to give him Communion. The man was not sexually active but had simply come out to his family and friends. As a result, the priest told him that he could not present himself for Communion line but, if he wanted he could receive “privately” in the pastor’s office.
“The Church is the cross on which Christ is crucified today,” wrote the 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, and I think this is some of what he meant.
Of course, the Church is also the source of infinite grace for people—and for myself. But it is imperfect—those in it and those who lead it can sin. Thus, it can be a source of crucifixion for people.So how do we break forth and claim our places in the church? And how do we help to build a church that is more welcoming? First, by realizing that all of us baptized Christians are part of the church. Be rooted in the sacramental grace of your baptism, your membership in the church. Let no one tell you that you are not a “true Catholic” or a “true Christian.” And resist anyone who tries to label others as “bad Catholics” or “bad Christians.” Second, by remembering that we all have a right to participate and make our voices known. The Second Vatican Council, in its document Lumen Gentium, said, in fact, that lay people are sometimes “duty-bound” to express their opinions. Third, by remembering that in the midst of sin there is grace; in the midst of inertia there is progress, and in the midst of death there is new life.
Sometimes, though, we have to fight to see it all.
Fr. James Martin, S.J., is an editor at large at America Magazine and author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.