Gays and Parishes
This is the first part of the speech of Fr. Martin James on how can parishes welcome LGTB people Catholics. It was delivered during at Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Irland August 23,2018. Other pieces of the same speech will be published soon.
American Jesuit priest, writer, and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine, America gave a wonderful speech on how parishes can welcome LGTB Catholics. He has written more than 10 and is known for his critical view about homosexuality in the Catholic church. In 2017, He was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.
Fr. Martin James celebrating the Holy mass.
One of the more recent challenges for Catholic parishes is how to welcome L.G.B.T. parishioners, as well as families with L.G.B.T. members. But that challenge is also where grace abounds because L.G.B.T. Catholics have felt excluded from the church for so long that any experience of welcome can be life-changing—a healing moment that can inspire them to go to Mass again, return them to the faith and even help them to believe in God again.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard the most appalling stories from L.G.B.T. Catholics who have been made to feel unwelcome in parishes. A 30-year-old autistic gay man who came out to his family and was not in any sort of relationship told me that a pastoral associate said he could no longer receive Communion in church. Why? Because even saying he was gay was a scandal.
But cruelty doesn’t end at the doors of the church. Last year a woman contacted me to ask if I knew any “compassionate priests” in her archdiocese. Why? She was a nurse in a hospice where a Catholic patient was dying. But the local parish priest assigned to the hospice was refusing to anoint him—because he was gay.
Is it surprising that most L.G.B.T. Catholics feel like lepers in the church?
The same is true for families. The mother of a gay teen told me her son had decided to come back to church after years of feeling the church hated him. After much discussion, he decided to return on Easter Sunday. The mother was overjoyed. When Mass began she was so excited to have her son beside her. But after the priest proclaimed the story of Christ’s Resurrection, guess what he preached on? The evils of homosexuality. The son stood up and walked out of the church. And the mother sat in the pew and cried.
But there are also stories of grace in our church. Last year, a university student told me that the first person to whom he came out was a priest. The first thing the priest said was, “God loves you, and the church accepts you.” The young man told me, “That literally saved my life.” Indeed, we should rejoice that more and more Catholic parishes are places where L.G.B.T. Catholics feel at home, thanks to both the parish staff and more formalized programs.