Lent is a time of reflection and contemplation, a time when many Christians think about ways that they can become closer to God and to each other. To mark the season this year, HRC Religion and Faith Program Director Michael Vazquez sat down with Jesuit Priest and Editor-at-Large of America Media, Father James Martin.
Father Martin began his ministry to LGBTQ Catholics after the tragic shooting at Pulse that claimed 49 lives, most of them LGBTQ and Latinx, in June 2016. Since then, he has made it a priority to connect with and advocate for LGBTQ Catholics to ensure they feel welcome in the Church, and to encourage other non-LGBTQ people in the Church to do the same. During the conversation, Vazquez and Father Martin discussed stories in the Gospels that support LGBTQ inclusion in the church, and what Father Martin imagines as the future of the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people.
Below are excerpts from their conversation. More of their exchange can be read here, and HRC will share a video covering more of the discussion as Lent continues.
What do you recommend for LGBTQ people who are looking to come home to the Church?
Continue to look for a place where you feel welcome. There are changes happening. If you’re in a big city and you’re an LGBT person, you might have five or six parishes to choose from. If you’re in a smaller town or if you have an [anti-LGBT] pastor, you might feel really on the outs, but the key is to remember that you are just as much a part of the church as anybody else, and to keep looking for a place where you feel welcome.
In so many of the Gospel stories, Jesus is basically saying to people, "Look, there’s no us and them. There’s just us... There's no one who should be shut out." It’s all about bringing people in. I think that’s a message that the whole church needs to hear.
One of those stories is the story of the woman at the well. What other Gospel stories compel folks to love the LGBTQ community and to support them?
The man born blind is another great Gospel story to meditate on. Jesus is going through Jericho and he sees a man and he says, “What do you want me to do for you?” And [the man] says, “I want to see.” And Jesus gives him his sight back. I think there's a deeper meaning in that story, which is that Jesus asked the man what he wants.
I was talking to a transgender person who said to me, "We know our needs better than anyone else." And so, rather than kind of imposing things, or preaching about them, or issuing condemnations or statements about them, why not ask them what they want and what they need?
What can I do for you? What do you want me to do for you? It’s a really important spiritual question for people.
Another of those stories is the story of Lazarus -- tell us a little about Lazarus, too.
The story of Lazarus, I think, is my favorite Gospel story so I could talk about it for a long time, but I think one of the most obvious parts of the Lazarus story is Jesus saying to Lazarus, “Come out.” So many wonderful metaphors... Let's say for the young kid who was trying to understand himself, to hear God say, “Come out.” … Christ calls [LGBTQ people] back into the community and back into life.
What do you imagine as the future of the Catholic Church?
The trend that more and more Catholics are coming out in their families is just going to make the Church change, because as more and more Catholics come out, more and more families are changed. As more and more families are changed, more and more parishes are changed all over the world. And as more and more parishes are changed, more and more bishops are changed and dioceses are changed. And so it's just happening.
Faith is a core part of civic life. Around the world, people look to their faith as a source of guidance, a source of hope and a source of inspiration. LGBTQ people, as well as our families, friends and allies, are no different. The HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Program is working to build a world where LGBTQ people of faith are celebrated for every part of who they are, while fighting to ensure that religion is not used as a weapon of hate and discrimination. Thanks to the work that’s being done by HRC and by countless others, faith communities around the world have grown to become increasingly more welcoming, inclusive and affirming of the LGBTQ community and our right to equality. Learn more here.
For Lent, check out HRC’s Lenten Devotional campaign, which honors and celebrates the ways that religion and faith unite us -- in our places of worship and in our communities.