A contemporary Jesus arrives as a young gay man in a modern city with “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Douglas Blanchard. The 24 paintings present a liberating new vision of Jesus’ final days, including Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and the arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.
“Christ is one of us in my pictures,” says Blanchard. “In His sufferings, I want to show Him as someone who experiences and understands fully what it is like to be an unwelcome outsider.” Blanchard, an art professor and self-proclaimed “very agnostic believer,” used the series to grapple with his own faith struggles as a New Yorker who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
High-quality reproductions of Doug Blanchard’s 24 gay Passion paintings are available at: http://douglas-blanchard.fineartamerica.com/ Giclee prints come in many sizes and formats. Greeting cards can be purchased too. Some originals are also available.
Just before dusk on Nov. 2, 2003, Bishop Frank Griswold III looked out at more than 3,000 congregants, clergy and protesters at the University of New Hampshire’s ice hockey arena. He was moments away from consecrating the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.
Now was the time, the Rev. Griswold told the crowd, for anyone to raise an objection. He knew what was coming. For months, the planned elevation to bishop of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson had tested the unity within the Episcopal Church in the United States and its bonds to other Anglican communities around the world.
The atmosphere was so tense that the Rev. Griswold and Robinson wore bulletproof vests under their robes.
A few people walked out of the arena in a show of opposition. Some shouted insults. A priest from Pittsburgh began to describe sexual acts between men. “Spare us the details,” the Rev. Griswold said, cutting him off.
In the end, the ordination went ahead with a mix of celebration and defiance. It also underscored the struggles of change-versus-tradition that would define the Episcopal Church leadership of the Rev. Griswold, who died March 5 at a hospital in Philadelphia at 85. He served as presiding bishop, the leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States, from 1997 to 2006.
“It has not been easy to be the presiding bishop in this season … My basic task is to keep as many people at the table as possible,” he told PBS in 2004.
The rifts opened by the Rev. Griswold were significant, but they were not new. They reflected wider demographic and cultural shifts pulling at the global Anglican Communion, a loose fellowship of more than 80 million worshipers across denominations including the Episcopal Church and the Church of England
In some parts of the Anglican world, including the United States and Canada, issues such as same-sex marriage and women’s role in church leadership were atop the agenda. Yet the Anglican center of gravity was with churches in Africa and other parts of the former British colonial map — often holding more traditional views on Christianity and seeking to emphasize issues such as poverty and education
The Catholic Church and some mainline Protestant denominations face similar internal pressures as flocks grow in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The battles within the Anglican churches, however, have set some of sharpest dividing lines.
The Rev. Griswold was often left trying to explain himself to both sides. (The Anglican-affiliated Church of Nigeria, for example, has an estimated 18 million members and is growing, while the Episcopal Church has been shrinking for decades, with now about 2 million followers.)
For decades, he said the Episcopal Church needed to make its “big tent” credo even bigger. In Chicago, as bishop from 1987 to 1998, the number of female priests in the diocese went from zero to 41, or more than a quarter of the total diocesan priests. When Robinson was proposed as bishop of New Hampshire, the Rev. Griswold said he could see “no impediment” because of his sexual orientation.
The Rev. Griswold had already made his position known. In 1994, he was among 90 bishops who signed a statement that called sexual orientation “morally neutral” in terms of church teaching and that same-sex couples should be treated with the same dignity as others.<
He lamented, however, how the attention given to gender and sexuality had come at the expense of more pressing concerns for the church such as hunger and mortality rates in some parts of the developing world.
“I find the endless fixation on sexuality, and more specifically homosexuality, a distraction from other areas that quite frankly are matters of life and death,” he said in a 2004 interview.
A feared full-scale rupture in the Anglican Communion did not occur over Robinson’s elevation to bishop. Yet some African churches assigned missionaries to the United States to try to lure disgruntled Episcopal members. Another faction split to form a more traditionalist Anglican Church in the United States and Canada.
The Episcopal Church itself was hit with several high-profile rebukes led by African and Asian church leaders, including a 2016 statement saying the Episcopal Church was no longer welcome on panels and commissions dealing with Anglican policies.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the nominal figurehead of the global Anglican churches, had to play mediator. He allowed traditionalists in Africa and elsewhere to vent their anger but also issued an apology to gay, transgender and other people in the Anglican fellowship who felt alienated
The Episcopal Church will always be a trigger for controversy, the Rev. Griswold believed. Despite its relatively small numbers, the church’s U.S. base carries outsize influence — for good and bad — across the Anglican world.
“I think often the Episcopal Church is so associated with American policy abroad that we are thought of as arrogant and insensitive to other cultural realities and other concerns,” he said.
Frank Tracy Griswold III, was born on Sept. 18, 1937, in Bryn Mawr, Pa. His father won the first Watkins Glen Grand Prix in 1948 in an Alfa Romeo coupe. His mother was a homemaker. A 19th-century relative, the Rev. Alexander Viets Griswold, served as the Episcopal presiding bishop from 1836 to 1843.
The Rev. Griswold graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a degree in English literature and received a master’s degree in theology at the University of Oxford’s Oriel College in 1962. He was then ordained as a deacon and entered the priesthood in 1963, serving in several parishes in Pennsylvania.
As a priest in the mid-1970s, the Rev. Griswold helped draft revisions in the Episcopal Church’s main text, the Book of Common Prayer, which was compiled in the 16th century after King Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Church of England in a dispute with the Vatican over his demand for an annulment.
During his time as presiding bishop, he helped negotiate a 2001 accord of “full communion” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to share clergy, churches and missionary activities. In 2006, he was succeeded as presiding bishop by the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead any church in the Anglican Communion.
His books included “Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion” (2018) with short prayers to mark the rhythm of the day.
His daughter Eliza Griswold said her father died of respiratory-related problems. Other survivors include his wife of 58 years, the former Phoebe Wetzel; another daughter, Hannah Griswold; and three grandchildren.
The Rev. Griswold was always proud of his decision to open the way for greater inclusion in the church hierarchy. He often joked that it obscured the rest of his resume.
“I hope that I’m known for something other than this issue,” he said.
— Pope Francis promulgates an updated version of the Church’s norms to prevent and counter sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults, harmonizing various legislative reforms introduced since 2019 and extending the norms to cover lay leaders of international associations of the faithful recognized by the Holy See.
By Vatican News
Following nearly four years of experimentation and extensive consultation with bishops and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis has definitively promulgated procedures to prevent and counter sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
The updated version of the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi was published on Saturday, and enters into force on 30 April. It replaces the previous version published in May 2019, and confirms the Church’s desire to continue to combat crimes of sexual abuse.
Leaders of lay associations
The most significant change introduced in the new version of the normative text concerns the provisions in “Title II” which lay out the responsibilities of bishops, religious superiors, and clerics in charge of a particular Church or Prelature.
The updated text specifies that “the lay faithful who are or have been moderators of international associations of the faithful recognized or created by the Apostolic See [are responsible] for acts committed” while they were in office.
Various other modifications were introduced to harmonize the procedural text against abuse with other normative reforms introduced between 2019 and the present. These include the revision of the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (norms amended in 2021), changes made to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law (2021 reform), and the new Constitution on the Roman Curia Praedicate Evangelium (promulgated in 2022).
Vulnerable adults and abuse reporting
One notable modification regards the inclusion of “vulnerable” adults in the normative text.
The previous version referred to “sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person”. However, the updated text speaks of “a crime against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue committed with a minor, or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason, or with a vulnerable adult.”
Another change concerns the protection of the person who submits a report of alleged abuse.
Whereas the earlier text stated that no constraint of silence may be imposed on the person who reports alleged abuse, this protection has now been extended to “the person who claims to have been offended and those who were witnesses.”
Additionally, the text strengthens calls to safeguard “the legitimate protection of the good name and privacy of all persons involved,” as well as the presumption of innocence for those who are under investigation during the period in which determinations of responsibility are underway.
The updated version of Vos estis lux mundi also specifies that dioceses and eparchies must operate an “organisation or office” (the earlier version spoke in general about a “stable system”) which is easily accessible to the public in order to receive reports of cases of abuse.
It also clarifies that the task of proceeding with the investigation lies under the responsibility of the bishop or Ordinary of the place where the reported events allegedly took place.
Abuse of authority
The procedures introduced in 2019 set out precise guidelines on how to deal with reports of abuse and ensure that bishops and religious superiors—who now including lay people with responsibility for international associations—are held accountable and are obliged through a universally-established legal precept to report abuse of which they have become aware.
The document includes, and continues to include, not only abuse and violence against children and vulnerable adults, but also covers sexual violence and harassment resulting from the abuse of authority.
Therefore, the obligation to report also includes cases of violence against religious women by clerics, as well as cases of harassment of adult seminarians or novices.
The University of Notre Dame is hosting a “Queer Holiness” event next week to discuss “Experiential Christian Anthropology,” according to the event page.
On March 23, the university’s John J. Reilly Center is hosting a “Queer Holiness” event with Rev. Dr. Charlie Bell to address the church’s “hostile questions” regarding the LGBTQ community. Bell, a gay deacon in the Church of England and a Cambridge fellow, is also the author of the book “Queer Holiness,” which claims to “find a better way to do theology – not about, but with and of LGBTQI people.”
“From prohibitions on who they might love or marry, to erasure and denial, the theological record is one in which LGBTQI people are far too often objectified and their lives seen as the property of others,” the book’s summary read. “In no other significant religious question are ‘theological’ arguments made that so clearly reject overwhelming scientific and experiential knowledge about the human person. This book seeks to find a better way to do theology – not about, but with and of LGBTQI people – taking insights from the sciences and personal narratives as it seeks to answer the question: ‘What does human flourishing look like?’”
The event is being sponsored by the Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary’s College alongside Notre Dame, according to the event page.
“For millennia institutional churches have told LGBTQI people what God expects them to be and how to act,” the event’s flyer read. “In parts of the church, LGBTQI people remain the subject of hostile questions rather than being embraced as equal children of God. Charlie Bell’s … thesis is simple—to reject the overwhelming scientific and experiential knowledge about LGBTQI people is no longer valid.”
The university says that its mission is “defined by its Catholic character,” but Bell’s event appears to contradict several recent comments by Pope Francis. In January, the pope said that homosexuality, while not a crime, was a sin and most recently called “gender ideology” one of the “most dangerous ideological colonizations.”
Notre Dame made waves earlier this month when it was revealed that the Catholic university invited a transgender abortion doula to speak for the school’s “Reproductive Justice” series.
Notre Dame, JJRC, CS and Bell did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
— Published as women worldwide mark International Women’s Day, the survey shows a growing push for reform.
BY Ruth Gledhill
There are calls for the Catholic Church to ordain women as deacons and priests and to allow women to preach the homily during Mass from in a new survey of more than 17,000 Catholic women around the world.
The International Survey of Catholic Women, carried out last year in response to the call for submissions to the 2021-2024 Synod of Bishops on synodality, is published as women worldwide celebrate International Women’s Day.
Recommendations include changes to Canon Law to permit women to preach the homily during Mass and considering the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood as a legitimate expression of doctrinal development.
There are also calls to respect women’s freedom of conscience in matters of sexual and reproductive health and decision-making, and for changes to Catholic theology, doctrine and liturgical practice to ensure women, LGBTIQ+ Catholics, and divorced and remarried Catholics “are valued and fully included in all aspects of church life”.
The report, devised and managed by researchers Dr Tracy McEwan and Dr Kathleen McPhillips at the University of Newcastle in Australia and Professor Emerita Tina Beattie at the University of Roehampton, London, draws on 17,200 responses from women in 104 countries.
Of those surveyed, 79 per cent agreed women should be fully included at all levels of church leadership, 84 per cent agreed reform is needed, 85 per cent agreed clericalism is damaging the Church and 80 per cent agreed Church leaders are not doing enough to address the perpetration and cover-up of sexual abuse.
Participants were recruited across multiple networks and forums worldwide including dioceses, parishes, and women’s networks and organisations.
“There was a significant concern regarding the prevalence of sexual, spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse in church contexts,” the report says.
“Respondents highlighted the misuse and abuse of power as a central factor in historical and current sexual and gender-based harm. Clericalism was identified by a substantial majority of respondents as an abuse of power and an indicator of a need for urgent reform measures.
“Many respondents drew attention to a lack of accountability and transparency in church leadership and governance, particularly in the hierarchy’s handling of sexual abuse allegations. This was a barrier to participation in church life.”
Respondents also conveyed concern for those who are marginalised by Catholic theology, doctrine, and liturgical practice, including LGBTIQ+ Catholics, divorced Catholics, and single parent Catholics.
Gian Luca Rodrigues Cavallaro has a unique claim to fame: he’s a gay Catholic bishop who’s happily married – and he’s got a powerful message of love and inclusivity for the world.
by Patrick Kelleher
It should go without saying that Gian isn’t a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church – homosexuality is strictly frowned upon by the church, and gay sex is still viewed as a sin.
Instead, he’s a bishop in the Inclusive Portuguese Catholic Church, where he preaches his message that love is for all.
Gian was just eight years old when he felt the calling to become a priest, he tells PinkNews. Before long, he started to realise that he was also gay – and spent his next few years tormented.
“On the one hand I wanted to become a priest, but on the other, I didn’t want to give up on the idea of a relationship,” he says.
“My dream was to become a priest and marry at the same time with my future boyfriend, but I thought this was not possible.”
After he finished school, Gian went to a Roman Catholic seminary to train as a priest.
“I was willing to even renounce my emotional sphere,” he says. But after six months, he left the seminary due to what he describes as “the hypocrisy of some superiors”.
It was shortly after he left the seminary that he met a female priest from another church (Roman Catholicism doesn’t allow women to become priests). That chance encounter made him see another way was possible.
“That meeting, as if by magic, opened me up to a completely new world,” he says.
“Finally, I saw the plan of God, that was already written. My path was to be a priest without renouncing my emotional sphere.”
At first, Gian became a priest with the Reformed Old Catholic Church in Italy. In 2019, he moved to Portugal, but he struggled to find others there who wanted to be part of an inclusive Catholic Church.
“It was difficult and, in the beginning, I was a bit demoralised because without structure and without resources, it was difficult to reach people,” he says.
“But, with the grace of God, I was able to meet some people that were willing to share this path with me.”
It wasn’t until 2022 that Gian and others who believed in his mission decided to set up the Inclusive Portuguese Catholic Church. Shortly afterwards, members chose him to serve as a bishop within the group.
Gay Catholic bishop believes he and his husband were ‘predestined’ to be together
It was also in Portugal that Gian met Robson, the man who would go on to become his husband.
“He is Brazilian and I am Italian so it is curious that two people born in far-off countries could meet, but God chose us before the foundation of the world,” he says, referencing a passage in the New Testament.
“I am convinced that we were predestined to be together.”
Gian’s husband hasn’t always shared his love for religion and God – when they first met, he was “apathetic” about it, although he always supported Gian’s calling.
I had the joy to baptise him. No one forced him, it was his choice and he asked me.
However, before long, Robson embarked on a “personal path”, which led to him forming his own faith.
“This year, I had the joy to baptise him. No one forced him, it was his choice and he asked me,” Gian says.
While Gian has found fulfilment in his own church, he understands why so many LGBTQ+ people still see organised religion as an alienating and harmful concept.
His message to the Catholic Church is a simple one – he hopes it will come to see LGBTQ+ people as human beings who deserve love.
“I have the impression that sometimes they forget about the primacy of personal conscience, and they excommunicate priests and religious people just because they preach the gospel,” he says.
Pope Francis has a ‘strange attitude’ towards LGBTQ+ community
He doesn’t have much time for Pope Francis – the pontiff has won praise in some quarters from people who argue that he’s taken a more understanding, compassionate approach to LGBTQ+ people than his predecessors.
Others have pointed out that he’s not actually all that liberal – under his rule the Vatican has remained resolutely opposed to any progress on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Gian says the pope has “a strange attitude”.
Even if ecumenically he works quite well, I have not a general good impression, especially in his approach with the LGBTQ+ community.
“In public, he says something that generates positive impressions – maybe in an attempt not to lose the faithful – but then in private he signs documents that contradict his declarations,” he says.
“Even if ecumenically he works quite well, I have not a general good impression, especially in his approach with the LGBTQ+ community.”
That’s why Gian is determined to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ Catholics and create a space for them to share their faith with others.
“Some people think that I give interviews to have visibility, but that’s absolutely wrong,” he says.
“If I wanted visibility, I would be an actor, but I am a priest and so that’s not my purpose.
“I give interviews because I know that these interviews help people.”
When the Aids epidemic hit New York in the early 1980s, Bernárd Lynch did all he could to care for the sick and dying. The Ennis-born priest founded the first ministry for people with Aids in the city, supporting countless gay men who had been shunned by their families. He saw many of his friends succumb to the condition. Nobody knew the cause back then, and there was no such thing as treatment.
Lynch will never forget the terror of those early crisis years. “We used to go to patients in hospital and find their food had been left outside the door for days because staff were so afraid of contracting Aids. When you visited people, you dressed up like you were going on a moonwalk — covered from head to toe. You wouldn’t drink from the same cup or use the same toilet seat as anyone who had it.”
The ministry’s work was often more practical than spiritual. “I spent more time shopping, changing diapers and cleaning up urine than giving the last rites or praying with the sick,” says Lynch.
He had appealed for volunteers at St Francis Xavier Church in Greenwich Village after becoming overwhelmed with requests for help. The ministry grew to more than 1,000 members, but about half of them had died within a few years. Many were abandoned by their families when it was discovered they had Aids, while fellow priests who became ill were excluded by their diocese and religious communities.
Yet there were also moments of great tenderness. “I picked up one Irish mother at JFK whose son was in hospital. ‘How’s Michael?’ she asked, and I had to tell her he was quite ill. ‘He has the Rock Hudson disease,’ she said, referring to the actor who died of the condition in 1985, and I said, ‘Yes, he does’.”
“She found out he was gay about two weeks before he died, but she was formidable. I took the funeral and asked her if she’d like to say a few words. She went up to the altar in front of around 200 people — a woman who had never spoken in public before — and said: ‘Thank you. You were his real family.’ It was inspirational to see at a time when so many others had rejected their sons on their deathbeds.”
He is talking to the Independent after donating his personal papers to the National Library of Ireland. The Fr Bernárd Lynch Archive includes records of smear campaigns against him, personal letters to his family while he was coming out as a gay man, and letters from people struggling to reconcile their sexuality with church teaching.
What impact did his time in New York have on him? “Well, I was radicalised. I was devastated, but I had no time to cry — and no time to recover. Day after day, you were in and out of funeral homes and hospitals visiting the sick. And, of course, we all thought we had it. I went home in 1982 to tell my family about what was happening and to make a will for the first time in my life, because I genuinely thought my number was up.”
Lynch has struggled with his faith in the years since, but he stops short of describing himself as a non-believer. “Maybe I’m a coward, but I couldn’t have kept going if I didn’t hold on to something. Even today, it’s a hope more than a belief.”
There were no such doubts growing up in 1950s Ireland. Mass at Ennis Cathedral was, he says, like Broadway. “It was our theatre, to put it in secular terms. With the pre-Vatican II church, everything was in Latin and everything felt very dramatic. Men and boys went around in the fanciest of clothes, and I just found it extraordinary.”
But he also came to appreciate the spiritual aspects of religion. “I had an interest in things that were unexplainable, and things other than what we perceive. You know, the beauty of creation and all that.”
After seminary training and a stint in Zambia, Lynch was sent to New York in 1975 to pursue graduate studies. It was here that he finally came to terms with his sexuality.
He contacted Dignity, a Catholic LGBT group, but was nervous about getting involved. “When I first joined, I didn’t tell anyone I was a priest or even give my second name,” he says. He only became more disillusioned with Catholic authorities when the Aids crisis took hold. Church leaders expressed little sympathy with the dying, and a Vatican spokesman went as far as to suggest Aids was a punishment for immoral behaviour.
At the height of the epidemic, the Archdiocese of New York opposed the passing of legislation banning discrimination against gay people in employment and housing.
“People with Aids were being fired and thrown out of their homes,” Lynch recalls. “Cardinal John O’Connor of New York did everything in his power to stop that legislation and was succeeding. Council members were told they wouldn’t get the Catholic vote if they voted for the bill. People said to me that if I testified in favour, as a priest, a lot of these Catholic members would take courage. I went to City Hall and testified, and it did finally pass — although not for that reason alone.”
The Archdiocese of New York refused to renew his licence to minister as a priest. He approached other bishops but was shut out. It was, he says, the end of his career in America.
In 1992, Lynch left for London, where he started working with an Aids counselling group. Treatment has improved since then, but he is conscious that stigma endures. He knows people in Ireland who still hide the cause of their loved one’s death. “There are families I can’t visit even today because it might draw attention,” he says. “The fear is that I’ll be recognised in their locality, and then the secret will be out.’”
It was in London that Lynch met his now husband, fellow Irishman Billy Desmond. In 2006, he became — it’s believed — the first Catholic priest to enter a civil partnership. The couple held their wedding in Co Clare in 2017, two years after the passing of the marriage equality referendum.
“To be able to come back and marry in my own home county was such a gift,” he says. “You know, we left home because we couldn’t stay, but there are people who stayed and have now given us a country to come home to. I really am so proud of Ireland.”
Lynch has remained a prominent activist, meeting such figures as President Mary Robinson and Elton John.
He remains deeply troubled by the church’s position on LGBT issues. As founder of a support group for gay clergy in London, he has met countless priests torn between their jobs and sexuality. “Things might be a bit softer under Pope Francis, but the teaching is still that we’re disordered in our nature and evil in our love. It’s a toxic teaching that does such damage to people. The church still won’t come out and say loud and clear that that teaching is wrong and that gay people are as much loved by God and accepted as straight people.”
Katherine McSharry, acting director of the National Library, describes the donation of Lynch’s archive as an important addition to its collections. Lynch’s papers provide insights into “important questions in our national life, including the nature of faith and organised religion, the taboos around sexuality and individual expression, and the impact the Aids crisis had on the LGBTI+ community”, she says.
There will be an event on Monday to mark the acquisition of the archive, after which it will be available for public consultation. Libraries in the US and UK had also expressed interest, but Lynch is pleased his papers have ended up in Dublin. “What this is doing, as I understand it, is bringing the diaspora home,” he says. “There were so many who left and then couldn’t come back when they were ill; who never saw their families again. All those nameless Irish people in the archive, who can’t be named even today, are in a sense now coming home. It’s about them, not me.”
The Rev. James Martin never pictured himself managing a website aimed at helping resource LGBTQ Catholics.
He never saw himself starring in a documentary about the Roman Catholic Church’s relationship with its LGBTQ members.
He never set out to write or speak on issues related to LGBTQ people and the Catholic Church at all, he said.
And yet a film chronicling Martin’s ministry to LGBTQ Catholics — “Building a Bridge,” which was produced by Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese and premiered last year at the Tribeca Film Festival — is streaming now on AMC+.
The documentary release comes as Martin launches an LGBTQ Catholic resource called Outreach, sponsored by America Media, where he is editor at large. Outreach includes a new website and a conference hosted in person for the first time this weekend at Fordham University in New York.
“I really feel like it’s been an invitation from the Holy Spirit to just continue to see where this goes,” Martin said.
The idea for the documentary about Martin’s ministry came to Brooklyn-based filmmaker Evan Mascagni not long after he moved to New York. Mascagni had grown up in a “really Catholic” community in Kentucky — so Catholic, he joked, he didn’t even realize there were other religions — but he had distanced himself from the church in college.
His mom kept sending him posts by “this cool priest she follows on Instagram,” who also was based in New York, he said.
When he finally attended a talk by the priest, who turned out to be Martin, Mascagni said he was “blown away.”
“I’d never felt energy like that in a Catholic church, honestly,” he said.
Mascagni also realized Martin’s story dovetailed with a story that co-director Shannon Post wanted to tell about a friend of hers who was among the 49 people killed when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Pulse was one of the city’s best-known gay clubs, and the 2016 shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time.
The response to the shooting — or, rather, the lack of response — by the Catholic Church was one of the reasons Martin said he first felt “emboldened” to write and speak publicly about the church’s relationship with LGBTQ people, he said.
“I was a little disappointed with the church’s official response to the massacre. What struck me at the time was that even in death, this community is largely invisible to the Catholic Church,” he said.
“And so that led to a Facebook video, which led to some talks, which led to this book ‘Building a Bridge,’ which led to this ministry, which just keeps going in new directions.”
They filmed as some of the priest’s talks were canceled over fears of protest by conservative Catholic websites such as Church Militant, which also have organized social media campaigns against him. They kept rolling as he celebrated a Pre-Pride Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York and met at the Vatican with Pope Francis, who later wrote to Martin about the Outreach conference, previously held online.
“I pray for you to continue in this way, being close, compassionate and with great tenderness,” Francis wrote.
In that time, Martin said he’s become more confident — “primarily because I had that meeting with the pope.”
The priest’s message to the church has become “a little bolder,” he said.
“At the beginning, it was just like, ‘Treat these people with respect.’ Now it’s more, ‘Listen to them, accompany them, advocate for them,’ which is something I might not have said before.”
His message to the LGBTQ community has changed, too, as he’s been challenged by parish groups such as Out at St. Paul, featured in the “Building a Bridge” film. He’s realized the responsibility is on the church to reach out to the LGBTQ community, which has much less power, he said.
He sees the film as part of that work.
“I know that 1,000 times more people will see this movie than ever read my book or come to one of my talks. I understand the power of the media, and so, therefore, I wanted to support them as much as I could,” he said.
Martin said he realized Mascagni and Post were serious about making a documentary about his ministry when they showed up in Dublin, where he was invited to speak to the World Meeting of Families organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
Being followed by cameras was “a threat to humility” as a priest, he said. But it came at the same time opponents were bombarding him with messages he was going to hell, so, he joked, “it balanced.”
It isn’t his first brush with fame. Martin has appeared on “The Colbert Report” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the unofficial chaplain of Colbert Nation. He also has worked with Scorsese on two previous films, appearing as a priest in “The Irishman” and offering insight as a consultant for “Silence.”
Scorsese ended up becoming executive producer of “Building a Bridge” after hearing the documentary was in the works and reaching out to Mascagni and Post.
“If Martin Scorsese is asking you to see a rough cut, you’re gonna work as hard and as fast as you can to get it done,” Mascagni said, laughing.
Alongside Martin, “Building a Bridge” shares the stories of LGBTQ Catholics, their families and their parish ministries as they intersect with the priest and with the church.
It also features Michael Voris, founder of Church Militant. Mascagni said he wanted to show the impact Voris and his followers have had as they’ve opposed Martin’s ministry.
Voris told Religion News Service he thought the documentary was a “fair representation” of himself and Church Militant.
But, he said, “What sticks in my craw about it is that the church’s teaching doesn’t catch any real airtime.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to “homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.” It also calls for LGBTQ people to be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
The latter is the message Martin emphasizes, and the one the priest said he hopes audiences will take from “Building a Bridge.”
“I just hope that it helps LGBTQ Catholics see that there’s a place for them in their own church — it’s their church, too — and also for Catholic leaders to hear these voices,” Martin said.
“This is where Jesus not only wants us to be, but is. I mean, they are a part of the body of Christ.”
Was the feminism fight central to the first century church?
That’s the question a Catholic nun takes on in a piece for the Global Sisters Report, a self-described “independent, nonprofit source of news and information about Catholic sisters and the critical issues facing the people they serve.”
Asserting that the Bible “shows how the early church was a feminist movement” and that it’s time for the true “herstory” of female discipleship to be told, the piece celebrates the news that Pope Francis opened the door to expand senior roles for women in the Catholic Church, citing scriptural reasons behind such a move.
The nun who wrote the piece is Nameeta Renu, a member of the Order of Consecrated Virgins in Bombay in Mumbai, India. She compared the church to Mary and Martha, two women who were followers of Jesus.
Renu, whose bio states that she has a doctorate in theology on spiritual guidance and integral formation, writes that while Martha embodied the “relatively conservative” early church views on women’s roles, which pointed toward more “traditional roles,” Mary “represents the feminist church as envisioned by Jesus.”
In questioning these two archetypes, Renu then suggests both Martha and Mary “represent the church at different points on the wide spectrum of feminism” and cites “Martha from the Margins: The Authority of Martha in Early Christian Tradition,” a paper co-edited by agnostic atheist Bart Ehrman.
After asserting that God “wants both men and women to be liberated from patriarchy,” Renu says this can only happen “when victims are freed from domination, and when oppressors are converted and liberated from sin.”
She goes on to call Mary Magdalene the “Apostle to the Apostles,” and suggests that such a claim to apostleship holds as much weight as the Apostle Paul.
“Mary Magdalene has a very important role in following Jesus, but she is excluded from the Twelve Apostles while Paul boldly calls himself an apostle to the Gentiles even though he is not a disciple of Jesus before his death and resurrection,” Renu writes.
Christian blogger Erica Lee, whose blog “Unfiltered & Free” looks at gender and other topics through a biblical lens, told The Christian Post that filtering Scripture through feminism will only fuel further division.
“The feminist movement is nothing more than another societal ploy to divide the population against themselves,” Lee said. “Satan is the master deceiver and he is hard at work.
“All social justice movements pit us against each other when we are all one Body in Christ. Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary was the great equalizer.”
Lee also said characterizing Mary Magdalene as a type of “13th apostle” is without scriptural basis.
“It appears to me that the author is simply uplifting an already significant female from the Bible to an elevated status as to remove perceived victimization,” said Lee. “Such twisting and manipulating of Scripture is dangerous.”
Renu’s piece also pushes back against the traditional interpretation of Acts 6:3, which says the apostles told the disciples, “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” of distributing to widows in the church.
According to Renu, there is little documentation about the identities of “the seven” who were chosen and that church fathers often used gendered language “to represent all the baptized,” even in the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.
Renu suggests the seven might have been either men, women, or a combination of both.
She also argues that because the head of a family traditionally receives the blessing for all family members, “some of the seven names could indirectly refer to their daughters, sisters, mothers or other relatives.”
“They could even refer to couples or all the members of their families being selected for the service,” she added.
Lee told CP that such hermeneutical teaching is “a direct reflection of the modern church” and cited a recent study that found just 37% of pastors hold to a biblical worldview.
“That is a heartbreaking indictment on the church,” said Lee. “Therefore, as a result, we see articles such as this.”
Renu’s piece appears to have been written in response to news out of the Vatican that would allow women to serve alongside all-male clergy in senior management of the Catholic Church.
Published in March, the new constitution calls “for the involvement of laywomen and laymen, even in roles of government and responsibility.”
The document, however, did not alter the role for women as it pertains to worship in the Catholic Church.
In most countries, women were already serving as lectors and catechists in the Catholic Church. However, with the official ordination, more conservative bishops will be unable to prevent women in their dioceses from taking on those roles. Francis changed the laws of the Roman Catholic church in January 2021 to formally allow women to give readings from the Bible during Mass, act as altar servers and distribute communion.
Throughout his papacy, Francis has called for women to have more formal roles in the church, but has remained firm on forbidding women to become deacons or priests. Catholic doctrine prohibits the ordination of women as priests, as those roles are reserved for men.
In April 2020, the pope established a commission to study whether women should be granted the right to become ordained deacons. In this role, women would be permitted to preach and baptize, but not to conduct Mass.
On May 5, on behalf of Outreach, I asked Pope Francis if he would be willing to respond to a few of the most common questions that I am asked by LGBTQ Catholics and their families.
In my note, written in Spanish, I offered three questions and said that he could be as brief as he wished, especially since he was suffering from a flareup of pain in his knee, and respond in any form that he would like. We proposed this as a mini-interview. Three days later, I received a handwritten note with his answers.
“With respect to your questions,” he wrote, “a very simple response occurs to me.”
We are delighted to share the Holy Father’s answers (along with the text of his letter in the original Spanish and an English translation) with the LGBTQ Catholic community and their friends today.
Outreach: What would you say is the most important thing for LGBT people to know about God?
Pope Francis: God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And “the style” of God is “closeness, mercy and tenderness.” Along this path you will find God.
Outreach: What would you like LGBT people to know about the church?
Pope Francis: I would like for them to read the book of the Acts of the Apostles. There they will find the image of the living church.
Outreach: What do you say to an LGBT Catholic who has experienced rejection from the church?
Pope Francis: I would have them recognize it not as “the rejection of the church,” but instead of “people in the church.” The church is a mother and calls together all her children. Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” [Matthew 22:1-15; Luke 14:15-24]. A “selective” church, one of “pure blood,” is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.
Questions in Spanish:
¿Qué diría que es lo más importante que las personas LGBT deben saber de Dios?
¿Qué le gustaría que la gente LGBT supiera sobre la iglesia?
¿Qué le dice a un católico LGBT que ha está experimentado el rechazo de la iglesia?
The text of Pope Francis’ letter in Spanish:
Gracias por tu correo.
Respecto a tus preguntas se me ocurre una respuesta muy sencilla.
Dios es Padre y no reniega de ninguno de sus hijos. Y “el estilo” de Dios es “cercanía, misericordia y ternura”. Por este camino encontrarás a Dios.
Me gustaría que leyeran el libro de los Hechos de los Apóstoles. Allí está la imagen de la Iglesia viviente.
Le haría ver que no es “el rechazo de la Iglesia” sino de “personas de la Iglesia”. La Iglesia es madre y convoca a todos sus hijos. Cfr. la parábola de los invitados a la fiesta: “justos, pecadores, ricos y pobres, etc”. Una Iglesia “selectiva”, una Iglesia de “pura sangre”, no es la Santa Madre Iglesia, sino una secta.
Gracias por todo lo que hacés. Rezo por vos, por favor hacélo por mí.
Que Jesús te bendiga y la Virgen Santa te cuide.
English translation of the letter:
Thank you for your mail.
With respect to your questions, a very simple response occurs to me.
God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And “the style” of God is “closeness, mercy and tenderness.” In this way (or along this path) you will find God.
I would like for them to read the book of the Acts of the Apostles. There they will find the image of the living church.
I would have them recognize it not as the “rejection of the church,” but instead “of people in the church.” The church is mother and calls together all of her children. Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” A “selective” church, one of “pure blood,” is not the Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.
Thank you for everything you do. I pray for you, please do so for me.
May Jesus bless you and may the Holy Virgin guard you.