— 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.
— I feel like a second-class citizen in the Church of England
The church made me answer prurient questions in order to be ordained – and if I were to enter a civil marriage, I’d essentially be sacked
In many ways, my partner and I are quite boring and conventional. We may have met through a dating app – very 21st century – but otherwise there’s been nothing particularly scandalous or unusual about how we do things. Quite frankly, most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Except, of course, for the fact that I’m a priest in the Church of England – and that’s where the problems begin. For while the rest of the country seems able to see the clear and unambiguous good that springs from same-sex relationships, the church continues to drag its heels. For years, in fact, it has told us that there’s nothing good at all about our love for one another – that it’s something to be shunned, embarrassed about, even erased. Our love is, ultimately, a problem.
The poverty of such a view has become increasingly obvious to those within the church and without, but the bishops of the C of E have resolutely refused to say anything at all for years. They – including those bishops who are secretly gay – have been cowed into silence by threats from those who oppose same-sex marriage. A few years ago, in 2017, they finally said something – recognising that the church’s record had hardly been positive towards LGBTQ people but coupled with a firm refusal to do anything about it. And the clergy of the C of E told them to get stuffed.
So we find ourselves here in 2023, at the end of a long and, at times, tedious and painful process of thinking and discernment about sexuality across the church. We all knew something was coming, whether it was to keep the status quo or to make some kind of change. What we weren’t expecting was the inability of the House of Bishops to keep stumm before the official announcement.
And so, on Wednesday, we woke up to news that the bishops had decided that our love wasn’t all that bad after all, and that we may be allowed to have our relationship blessed in a church in the near future. As a priest, too, I may finally be able to support the same-sex couples that come to us asking for blessings or for marriage, and who we have to turn away.
And perhaps, at last, the prurient and strange questioning that we face as clergy could soon be a thing of the past, because at the moment people outside the church would genuinely not believe the kind of things we are asked about our love lives, and the things we have to commit to in order to be ordained – among them an almost obsessive focus on celibacy. Our priests, deacons and even bishops either put utterly unacceptable and unsustainable pressure on their relationships and on their partners, or they are actively encouraged to lie. And if we enter into civil marriages with people of the same sex, we are essentially sacked too. We are in one hell of a mess.
The problem, though, is that while the bishops have offered us blessings, they’ve stopped short of offering us marriage. There are all kind of complicated political and pragmatic reasons for going no further than blessings, but somehow that doesn’t quite make it better. It still feels like crumbs under the table. We remain second-class citizens.
For me, and for many of my clergy friends and colleagues, we may understand the politics and the pragmatism, and the reality of the situation we find ourselves in. We may know it will only ever be a slow process towards inclusion, and this is the next stepping stone on the journey. Yet it still feels like a gut punch. It still feels like we are begging for our place at the table. It still feels like we’re worth fighting for, but only so far. The church may indeed be planning to apologise, but it continues to do the damage.
So Piotr and I won’t be getting married any time soon. The C of E doesn’t want us to just yet. But change is coming, however slowly and painstakingly – and we aren’t giving up the fight for justice. And one day, the church may just recognise our love for what it really is – a love that moves mountains, and a love that changes everything.
Charlie Bell is an Anglican priest in the diocese of Southwark and a Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge
It is easy enough to see at first glance why LGBTQ people, and those who stand in solidarity with them, look askance at the Bible. After all, the two most cited biblical texts on the subject are the following, from the old purity codes of ancient Israel:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:13).
There they are. There is no way around them; there is no ambiguity in them. They are, moreover, seconded by another verse that occurs in a list of exclusions from the holy people of God:
No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:1).
This text apparently concerns those who had willingly become eunuchs in order to serve in foreign courts. For those who want it simple and clear and clean, these texts will serve well. They seem, moreover, to be echoed in this famous passage from the Apostle Paul:
They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:23-27).
Paul’s intention here is not fully clear, but he wants to name the most extreme affront of the Gentiles before the creator God, and Paul takes disordered sexual relations as the ultimate affront. This indictment is not as clear as those in the tradition of Leviticus, but it does serve as an echo of those texts. It is impossible to explain away these texts.
Given these most frequently cited texts (that we may designate as texts of rigor), how may we understand the Bible given a cultural circumstance that is very different from that assumed by and reflected in these old traditions?
Well, start with the awareness that the Bible does not speak with a single voice on any topic. Inspired by God as it is, all sorts of persons have a say in the complexity of Scripture, and we are under mandate to listen, as best we can, to all of its voices.
On the question of gender equity and inclusiveness, consider the following to be set alongside the most frequently cited texts. We may designate these texts as texts of welcome. Thus, the Bible permits very different voices to speak that seem to contradict those texts cited above. Therefore, the prophetic poetry of Isaiah 56:3-8 has been taken to be an exact refutation of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 23:1:
Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered (Is. 56:3-8).
This text issues a grand welcome to those who have been excluded, so that all are gathered in by this generous gathering God. The temple is for “all peoples,” not just the ones who have kept the purity codes.
Beyond this text, we may notice other texts that are tilted toward the inclusion of all persons without asking about their qualifications, or measuring up the costs that have been articulated by those in control. Jesus issues a welcoming summons to all those who are weary and heavy laden:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30).
No qualification, no exclusion. Jesus is on the side of those who are “worn out.” They may be “worn out” by being lower-class people who do all the heavy lifting, or it may be those who are “worn out” by the heavy demands of Torah, imposed by those who make the Torah filled with judgment and exclusion.
Since Jesus mentions his “yoke,” he contrasts his simple requirements with the heavy demands that are imposed on the community by teachers of rigor. Jesus’ quarrel is not with the Torah, but with Torah interpretation that had become, in his time, excessively demanding and restrictive. The burden of discipleship to Jesus is easy, contrasted to the more rigorous teaching of some of his contemporaries. Indeed, they had made the Torah, in his time, exhausting, specializing in trivialities while disregarding the neighborly accents of justice, mercy and faithfulness (cf. Mt. 23:23).
A text in Paul (unlike that of Romans 1) echoes a baptismal formula in which all are welcome without distinction:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ (Gal. 3:28).
No ethnic distinctions, no class distinctions and no gender distinctions. None of that makes any difference “in Christ,” that is, in the church. We are all one, and we all may be one. Paul has become impatient with his friends in the churches in Galatia who have tried to order the church according to the rigors of an exclusionary Torah. In response, he issues a welcome that overrides all the distinctions that they may have preferred to make.
Finally, among the texts I will cite is the remarkable narrative of Acts of the Apostles 10. The Apostle Peter has raised objections to eating food that, according to the purity codes, is unclean; thus, he adheres to the rigor of the priestly codes, not unlike the ones we have seen in Leviticus. His objection, however, is countered by “a voice” that he takes to be the voice of the Lord. Three times that voice came to Peter amid his vigorous objection:
What God has made clean, you must not call profane (Acts 10:15).
The voice contradicts the old purity codes! From this, Peter is able to enter into new associations in the church. He declares:
You yourselves know that it is unlawful for Jews to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean (Acts 10:28).
And from this Peter further deduces:
I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (v. 34).
This is a remarkable moment in the life of Peter and in the life of the church, for it makes clear that the social ordering governed by Christ is beyond the bounds of the rigors of the old exclusivism.
I take the texts I have cited to be a fair representation of the very different voices that sound in Scripture. It is impossible to harmonize the mandates to exclusion in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:1 with the welcome stance of Isaiah 56, Matthew 11:28-30, Galatians 3:28 and Acts 10.
Other texts might be cited as well, but these are typical and representative. As often happens in Scripture, we are left with texts in deep tension, if not in contradiction, with each other. The work of reading the Bible responsibly is the process of adjudicating these texts that will not be fit together.
The reason the Bible seems to speak “in one voice” concerning matters that pertain to LGBTQ persons is that the loud voices most often cite only one set of texts, to the determined disregard of the texts that offer a counter-position. But our serious reading does not allow such a disregard, so that we must have all of the texts in our purview.
The process of the adjudication of biblical texts that do not readily fit together is the work of interpretation. I have termed it “emancipatory work,” and I will hope to show why this is so. Every reading of the Bible—no exceptions—is an act of interpretation. There are no “innocent” or “objective” readings, no matter how sure and absolute they may sound.
Everyone is engaged in interpretation, so that one must pay attention to how we do interpretation. In what follows, I will identify five things I have learned concerning interpretation, learnings that I hope will be useful as we read the Bible, responsibly, around the crisis of gender identity in our culture.
1. All interpretation filters the text through the interpreter’s life.
All interpretation filters the text through life experience of the interpreter. The matter is inescapable and cannot be avoided. The result, of course, is that with a little effort, one can prove anything in the Bible. It is immensely useful to recognize this filtering process. More specifically, I suggest that we can identify three layers of personhood that likely operate for us in doing interpretation.
First, we read the text according to our vested interests. Sometimes we are aware of our vested interests, sometimes we are not. It is not difficult to see this process at work concerning gender issues in the Bible. Second, beneath our vested interests, we read the Bible through the lens of our fears that are sometimes powerful, even if unacknowledged. Third, at bottom, beneath our vested interests and our fears, I believe we read the Bible through our hurts that we often keep hidden not only from others, but from ourselves as well.
The defining power of our vested interests, our fears and our hurts makes our reading lens seem to us sure and reliable. We pretend that we do not read in this way, but it is useful that we have as much self-critical awareness as possible. Clearly, the matter is urgent for our adjudication of the texts I have cited.
It is not difficult to imagine how a certain set of vested interests, fears and hurts might lead to an embrace of the insistences of texts of rigor that I have cited. Conversely, it is not difficult to see how LGBTQ persons and their allies operate with a different set of filters, and so gravitate to the texts of welcome.
2. Context inescapably looms large in interpretation.
There are no texts without contexts and there are no interpreters without context that positions one to read in a distinct way. Thus, the purity codes of Leviticus reflect a social context in which a community under intense pressure sought to delineate, in a clear way, its membership, purpose and boundaries.
The text from Isaiah 56 has as its context the intense struggle, upon return from exile, to delineate the character and quality of the restored community of Israel. One cannot read Isaiah 56 without reference to the opponents of its position in the more rigorous texts, for example, in Ezekiel. And the texts from Acts and Galatians concern a church coming to terms with the radicality of the graciousness of the Gospel, a radicality rooted in Judaism that had implications for the church’s rich appropriation of its Jewish inheritance.
Each of us, as interpreter, has a specific context. But we can say something quite general about our shared interpretive context. It is evident that Western culture (and our place in it) is at a decisive point wherein we are leaving behind many old, long-established patterns of power and meaning, and we are observing the emergence of new patterns of power and meaning. It is not difficult to see our moment as an instance anticipated by the prophetic poet:
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Is. 43:18-19)
The “old things” among us have long been organized around white male power, with its tacit, strong assumption of heterosexuality, plus a strong accent on American domination. The “new thing” emerging among us is a multiethnic, multicultural, multiracial, multi-gendered culture in which old privileges and positions of power are placed in deep jeopardy.
We can see how our current politico-cultural struggles (down to the local school board) have to do with resisting what is new and protecting and maintaining what is old or, conversely, welcoming what is new with a ready abandonment of what is old.
If this formulation from Isaiah roughly fits our circumstance in Western culture, then we can see that the texts of welcome are appropriate to our “new thing,” while the texts of rigor function as a defense of what is old. In many specific ways our cultural conflicts—and the decisions we must make—reverberate with the big issue of God’s coming newness.
In the rhetoric of Jesus, this new arrival may approximate among us the “coming of the kingdom of God,” except that the coming kingdom is never fully here but is only “at hand,” and we must not overestimate the arrival of newness. It is inescapable that we do our interpretive work in a context that is, in general ways, impacted by and shaped through this struggle for what is old and what is new.
3. Texts do not come at us one at a time
Texts do not come at us one at a time, ad seriatim, but always in clusters through a trajectory of interpretation. Thus, it may be correct to say that our several church “denominations” are, importantly, trajectories of interpretation. Location in such a trajectory is important, both because it imposes restraints upon us, and because it invites bold imagination in the context of the trajectory.
We do not, for the most part, do our interpretation in a vacuum. Rather we are “surrounded by a cloud of [nameable] witnesses” who are present with us as we do our interpretive work (Heb. 12:1).
For now, I worship in a United Methodist congregation, and it is easy enough to see the good impact of the interpretive trajectory of Methodism. Rooted largely in Paul’s witness concerning God’s grace, the specific Methodist dialect, mediated through Pelagius and then Arminius, evokes an accent on the “good works” of the church community in response to God’s goodness.
That tradition, of course, passed through and was shaped by the wise, knowing hands of John Wesley, and we may say that, at present, it reflects the general perspective of the World Council of Churches with its acute accent on social justice. The interpretive work of a member of this congregation is happily and inevitably informed by this lively tradition.
It is not different with other interpretive trajectories that are variously housed in other denominational settings. We are situated in such interpretive trajectories that allow for both innovation and continuity. Each trajectory provides for its members some guardrails for interpretation that we may not run too far afield, but that also is a matter of adjudication—quite often a matter of deeply contested adjudication.
4. We are in a “crisis of the other”
We are, for now, deeply situated in a crisis of the other. We face folk who are quite unlike us, and their presence among us is inescapable. We are no longer able to live our lives in a homogenous community of culture-related “look alikes.” There are, to be sure, many reasons for this new social reality: global trade, easier mobility, electronic communication and mass migrations among them.
We are thus required to come to terms with the “other,” who disturbs our reductionist management of life through sameness. We have a fairly simple choice that can refer to the other as a threat, a rival enemy, a competitor, or we may take the other as a neighbor. The facts on the ground are always complex, but the simple human realities with each other are not so complex.
While the matter is pressing and acute in our time, this is not a new challenge to us. The Bible provides ongoing evidence about the emergency of coming to terms with the other. Thus, the land settlements in the Book of Joshua brought Israel face-to-face with the Canaanites, a confrontation that was mixed and tended toward violence (Judg. 1).
The struggle to maintain the identity and the “purity” of the holy people of God was always a matter of dispute and contention. In the New Testament, the long, hard process of coming to terms with “Gentiles” was a major preoccupation of the early church, and a defining issue among the Apostles. We are able to see in the Book of Acts that over time, the early church reached a readiness to allow non-Jews into the community of faith.
And now among us the continuing arrival of many “new peoples” is an important challenge. There is no doubt that the texts of rigor and the texts of welcome offer different stances in the affirmation or negation of the other. And certainly among the “not like us” folk are LGBTQ persons, who readily violate the old canons of conformity and sameness. Such persons are among those who easily qualify as “other,” but they are no more and no less a challenge than many other “others” among us.
And so the church is always re-deciding about the other, for we know that the “other”—LBGTQ persons among us—are not going to go away. Thus, we are required to come to terms with them. The trajectory of the texts of welcome is that they are to be seen as neighbors who are welcomed to the resources of the community and invited to make contributions to the common wellbeing of the community. By no stretch of any imagination can it be the truth of the Gospel that such “others” as LGBTQ persons are unwelcome in the community.
In that community, there are no second-class citizens. We had to learn that concerning people of color and concerning women. And now, the time has come to face the same gospel reality about LGBTQ persons as others are welcomed as first-class citizens in the community of faithfulness and justice. We learn that the other is not an unacceptable danger and that the other is not required to give up “otherness” in order to belong fully to the community. We in the community of faith, as in the Old and New Testaments, are always called to respond to the other as a neighbor who belongs with “us,” even as “we” belong with and for the “other.”
5. The Gospel is not to be confused with the Bible.
The Gospel is not to be confused with or identified with the Bible. The Bible contains all sorts of voices that are inimical to the good news of God’s love, mercy and justice. Thus, “biblicism” is a dangerous threat to the faith of the church, because it allows into our thinking claims that are contradictory to the news of the Gospel. The Gospel, unlike the Bible, is unambiguous about God’s deep love for all peoples. And where the Bible contradicts that news, as in the texts of rigor, these texts are to be seen as “beyond the pale” of gospel attentiveness.
our interpretation is filtered through our close experience,
our context calls for an embrace of God’s newness,
our interpretive trajectory is bent toward justice and mercy,
our faith calls us to the embrace of the other and
our hope is in the God of the gospel and in no other,
the full acceptance and embrace of LGBTQ persons follows as a clear mandate of the Gospel in our time. Claims to the contrary are contradictions of the truth of the Gospel on all the counts indicated above.
These several learnings about the interpretive process help us grow in faith:
We are warned about the subjectivity of our interpretive inclinations;
we are invited in our context to receive and welcome God’s newness;
we can identify our interpretive trajectory as one bent toward justice and mercy;
we may acknowledge the “other” as a neighbor;
we can trust the gospel in its critical stance concerning the Bible.
All of these angles of interpretation, taken together, authorize a sign for LGBTQ persons: Welcome!
Welcome to the neighborhood! Welcome to the gifts of the community! Welcome to the work of the community! Welcome to the continuing emancipatory work of interpretation!
Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, one of the greatest exponents of Latin American liberation theology along with Peru’s Gustavo Gutierrez, spoke in favor of the priestly ordination of women in the Catholic Church and argued in an article published on the site. digital religion what “There is no doctrinal or dogmatic barrier that prevents women from reaching the priesthood.” In 1994 and in the face of debate raised in the Church on the subject, the then Pope John Paul II spoke about it in an apostolic letter entitled “On the ordination of priesthood reserved for men”. on that occasion Karol Wojtyla explicitly states that “by virtue of his ministry of affirming the faith of the brethren, to remove any doubt as to a matter of great importance, which pertains to the very divine constitution of the Church (cf. Lk 22, 32), I declare that The Church in no way has the power to confer priestly ordination on women“And ruled that”This opinion should be considered definitive by all believers in the Church. Formally closing all discussions on the matter. Both Benedict XVI and Francis, his successor in the papacy, also took this view, despite the debate over the ordination of women to Catholic priesthood is still open both at the religious level and within the congregation. Other religious traditions, including Christian churches, ordained women to practice ministerial priesthood.
Leonardo Boff has always been a standard bearer in favor of a greater role for women in the Catholic Church. Now, faced with the designation by Francis of three women who would unify the episcopal (ministerial) for bishops, to propose the names of candidates for bishops to the Pope, Boff wrote that it was about “A Big Step, But Only the First”” and added that “just a small door was opened for Christian women to be able to participate in all professions and services for God’s people”.
The 83-year-old theologian published a book called “Church, Charisma and Power” in 1981, which made him the target of Vatican attacks and, given his status as a Franciscan priest and professor of theology, called for “silencing” him. to be ordered. and suspended the “one divine” by Pope John Paul II. Although the sanction that barred him from teaching and serving in public was later lifted, Boff renounced the priesthood in the church in 1992, but continued with his religious preaching and his activities involving theology and protecting the environment.
Following the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the supreme authority of the Catholic Church The relationship between Boff and Francisco has been extremely fluid. And Brazilians have been heard many times praising the pontiff’s work and his pronouncements on life, church and society.
,We are in favor of the priesthood of women in the Roman Catholic Church, selected and drawn from communities of faith,” Boff now wrote. And he added that “it is up to them (women) to give it a specific configuration, which is different from that of men.”
In his argument, the theologian states that “First of all, it must be affirmed that the feminine dimension is not exclusive to women, for both man and woman are, in their own ways, the carriers of the masculine and the feminine. This Nazareth K is also true for Jesus, being fully human he is completely divine.
It also states that the Church of Life and the Magisterium is “not a pit of dead water” and, as a result, “is revived by experiencing the irreversible changes of history”. No matter how the Catholic tradition has so far manifested the opposite.
And just as “the equality of women in respect and rights with men is more and more attested all over the world” it is understandable that “it is not easy to eliminate centuries of patriarchy which means reducing women and marginalized”, maintains Boff. To add that “discrimination is slowly and steadily being removed and in some cases even punished” and that “in practice, all public places and the most diverse functions are open to women.”
according to brazilian The Catholic Church was “held hostage to a secular patriarchal culture, but it cannot become a bastion of conservatism and anti-feminism” in a world that leads to the prosperity of relations between men and women”. However, he believes that “Pope Francis has the ability to raise questions relevant to today’s world, such as the question of marital morality or homosexuality and Dealing with other minorities.”
To give greater importance to his statement, Boff recalls that “careful examination of high-level theologians such as Karl Rahner has revealed that there is no doctrinal or dogmatic barrier that precludes women’s access to the priesthood.”
Among other considerations, Boff states that “if a woman, Mary, was able to give birth to her son Jesus, how could she not represent him sacredly in the community? There is a clear contradiction here, which can only be understood in the context of the patriarchal, sexist church, which is made up of celibates in the leadership and animation body of the faith.,
And he predicts that “the time will come when the Roman Catholic Church will adjust to the path of the global feminist movement, along with other Christian churches that have women as priests and even bishops, and with the world.” , towards unification. ‘animus’ and ‘anima’ for human enrichment and for a more integral Christian experience and ultimately for the benefit of the Church”.
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.
The makers of the documentary Building a Bridge, which makes its debut on streaming platforms and video on demand on May 3, hope the film will extend the Church’s outreach to LGBTQ Catholics.
“I really want this film to be accessible in any part of the world, for that matter. We’re hoping that we’re going to launch educational opportunities to show in different high schools and colleges and universities and hopefully maybe have it at libraries,” said Evan Mascagni, one of two co-directors of the movie.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a lot of those grassroots community screenings, and follow that up with Q-and-A’s,” Mascagni added. “Hopefully our film can be a resource or a tool for a parish, like someone who wants to start their own LGBTQ ministry in a place like Kentucky,” from which he hails.
“I really hope that the film can reach young people, and people who might not know any other clear path and feel they can joining a community or even start a community like Out in St. Paul,” a gay Catholic ministry featured in Building a Bridge, said Shannon Post, the other co-director, during an April 28 conference call with Catholic News Service.
Building a Bridge is based on the book of the same name by Jesuit Father James Martin, editor at large of America magazine and a consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication as well as being the author of several books.
Father Martin, who admitted being “uncomfortable” being the focus of the film — “the film should be about the ministry, not me,” he said on the conference call — added, “parishes, too,” as an important point outreach with the movie.
Post had wanted to make a documentary about the shooting rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people, including a college classmate of hers
“My real target is the LGBTQ Catholic youth, who is wondering if there really is a place in the church for LGBTQ people,” Father Martin said. “They will see this and know that God loves them, and to quote Cardinal (Wilton D.) Gregory (of Washington), know that they are at the heart of the church.”
Post and Mascagni co-directed the 2015 documentary Circle of Poison, about the manufacture and sale in the United States of pesticides banned by the federal government for use in other nations.
Post had wanted to make a documentary about the shooting rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people, including a college classmate of hers. Mascagni, who had pretty much turned his back on the Catholic Church in which he was brought up, relented to his mother’s importuning that he go to a talk given by “a cool priest” she’d found on Instagram.
The priest was Father Martin. “It was one of his first Building a Bridge talks, Mascagni recalled. He then went to Post and said, “I think there’s a story here.”
They convinced Father Martin to let himself be filmed. When he was invited to speak at the Vatican’s World Conference of Families in 2018 in Dublin, Mascagni and Post told him: “We’re going to Dublin.” “Why are you coming to Dublin?” he remembers asking them. “They said, ‘We’re making a documentary,'” which is when he realized “this wasn’t going to be a fly-by-night operation. This was going to be a serious documentary.”
Three years later, Building a Bridge had its cinematic debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Assessments by many of those featured in the movie had good things to say. Critics of Father Martin’s ministry — among them Michael Voris of Church Militant, who is featured in the documentary — have yet to weigh in.
But Mascagni said: “In the film, we point out all the trolling that happens on Father Martin’s social media. Now that we’ve announced the film on social media, we’re starting to get a tiny part of that.”
In addition to Post and Mascagni’s “impact plan” to take the movie on the road with post-screening question-and-answer sessions and LGBTQ profiles they couldn’t jam into a feature that already was running 90 minutes long — America Media is introducing in May a new website called https://outreach.faith.
Father Martin will coordinate news and resources to be posted on the website, as well as details for a new “Outreach” conference for LGBTQ Catholics in June at Jesuit-run Fordham University.
“Parishes, particularly in the West, are realizing they have to deal with LGBTQ kids — as well as LGBTQ parishioners themselves,” he said. “That trend is not going to change. People are not going to stop coming out.”
Building a Bridge will be available on video on demand May 3, followed by a launch on AMC+ June 21 and broadcast premiere on Sundance TV June 26.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich is in favour of changing church teaching on homosexuality.
The catechism, which says that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”, was “not set in stone” and it was permissible to question what it said, he pointed out in an interview in the German glossy weekly Stern.
“Homosexuality is not a sin. LGBTQ people are part of creation and loved by God, and we are called upon to stand up against discrimination [against them]. Whosoever threatens homosexuals and anyone else with hell has understood nothing,” Marx said.
The issue had already been discussed at the Synod on the Family in Rome in 2018, he recalled, “but there was a reluctance to put anything down in writing”. He had already pointed out at the time that homosexual couples “live in an intimate loving relationship that also has a sexual form of expression” and had posed the rhetorical question: “And we want to say that is not worth anything?”
He admitted that there were Catholics who wanted to limit sexuality to reproduction “but what do they say to couples who cannot have children?” the cardinal asked.
Marx admitted that “a few years ago” he had blessed a homosexual couple in Los Angeles who had come up to him after Mass. But it had not been a marriage, he pointed out. “We cannot offer the sacrament of marriage”, he emphasised.
It would not be easy to find consensus on the homosexuality issue in the universal Church, he said. “Africa and the Orthodox Churches partly have a very different take. Nothing is achieved if this issue leads to a split but at the same time we must not stand still.”
Finding consensus on the issue is meanwhile already running into difficulties in the German archdiocese of Paderborn.
The archdiocesan priests’ council has sent a letter of protest to Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker. Last Christmas Becker sent the more than one thousand priests in his archdiocese a book by emeritus Curia Cardinal Paul Cordes on the 60th anniversary of his priesthood. It now turns out that in one chapter Cordes says that homosexuality is “profoundly against God’s will”.
Enclosed in Cordes’ book was a letter by Archbishop Becker announcing that he had founded a work group to handle “queer-sensitive pastoral work” in the archdiocese.
The archdiocese explained on 31 March that Cordes, who was from the archdiocese of Paderborn, had dedicated his book to the archdiocese’s priests. “Opinions [on homosexuality] differ and these differences must be taken into consideration”, the archdiocesan statement said. A factual exchange was “crucial”.
Parishioners worshipping at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Harlem are greeted by a framed portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. — a Baptist minister named after a rebellious 16th century German priest excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
The Rev. Bryan Massingale, who sometimes preaches at St. Charles, pursues his ministry in ways that echo both Martin Luthers.
Like King, Massingale decries the scourge of racial inequality in the United States. As a professor at Fordham University, he teaches African American religious approaches to ethics.
Like the German Martin Luther, Massingale is often at odds with official Catholic teaching — he supports the ordination of women and making celibacy optional for Catholic clergy. And, as a gay man, he vocally disagrees with the church’s doctrine on same-sex relations, instead advocating for full inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics within the church.
The Vatican holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” and sinful.
In his homily on a recent Sunday, Massingale – who became public about being gay in 2019 — envisioned a world “where the dignity of every person is respected and protected, where everyone is loved.”
But the message of equality and tolerance is one “that is resisted even within our own faith household,” he added. “Preach!” a worshiper shouted in response.
Massingale was born in 1957 in Milwaukee. His mother was a school secretary and his father a factory worker whose family migrated from Mississippi to escape racial segregation.
But even in Wisconsin, racism was common. Massingale said his father couldn’t work as a carpenter because of a color bar preventing African Americans from joining the carpenters’ union.
The Massingales also experienced racism when they moved to Milwaukee’s outskirts and ventured to a predominately white parish.
“This would not be a very comfortable parish for you to be a part of,” he recalled the parish priest saying. Thereafter, the family commuted to a predominantly Black Catholic church.
Massingale recalled another incident, as a newly ordained priest, after celebrating his first Mass at a predominantly white church.
“The first parishioner to greet me at the door said to me: ‘Father, you being here is the worst mistake the archbishop could have made. People will never accept you.‘”
Massingale says he considered leaving the Catholic Church, but decided he was needed.
“I’m not going to let the church’s racism rob me of my relationship with God,” he said. “I see it as my mission to make the church what it says it is: more universal and the institution that I believe Jesus wants it to be.”
For Massingale, racism within the U.S. Catholic Church is a reason for the exodus of some Black Catholics; he says the church is not doing enough to tackle racism within its ranks and in broader society.
Nearly half of Black U.S. adults who were raised Catholic no longer identify as such, with many becoming Protestants, according to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center. About 6% of Black U.S. adults identify as Catholic and close to 80% believe opposing racism is essential to their faith, the survey found.
The U.S. Catholic Church has had a checkered history with race. Some of its institutions, such as Georgetown University, were involved in the slave trade, and it has struggled to recruit African American priests.
Conversely, Catholic schools were among the first to desegregate and some government officials who opposed racial integration were excommunicated.
In 2018, U.S. bishops issued a pastoral letter decrying “the persistence of the evil of racism,” but Massingale was disappointed.
“The phrase ‘white nationalism’ is not stated in that document; it doesn’t talk about the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “The problem with the church’s teachings on racism is that they are written in a way that is calculated not to disturb white people.”
At Fordham, a Jesuit university, Massingale teaches a class on homosexuality and Christian ethics, using biblical texts to challenge church teaching on same-sex relations. He said he came to terms with his own sexuality at 22, upon reflecting on the book of Isaiah.
“I realized that no matter what the church said, God loved me and accepted me as a Black gay man,” he said.
His ordination in 1983 came in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that disproportionately affected gay men and Black Americans. Among his first funerals as a priest was that of a gay man whose family wanted no mention of his sexuality or the disease.
“They should have been able to turn to their church in their time of grief,” Massingale said. “Yet they couldn’t because that stigma existed in great measure because of how many ministers were speaking about homosexuality and AIDS as being a punishment for sin.”
Pope Francis has called for compassionate pastoral care for LGBTQ Catholics. However, he has described homosexuality among the clergy as worrisome, and Vatican law remains clear: same-sex unions cannot be blessed within the church. Some dioceses have fired openly LGBTQ employees.
Massingale has a different vision of the church: one where Catholics enjoy the same privileges regardless of sexual orientation.
“I think that one can express one’s sexuality in a way that is responsible, committed, life giving and an experience of joy,” he said.
Massingale has received recognition for his advocacy from like-minded organizations such as FutureChurch, which says priests should be allowed to marry and women should have more leadership roles within the church.
“He is one of the most prophetic, compelling, inspiring, transforming leaders in the Catholic Church,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, the organization’s co-director. “When he speaks, you know very deep truth is being spoken.”
Along with his many admirers, Massingale has some vehement critics, such as the conservative Catholic news outlet Church Militant, which depicts his LGBTQ advocacy as sinful.
At Fordham, Massingale is well-respected by colleagues, and was honored by the university with a prestigious endowed chair. To the extent he has any critics among the Fordham faculty, they tend to keep their misgivings out of the public sphere.
He says he receives many messages of hope and support, but becoming public about his sexuality has come at a cost.
“I have lost some priest friends who find it difficult to be too closely associated with me because if they’re friends with me, ‘what will people say about them?’” he said.
Massingale remains optimistic about gradual change in the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis and recent signals from bishops in Europe who expressed a desire for changes, including blessing same-sex unions.
“My dream wedding would be either two men or two women standing before the church; marrying each other as an act of faith and I can be there as the official witness to say: “Yes, this is of God,” he said after a recent class at Fordham. “If they were Black, that would be wonderful.”
Around 125 people including former and current priests in Germany came out as gay and queer and demanded an end to institutional discrimination against the queer community.
Over 120 priests and employees with the Catholic church community in Germany came out as queer and launched a campaign demanding an end to institutional discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The Roman Catholic Church in Germany on Sunday faced renewed calls for better protection of LGBTQ rights and an end to institutional discrimination against queer people.
Around 125 people, including former and current priests, teachers, church administrators and volunteers, identified themselves as gay and queer, asking the church to take into account their demands and do away with “outdated statements of church doctrine” when it comes to sexuality and gender.
The members of the church community published seven demands on social media under the “OutInChurch” initiative. These demands range from queer people saying they should be able to live without fear and have access to all kinds of activities and occupations in the church without discrimination.
They said their sexual orientation must never be considered a breach of loyalty or reason for dismissal from their occupation. They ask the church to revise its statements on sexuality based on “theological and human-scientific findings.”
Besides asking for equal rights, employees also put down demands that the church takes accountability for their discrimination against people of the community throughout history, calling on the bishop to take responsibility on behalf of the church.
What has been the Vatican’s stance?
The Vatican, home of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church, ruled last year that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings weren’t valid.
But the ruling also reignited a debate on the matter, and there was considerable resistance against it in some parts of Germany.
Last year, at least two bishops in Germany, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, one of the pope’s top advisers, showed some support for a kind of “pastoral” blessing for same-sex unions.
In Germany and the United States, parishes and ministers also began blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, with growing calls for bishops to institutionalize gay marriage.
However, in response to formal questions from a number of dioceses on whether the practice was allowed, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) made clear it wasn’t, ruling: “negative.”
Pope Francis approved the response, adding that it was “not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite” of the sacrament of marriage.