For possibly the first time in history, LGBT+ issues will be on the agenda at an event organised by the Catholic Church. And the priest giving the talk, Father James Martin, says it was proposed by the Vatican.
This would mark a historic step by the Catholic Church to embrace the LGBT+ community.
Martin will give a presentation at the World Meeting of Families held in Dublin, Ireland, between August 21 and 26. The triennial conference will be attended by Pope Francis.
Martin’s speech, about welcoming LGBT+ people and their families into their parishes, will take place between August 21 and 24, according to the WMOF’s official programme. It will be held before Pope Francis’ visit on the final two days of the event.
The priest exclusively told PinkNews: “It was the Vatican who proposed what I think is a great topic: ‘Showing Welcome and Respect in our Parishes for LGBT People and their Families.
“By proposing that topic, they’re telling LGBT Catholics something important: this is your church too.”
The petition gained 9,792 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
The World Meeting of Families is a major event in the Roman Catholic calendar, and is attended by a number of senior figures from the Catholic Church. It focuses on the importance of marriage and family life.
(Fr. James Martin, SJ/YouTube)
“I’m not bothered much by protests or petitions motivated by hatred and homophobia,” Martin told PinkNews, “Because the hatred and homophobia are rooted mainly in fear.”
“Fear of the LGBT person as the ‘other.’ Fear of what might happen if we listen to the experience of LGBT Catholics. And, often, fear of one’s own complicated sexuality,” he added.
Martin, an American Jesuit priest, published a book – Building a Bridge – in June 2017, which called for respect between the LGBT+ community and the Catholic Church.
He continued: “In the New Testament we read that perfect love drives out fear. Absolutely.
“But I would also add that perfect fear drives out love. That’s what we’re seeing here – because nothing in my book goes against any church teaching. But what kind of person would I be if I let fear dissuade me from loving? So I’m looking forward to my talk at the World Meeting of Families, and I’m grateful for the Vatican for inviting me.”
A spokesperson for the World Meeting of Families told PinkNews that Martin is still set to speak at the event.”With just over one week to go to the WMOF2018 pastoral congress in the RDS in Dublin, we are not expecting there to be any change to the line-up of speakers that have been invited to be part of the event,” the spokesperson said.
“We are looking forward to welcoming all 292 speakers from around Ireland and from across the world to our gathering of families in Dublin.”
Speaking to PinkNews in a recent interview, Martin said he is impassioned about about including LGBT+ people in the church.
“The main reason that I’ve become involved in LGBT issues is because LGBT people are part of the church, and so they deserve to be cared for,” he said.
“They are also the most marginalised group in the Catholic Church and for that reason they deserve special care and attention.”
Martin said that the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre signalled a turning point for him, and that he wrote his book out of frustration with the response the church offered to the one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
“What alarmed me at the time was that very few Catholic bishops publicly expressed any compassion after the shootings – in contrast to what happens in almost every other public tragedy,” Martin told PinkNews.
“The lack of solidarity seemed to reveal that even in death LGBT people are largely invisible in the church.”
Progress on homosexuality and LGBT+ issues within the Catholic Church has been slow, but there has recently been some indication that the church, under Pope Francis, is modernising.
In June, the Vatican published a report which used the phrase ‘LGBT’ for the first time in a major church publication.
The Catholic Church’s official stance on homosexuality is that same-sex attraction is a sin if acted upon.
Although Pope Francis has in some ways been more progressive in terms of LGBT acceptance, he recently upheld the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and warned bishops to turn down any priesthood applicants who they suspect might be gay.