As one of the most prominent Catholic voices in America, Jesuit priest James Martin is calling for the Catholic Church to welcome the LGBTQ Catholic community in Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (HarperOne, June). The former chaplain on The Colbert Report, Martin (Jesus: A Pilgrimage and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything) was compelled to write the new book, which has been endorsed by the Vatican, after the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s gay nightclub, Pulse, where 49 people were killed.
“Initially, very few bishops used the words ‘gay’ or ‘LGBT’ after the Pulse shooting, and to me, that bespoke a certain discomfort with even the existence of the LGBT community,” Martin told PW. “But if this were an attack on a Methodist Church, the bishops would have surely said something like, ‘We stand with our Methodist brothers and sisters.’ I would have liked to hear more solidarity with the LGBT community.”
Martin does not use the book to argue that the Catholic Church should alter its doctrinal stance prohibiting same-sex sexual relationships or marriage. He does, however, assert that within the church there tends to be a selective focus on LGBTQ issues. He cites, for example, the recent firings of LGBTQ men and women who work for Catholic institutions, condemning the moves as “unjust discrimination.” As Martin notes in the book, the Church does not fire "every Catholic who has engaged in pre-marital sex or used birth control.”
“The most important thing the church can do is welcome LGBT Catholics because they are just as much a part of the church as I am or the Pope is,” Martin told PW.
In the book, Martin makes a case for why dioceses and parishes should add outreach programs for LGBTQ Catholics. “They can have special masses where LGBT Catholics are welcomed," he said, adding that the Church should provide "things like suicide counseling for LGBT youth, and lectures on different topics of interest.”
Building a Bridge also features biblical passages, meditations, and reflection questions for LGBTQ Catholics about their relationship with God, the church, and their own sexuality. Further, the book provides similar material for Catholics with family members who are part of the LGBTQ community. “So many parents and grandparents have reached out to me,” said Martin. “This ministry is not just to LGBT Catholics but also for those that love them.”
Michael Maudlin, executive editor at HarperOne, hopes the book starts a much-needed conversation. “It is easy to underestimate this little book, but what Martin does is challenge the heart of why the gay debate has been so injurious to the church,” Maudlin said. “He shows that in Jesus there is no ‘us versus them,’ only ‘us.’”
Marketing and publicity plans for Building A Bridge include direct-to-church marketing via HarperOne’s News & Pews newsletter and Facebook page, ongoing outreach to Jesuit leaders and organizations, and advertising in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, US Catholic, and Commonweal. The book will also be promoted on the author’s social media platforms through a Facebook Live session, a book trailer, excerpts, and quotes.