News, On Campus

James Martin, S.J. Discusses Making Room for LGBTQ+ People in the Church

It is necessary to make room for LGBTQ+ individuals in the Catholic Church, according to James Martin, S.J.

“It’s important that we enlarge the space of the tent [in the Church] for LGBTQ people,” Martin said.

Martin visited Boston College on Wednesday to discuss his experience as a delegate at the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023, also known as the Synod on Synodality

“In brief, the Synod is a way of gathering voices and listening to the Holy Spirit, as well as a form of Church governance,” Martin said.

Martin discussed the historical importance of the gathering of the Synod of Synodality in the Catholic Church, describing its revival in recent years.

“A lot of criticism that you might have seen in the media is that the Synod is this new thing,” Martin said. “It’s not. It’s been around since the time of the New Testament, and that is a very long and distinguished history. And it’s really about listening to different voices in the Church.”

Explaining the main takeaways from the conference, Martin referenced a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops report.

“[The report] seemed to me that it reflected some of the issues that people were really frustrated about,” Martin said. “That working report, which is about twenty pages, was called ‘Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.’ It’s a great image.”

Martin also discussed the location where the Synod of Synodality was held and the diversity of the delegates present.

“We started with the retreat at a place called Fraternal Domus [in Italy],” he said. “It was a very nice retreat to house all 350 of us, more like a conference center. It was an opportunity not only to pray together but to dine together and to get to know one another. And I was amazed by the breadth of the participants.”

He emphasized that this was also the first Synod gathering in the history of the Church that gave lay men and women the right to speak and vote. 

“Most of the participants were Cardinals and archbishops, and bishops from around the world,” Martin said. “The rest were some of the most gifted, talented, and vocal lay people … and these people often have dramatically different viewpoints.”

With these different viewpoints also came disagreements among the delegates, Martin said.

“There’s people you don’t agree with all the time,” Martin said. “There’s Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the Dicastery, formerly The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. We didn’t agree on everything, but we’re able to talk together, take a picture together, and exchange books.”

Martin explained that by the end of the Synod of Synodality conference, all of the discussions were gathered together and presented as a synthesis report for eventual publication.

As a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights in the Catholic Church, Martin talked about the controversial nature of the topic, but said he felt it was important to discuss the issue at the Synod.

“As you know, I work with a lot of LGBTQ Catholics,” Martin said. “My intervention was a story of a gay couple, because I felt that we were talking about concepts and ideas, and that I wanted to bring a story into that.”

Martin said the Synod aims to show that the Holy Spirit is present within everyone.

“The Synod was really founded on the idea that the Holy Spirit is at work in each person … and that we really have an obligation to listen to the voices of these people because the Holy Spirit is streaking through them,” Martin said. “And that idea is at the heart of a lot of Christian spirituality, but it really is at the heart of a lot of Jesuit spirituality as well.”

April 11, 2024