Theology Event Aims to Unite Church and LGBT Groups


Fr. James Martin will present about his new book at Fordham this month. (COURTESY OF SHAWN CALHOUN VIA FLICKR)

Features Editor

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ+ community has long been characterized by tension. As a sect of Christianity that prides itself on tradition and following what the Catechism decrees, the Catholic Church has been known to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage, failing to recognize the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In recent years, a line of communication has begun to present itself between the two groups. This movement toward acceptance, or at least the encouragement of discussion surrounding the topic is being reflected in a variety of communities, including here at Fordham. In order to spur conversation about this relationship, the theology department will bring “Building a Bridge: The Catholic Church and the LGBT Community” to the McNally Amphitheatre on Sept. 5th.

In many realms, the Catholic Church promotes acceptance and a willingness to help marginalized members of society, like the impoverished, and because of this generous philosophy, the Church’s general attitude towards sexual diversity has often been seen as hypocritical and intolerant. Only in recent years, with the appointment of Pope Francis, have we seen some flexibility and compromise within the Church and its attitude toward LGBTQ+ rights. In 2013, when asked whether he would criticize gay priests for their sexuality, Pope Francis famously said, “who am I to judge?”

The goal of the event at Fordham will be to initiate discussion about the relationship between the two groups. Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit writer and influential figure in the Catholic faith, will present his newly published book on the relationship between the Church and the LGBTQ+ community. Professor Patrick Hornbeck, the head of the theology department noted, “His book has received both praise and criticism, the latter both from some representatives of the institutional church and from some leaders in the LGBTQ+ community. The Theology Department is eager to bring Fr. Martin to Fordham for a dialogue about his book, his response to the criticism he has received, and the overall state of the relationship between LGBTQ+ people and the Catholic Church.”

Moderating the event will be Fordham Rose Hill alum Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a religious studies faculty member at Manhattan College whose research has also focused on the relationship between the Catholic Church and marginalized groups. She will contribute her own knowledge of the subject to the conversation while facilitating conversation between Fr. Martin, Professor Hornbeck and the attendees.

The event hopes to draw as many people from the Fordham community as possible, both those who hope to engage in discussion and those that just want to listen and reflect. While the relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ+ community may be characterized by tension, the theology department hopes to create a space where ideas can be expressed openly and respectfully while discussing some of the most hard-hitting issues of our time.

“Religious traditions’ attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people have long contributed to the marginalization of sexually diverse people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world,” Professor Hornbeck concluded. “At a time when the U.S. is more polarized socially and politically than in the recent past, we hope that this event will lift up the possibility of honest, candid discourse around controversial issues.”