In response to numerous questions over the past two weeks about Jesuit Fr. James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, I have prepared the following reflection.
Many years ago I was invited by the Archdiocese of San Francisco to preach the annual Parish Mission at Most Holy Redeemer Church in the heart of the “Castro”, the gay district of that city. I was told that I had been invited to preach the mission because of my own Scripture studies, teaching and work at Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. At that time, the majority of parishioners of Holy Redeemer Church were homosexual and HIV positive. They knew what it meant to live on the fringes of society. I remember my reticence in accepting the invitation from the then-Archbishop’s office – thinking that no one would really come and listen to a Gospel message of hope and joy in the midst of a devastating epidemic, or that those who would come would have many difficulties with Church teaching. I was uncomfortable with the thought of being protested, dismissed or rejected by what I had believed to be left-wing radicals and Church dissidents in California! I was in for quite a surprise!