Prophetic Voices in Light of our Church’s Pain

In light of the recent accusations of abuse and sexual harassment, and fueled by Sunday’s Gospel, I have been looking towards various faith leaders who are speaking truth to power. In my search, I found two pieces that filled me with a sense of light and hope in these dark times.

The first is a rather long reflection against the ignorance of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s “witch hunt for gay priests” that then lead me to a prophetic and challenging speech.

Invited and vetted by the Vatican, Fr, James Martin, SJ, addressed the recent World Meeting of Families in Ireland on the topic: “How parishes can welcome L.G.B.T. Catholics” (full speech: https://youtu.be/U3TvffTC1wQ). As I listened to his address, I not only found myself considering my own parish, but also other communities and my larger diocese. While my parish is about as welcoming as it comes, the larger Archdiocese both local and around the United States have implicated “Christian Witness” statements that might prevent individuals from working for or in the Church because of their gender or sexual identity (as Martin alludes to in his address). This general Christian milieu of fear and exclusion towards the LGBTQ+ community does nothing to inhibit the statistics Martin presented in his opening remarks:

  • 57% of LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States feel unsafe because of their orientation or gender identity
  • LGBTQ+ individual are 5x more likely to attempt suicide than those who are heterosexual
  • 40% of LGBTQ+ individuals have attempted suicide

These are our not just numbers but snapshots of many of our students, our parents, our colleagues, our neighbors, and our fellow parishioners.

The second piece is much shorter but ever the same prophetically challenging. Written and delivered by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, he questions the charism of celibacy in light of the sexual abuse scandal rattling our church. For the full text and audio of the homily: https://cac.org/fr-richards-statement-on-the-new-revelations-of-priestly-abuse-and-coverup-2018-08-20/

Most importantly Rohr brings into light the profound need for “repentance and reform of [the Church’s] very immature teaching in regard to sexuality.” Take for example the Church’s teaching on masturbation. In my own journey of discernment into joining the Jesuits, I was directly asked both by the Vocation Director and the Psychologist in my psychological evaluation, “When I first masturbated?” Knowing the Church’s teaching on the subject, I first responded with a question, “Why do you want to know?” Both responded in so many words, “In healthy human development, individuals should at some point discover and experience masturbation as they develop and mature in the discovery of their body.” Their responses stand in direct conflict and contradiction to the catechetical statements on the topics and the necessary development of a healthy human person. This dichotomy on even the most menial of sexual topics suggests a profound need for growth and maturation on the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

Anointed and called by our baptismal priesthood, we are all held responsible for our Church1. How might we, as ministers and teachers of the Gospel and of our Church, respond to Martin’s assertion, “to welcome LGBT Catholics to our (communities)”?  How might we offer hope to those who feel broken, removed, and neglected from the church for its actions both by the hierarchy and its members? How might we develop a healthy understanding of sexuality that brings forth grace rather than shame? How might we stand with Christ on the margins?

I recognize what I’m writing and endorsing can be seen as controversial, but to paraphrase Jesus from Sunday’s Gospel, “perhaps it is time to denounce our human tradition of ignorance, hate, and greed and stand with the mercy of God’s commandments.”


1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213-1284

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