Jesuit priest James Martin to speak in Atlanta on welcoming LGBT Catholics

Well-known theologian and author the Rev. James Martin will be in Atlanta in October to discuss how the Catholic Church can be more welcoming to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities.

Martin’s topic will be “Building a Bridge: Showing Welcome and Respect in our Parishes to LGBT Catholics.”

The Jesuit priest, whose views standing up for gay Catholics have drawn criticism, will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 636 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur; and at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 21 at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 48 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SW, Atlanta.

Martin is editor-at-large at America Magazine and is the best-selling author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage,” “Seven Last Words,” “The Abbey” and “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.”

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement in the Georgia Bulletin that he was asked by one of the pastors to invite Martin “to share his perspective on ministry to the LGBTQ community as part of a larger, local parish conversation. I did not hesitate to support that pastor in extending the invitation.”

Gregory said a second parish then asked to host Martin during the same visit.

“Conscious of the considerable misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding Father Martin’s message as it relates to the church’s teaching, I renew my confidence in both the pastors and the presenter,” Gregory said in his statement. “I ask that you please join me in a spirit of respect for the dignity of every person of God as we welcome Father James Martin to the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”

His visit has already drawn controversy. A protest was held recently in front of a Catholic church in Buckhead.

Martin recently spoke at the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, on the challenge in Catholic parishes to welcome and show respect to LGBT parishioners and their families.

In a YouTube video of his talk, Martin said meeting that challenge “is where grace abounds.”

Martin said he has heard from LGBT Catholics and their families, who have been made to feel like “lepers.”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 58 percent of U.S. adult women and 42 percent of adult men who are Catholic say homosexuality should be accepted in the Catholic Church.

Antonio Alonso, director of Catholic Studies at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, said while Pope Francis’ position is more open in welcoming LGBT Catholics, it hasn’t “gone far in changing church teachings in any substantive way.”

Still, the pontiff has emphasized “the love of God as the priority for Catholics in general toward gays and lesbians.”

Attitudes may be changing among U.S. Catholics.

Alonso points to a 2017 Pew study that found two-thirds of Catholics support same-sex marriage, as do a similar share of white mainline Protestants - 68 percent.

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