On December 2-3, 2017, Cardinal John Dew, the Archbishop of Wellington, Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland, and Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton, held a workshop for young Catholics called “Bishop’s Banter” at St Mary’s College in Ponsonby, New Zealand. According to an article appearing in NZCatholic, many of the questions dealt with the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage:
Bishop Lowe said he thinks young people are leading the way in terms of relating with the LGBT community.
“I think young people are prophets of the Church. They always have something to say to the Church. And that’s what has come up. Young people want the Church to be more engaging with them (LGBT people),” he said.
He said the issue of homosexuality may be a “Galileo moment” for the Church.
“The psychology is still up for debate but the Church has got to engage with the science and engage with the experience of couples with same-sex attraction.”
Bishop Dunn said:
“We need to make the LGBT people feel welcome. They are beautiful people but they feel rejected by the Church.”
On January 19, 2018, James Martin, S.J., posted a link on his Twitter account to the article from NZCatholic (as reported by the dissident pro-gay marriage New Ways Ministry) about the New Zealand “Bishop’s Banter.”
In another article from NZCatholic, from September 28, 2017, Bishop Dunn praised Martin’s book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity” and repeated many of his arguments almost verbatim. He wrote:
If the institutional Church is going to be sensitive in its use of language, we may need to move away from the phrase “objectively disordered”, which the Catechism itself uses to describe the homosexual inclination. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person is “disordered” seems needlessly cruel.
In “Building a Bridge,” Martin wrote:
One way to be sensitive is to consider the language we use. Some bishops have already called for us to set aside the phrase “objectively disordered” when it comes to describing the homosexual inclination (as it is in the Catechism, No. 2358). The phrase relates to the orientation, not the person, but it is still needlessly hurtful. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person—the part that gives and receives love—is “disordered” in itself is needlessly cruel.
A number of the other talking points from the New Zealand Bishops seem to be directly pulled from James Martin; for instance, in terms of a supposedly new understanding of homosexuality, which like the discoveries of Galileo, reveal some sort of recently uncovered truth about the origins of same-sex attraction, Martin said this when asked if LGBT individuals were born that way:
Yes. Science and psychology shows that, and most people are finally coming to see that this — for mysterious reasons — is the way they are made. That’s something that’s held by almost every reputable psychologist and biologist. And the “LGBT” people I speak to have always felt that way. Part of it is accepting oneself and accepting this is the way God made you.
“Just as Galileo was asked to choose between church dogma and what he knew to be true, so the church today asks gay people to choose between church dogma and the authenticity of their natural sexual orientation, something they know to be true.”
Martin also proposes a radical reinterpretation of the Bible to fit a pro-gay narrative; concerning the passages in Scripture which have traditionally been understood as condemning homosexual activity, Martin said:
All these Bible passages that people throw at you; I think really need to be understood in their historical context. I mean Leviticus and Deuteronomy and even the stuff from the New Testament where Paul talks about it once or twice, has to be understood in their historical context…certainly in Old Testament times, they didn’t understand the phenomena of homosexuality and bisexuality as we do today.
On the issue of “experience,” and how understanding the “experience” of same-sex couples could possibly change the Church’s viewpoint about homosexuality, Martin wrote:
To begin with, it is nearly impossible to know another person’s feelings at a distance. You cannot understand the feelings of a community if you don’t know the community. You can’t be sensitive to the L.G.B.T. community if you only issue documents about them, preach about them, or tweet about them, without knowing them. One reason the institutional church has struggled with sensitivity is, in my opinion, that many church leaders still do not know many gay and lesbian people…
Cardinal Christof Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, reminded us of this at the meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the family, when he spoke of a gay couple he knew who had transformed his understanding of L.G.B.T. people. He even praised same-sex unions. The cardinal said, “[O]ne shares one’s life, one shares the joys and sufferings, one helps one another. We must recognize that this person has made an important step for his own good and for the good of others, even though, of course, this is not a situation that the church can consider regular.” He also overruled a priest in his archdiocese who had prohibited a man in a same-sex union from serving on a parish council. That is, Cardinal Schönborn stood with him. Much of this came from his experience of, knowledge of and friendship with L.G.B.T. people. Cardinal Schönborn said simply, “We must accompany.”
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey: 85% of self-identified Catholics ages 18-29 said that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with just 13% who said it should be discouraged.