DUBLIN – One of the Catholic Church's leading advocates for gays told a Vatican-sponsored conference Thursday that LGBT Catholics deserve to be loved, listened to and welcomed by the church and not ostracized and condemned.
The Rev. James Martin received a standing ovation after his presentation on welcoming LGBT Catholics at the church's World Meeting of Families, which Pope Francis will be closing out this weekend.
Martin told the audience that LGBT Catholics "have often been treated like lepers by the church" despite Christ's example of welcoming and loving all those on the margins of society.
"By not welcoming, by excluding LGBT Catholics, the church is falling short of its call to being God's family," Martin said. He specifically urged Catholics to not focus on gays and their sexual morality while giving the sex lives and marital status of straight Catholics a pass.
That Martin was even invited to speak in Dublin was significant given he has had talks canceled in the United States because of pressure from conservative groups who oppose his ministry and advocacy.
In recent weeks, a petition was launched by conservatives demanding Dublin organizers cancel his speech. The calls only increased following revelations of sexual misconduct by a disgraced U.S. cardinal involving seminarians.
Martin didn't refer to the new scandals and took no questions, sticking instead to what Catholics can do in their own parishes to make sure gays and their families feel welcomed and loved. He urged them to remember gays are Catholic, that they don't choose their orientation and have gifts to offer the church.
Catholic teaching calls for gays to be treated with dignity and respect, but considers homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered."
"Many if not most LGBT Catholics have been deeply wounded by our church," Martin said. "Apologize to them."
He stressed that he was speaking to church ministers, especially. "You can apologize. It doesn't solve everything, but it's a start."
This story has been corrected to show the presentation was Thursday, not Wednesday.
Winfield reported from Rome.