BY NEIL GRASSO
Asst. News Editor
Dr. John Petillo approached the podium at the front of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. He took his time organizing his papers before looking up at the crowd of more than 300 students, faculty, staff, and local community members.
He looked down, paused, and said, “The good thing about it is, they did spell my name correctly in all that hate mail.”
The crowd laughed.
The tension present in the room, however, was no laughing matter.
Sacred Heart University has been the center of a media firestorm ever since it announced on Jan. 25 that Father James Martin, S.J., was coming to speak as a part of the Human Journey Colloquia Series.
Martin spoke on Jan. 31, in the very crowded chapel. He discussed showing respect to and welcoming LGBT people into the Catholic Church.
Martin recently published a revised and expanded edition of his bestselling book, “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” Copies of his book were available for purchase by the entrance of the chapel at the conclusion of the colloquium, and are still available at the Sacred Heart bookstore.
On Jan. 26 a group of protestors gathered outside of Bergoglio Hall near Park Ave. to express their anger at Martin’s upcoming appearance on Sacred Heart’s campus. A petition was made online in an effort to prevent Martin from speaking at the colloquium.
As of press time, the petition garnered 19,599 online signatures.
Nevertheless, Martin participated in the colloquium on Tuesday evening, speaking for just over an hour in an event that was livestreamed on the university’s website, a recording of which is available on YouTube.
Police officers and security guards were present to eliminate any potential threats from protestors that gathered on campus.
During the colloquium, Father Martin detailed stories of hatred against the LGBT community that took place within the church, as well as a few stories in which acceptance within the church saved the lives and faith of LGBT Catholics.
Martin also proceeded to analyze the challenges that go along with welcoming LGBT Catholics into the church, as well as the many negative attitudes that surround LGBT Catholics today.
“By not welcoming, and by excluding LGBT Catholics from the church, the church is falling short of its call to be God’s family,” said Martin. “We are tearing apart God’s family and breaking apart the body of Christ.”
Martin went on to inform the crowd that being homosexual is still illegal in 72 countries. He also mentioned that homosexuality is punishable by death in 8 other countries today.
“I think the speech given by Father James Martin was an extremely powerful message that reached out to all members of the community,” said sophomore, Hannah Bruno, a nursing major.
“I thought it was very brave of him to not only spread the message about acceptance, but to be an exemplary priest and show through action how to live and accept others for who they are.”
For more information about Martin, visit his Facebook page titled “Fr. James Martin, SJ.” His book is also available for purchase on Amazon.