With Nov. 1 marking the celebration of Jesuit History Month, controversy has once again returned to campus.
Father James Martin, S.J., a member of Georgetown University’s Board of Directors, gave the Fall 2023 Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture, titled “Come Forth: How the Story of Lazarus Invites Us to Experience New Life” on Nov. 6.
Prior to the talk, members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), a conservative Catholic advocacy group, camped outside of the front gates, protesting Fr. Martin’s stance on LGTBQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church.
Draped in red sashes and wearing suits, TFP protesters held signs that denounced Fr. Martin and the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the posters read, “We support Catholic teaching and reject Fr. Martin’s attempt to normalize homosexual acts” and “Pray for conversion, don’t spread perversion.”
Not long after hearing (by way of drums) the arrival of the TFP, student counter-protesters gathered with pride flags to show support for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
Ruth Abramovitz (CAS ’27) was taken aback by the overt display of homophobia, but happy to see students gather in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I remember being shocked that there was an act of such strong homophobia actually happening at Georgetown. What I remember most from the protest is the joy of the counter-protesters,” Abramovitz wrote to The Hoya. “They were holding pride flags in front of the protesters and were playing queer anthems, and that show of solidarity against LGBTQ discrimination was really beautiful to see.”
The Editorial Board stands alongside Fr. Martin and his support of the LGBTQ+ community’s inclusion in the Church. Given that no official communication was released by the university, the Board demands that Georgetown outwardly rejects homophobic ideologies and affirms its commitment to fostering a safe campus environment for all students.
The lecture came shortly after the publication of Fr. Martin’s most recent book, “Come Forth: The Promise of Jesus’s Greatest Miracle.” His book discusses the raising of Lazarus from the dead and its significance today, and his talk touched on the same theme.
At the beginning of the lecture, Fr. Martin acknowledged the protest and subsequent counter-protest.
“You may have heard that there were some protesters out in front of the main gate apparently protesting the raising of Lazarus. I am all behind the raising of Lazarus,” Fr. Martin said at the event, eliciting a laugh from some audience members. “And then some Georgetown students came in and expressed their own views and the protesters left. So thank you to all the people who were, seriously, who were standing up for my time here.”
Riley Talbot (CAS ’25), an attendee of the lecture who has followed Fr. Martin’s teachings for many years, noted the importance of his work with the LGBTQ+ community, even though it was not the focus of the talk.
“He made a joke I thought was really funny because the biblical translation that he tells to Lazarus is ‘come out,’ but he was like, ‘I couldn’t name my book that after coming out with like LGBTQ stuff,’ so he came up with ‘come forth,’” Talbot told to The Hoya.
“And then he mentioned just the concept of dying to certain things, because Lazarus died, like was in the tomb for I think, three or four days and then rose to new life and became authentically himself,” Talbot added. “And so during the lecture, he talked a little bit about becoming your authentic self and living truly into that new life, and he related it, somewhat, to LGBTQ ministry.”
Later on in his speech, Fr. Martin discussed his involvement in the Synod — a month-long meeting of top-ranking Catholic officials in the Vatican that occurs every three years. This year’s assembly was the first to include women and lay people and touched on some of the more progressive issues in the Church, which Fr. Martin has spearheaded.
Personally invited by Pope Francis, Fr. Martin advocated for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Church and acted as a voice for the community; yet, his presence on campus was met with hostility.
The protesters from the TFP have a history of following Fr. Martin to his speaking engagements, and their latest stint at Georgetown further reinforced their commitment to a disruptive, homophobic ideology.
Although Georgetown has no jurisdiction over protests which occur outside of campus property, the university has an obligation to affirm the well-being of its students.
A university spokesperson reaffirmed Georgetown’s commitment to inclusivity following the protest.
“At Georgetown we are deeply proud of our religious tradition and recognize the inherent human dignity of every member of our community,” the university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “The safety of our community is our top priority.”
Recognizing the humanity of Georgetown’s LGBTQ students is the bare minimum required of the university. In an increasingly homophobic world, students should feel safe, comfortable and welcome on campus — not belittled by a group that denies their existence.
Even though the protest technically occurred off campus, the TFP’s words directly target Georgetown’s students, and their demonstration took place in a very public place.
Students frequently pass through the front gates — whether that be to get to class in the Car Barn, return home to their off-campus dormitory or grab a bite to eat off campus — making the protest inescapable. TFP’s amplified chanting and speakers permeated onto Healy Lawn, ensuring that students would hear their message.
Given the circumstances, Abramovitz was disheartened to see no administrative response from the university.
“I wish President DeGioia had, at the very least, sent out a schoolwide email reaffirming Georgetown’s support for the Queer community,” Abramovitz wrote to The Hoya. “I imagine that for LGBTQ+ students, seeing that protest was a painful experience, and they deserve the full support of the administration.”
The university must condemn the presence of any and all hateful rhetoric. Georgetown failed to voice its opposition to the TFP and, in doing so, failed its LGBTQ+ community.
The Editorial Board demands that Georgetown fulfill its commitment to inclusivity now and in the future by issuing a statement in the face of such obvious bigotry.
Homophobia is not welcome on this campus, and the university must make this understood, both to students and external demonstrators.
The Hoya’s Editorial Board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.