CNA Staff, Feb 3, 2021 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- An upcoming documentary aims to revise Catholic iconography for those who self-identify as LGBT and will depict Jesus Christ as “a member or ally of the LGBTQ+ community.” It includes appearances from Father James Martin, S.J., as well as dissenting Catholics who reject Church teaching and advocate sacramental marriage for same-sex couples.
A movie poster for the movie “Wonderfully Made” shows a cross with a rainbow banner draped across it. Where the titulus bearing the Latin acronym INRI, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is normally placed, it has the acronym “LGBTQ+.” The acronym includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queer/questioning and more.
“Even those who are rejected are wonderfully made,” says the poster tagline. Another poster for the movie shows a praying man in a shepherd’s shawl, lit up to show the colors of a rainbow. The movie is set to be released in 2021.
The documentary’s director, Yuval David, a Jewish man in a same-sex civil marriage with a Catholic man, claims the film does “something unprecedented.”
“It documents the creation of unique Catholic and LGBTQ+ inclusive iconography through sophisticated photo art that reimagines Jesus as a member or ally of the LGBTQ+ community,” he said in a Dec. 24 essay in Out, an LGBT style and culture magazine.
“The reactions of the film’s interviewees to the photo art — filmed in real-time with all the interviewees — shows the incredible power and impact that an inclusive, accepting Church would have,” David said.
Among the commentators is Father Bryan Massingale, a Fordham University theology professor. The film’s Facebook page describes him as “the only publicly gay, African American, Catholic priest in the country.”
“I dream of a church where two men and two women can stand before the Church, proclaim their love and have it blessed in a sacrament of marriage. And that their love would be seen as divine. That God is present in that relationship. When we look at their relationship, we touch God,” he said, according to the Jan. 10 post.
Massingale’s statements are contrary to the Catholic understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
The documentary interviews various dissenting groups as well, including Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry.
In 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith permanently barred Gramick and New Ways Ministry co-founder Fr. Robert Nugent from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons due to “errors and ambiguities in their approach.” In a February 12, 2010 statement, then-U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the group’s claim to be Catholic “only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”
“No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” Cardinal George continued.
Another commentator is Jason Steidl, a Catholic theologian.
“I want the church to see that our relationships, our sexual desire, are holy, something given to us by God. That’s a gift to the church. Not something to be hidden away, not something to be ashamed of, but something to be celebrated. Something that makes us grow in relationship with each other and makes us grow in relationship with God,” he said.
David credits Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a religious studies professor at Manhattan College in New York, for inspiring the creation of photo art of Jesus.
“The bedrock of the social teaching of the church is that every human being has fundamental dignity and is created in God’s image, no matter what,” she said. “We all benefit from inclusion. The Church needs marginalized voices more than marginalized voices need the Church.”
Other commentators interviewed for the film include Father James Martin, S.J., whose book “Building a Bridge” offered advice on improving relations between the Catholic Church and those who identify as LGBT.
“When you look at the gospels you see that Jesus reached out specifically to people who are on the margins,” Martin said, according to the movie’s Facebook page. “And so, I think if Jesus were here today, in the flesh, on earth, he would be going first to LGBT people. For Jesus, there is no us and them. There’s just us.”
Martin received New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award in October 2016. His acceptance speech served as a basis for his book.
David, the documentarian behind “Wonderfully Made,” characterized both Martin and Gramick as “trailblazing allies.”
He connected the film to current events like Catholic adoption agencies seeking Supreme Court protections from policies that would require them to place children with same-sex couples, and to the election of President Joe Biden.