LGBT advocate Fr. James Martin has been invited to speak at a meeting of Catholic college and university presidents to offer advice on how to deal with current issues of sex and gender within their institutions.

The annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. More than 150 of the association’s nearly 200 school presidents and 250 senior school leaders were present.

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of the group, said the group welcomed Martin warmly. It was a reflection, he said, of the fact that Catholic higher education leaders are wrestling with how to think through issues such as unisex bathrooms, ­non-binary language and how to apply Catholic teaching to LGBT issues….

Longtime attendees of the conference were surprised at the invitation since in all past meetings the LGBT agenda has been ignored. The invitation reflects a new generation of Catholic college presidents as well as the influence of Pope Francis, who emphasizes making all feel welcome, some of them said….

Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, said the appearance by an LGBT advocate would not have happened under previous popes.

“The group’s leadership has avoided this subject in the past because it was a lightning rod with the bishops,” he said, noting that Holtschneider has been in the job for less than a year. In addition, Towey said “perception by some of Pope Francis’s openness on LGBT outreach, it seems to me, there is a shift underway … .”

The above comes from a Feb. 5 story on Church Militant.