The most prestigious U.S. Catholic theological organization for the first time has awarded its highest honor to an openly gay scholar, the first.
The Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), the primary professional associations for this area’s scholars, presented its John Courtney Murray Award to Orlando Espin, a professor of systematic theology at the University of San Diego, a Catholic school in southern California. Espin, who was awarded the honor at the society’s meeting in June, was cited for his work on intercultural issues. The citation announcing the award praised him for having “wrestled with problems associated with the historical and contemporary legacies of colonization, slavery, racism, and prejudice against LGBT persons.”
In his acceptance speech, Espin included thanks to his husband, Ricardo Gallego, who was present at the meeting, which occurred in Puerto Rico. Gallego is director of Latinoa Services at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. They have been married since 2008, though they have been a couple for 23 years.
In a statement to Bondings 2.0, Espin said that he thanked Gallego for his work with vulnerable minority populations, noting: “I write theology. He lives it.”
His speech received a standing ovation.
The citation additionally praised Espin for being “a pioneer and leader in the field of Latino/Latina theology” who “has played a central part in promoting the highest scholarly standards for Hispanic/Latino theology.” According to The National Catholic Reporter, Espin also “founded and directs the Center for the Study of Latino/Catholicism. He is also a founder of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) and has twice served as its president.” He is only the third ethnic minority to receive this prestigious award, and the first openly gay theologian to do so.
The theme of this year’s CTSA meeting was “Justice and Mercy,” examining themes that are key to Pope Francis’ papacy. The theme is very similar to the theme of New Ways Ministry’s upcoming Eighth National Symposium, which is “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” It will be held in Chicago, April 28-30, 2017.