In a recent interview, James Martin said:
I’m trying to start some dialogue. The reactions been really interesting – I mean the majority has been overwhelming positive – people hugging me, literally, crying…not a day goes by that I don’t get really nice letters and emails and stuff. But then from the far far right, hysterical, total anger about this topic that I would even bring it up. I am a heretic, etc, etc…But you know I hate to tell people Jesus reached out to people on the margins; like it or not. The woman at the well: she’s a Samaritan from this hated group – religious/ethic group that the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee didn’t like very much for a number of reasons, and he is going out to her…So that’s Jesus doing what – modeling for us what we should be doing. I think one of the things that infuriates people…one of the things that infuriates people on the far far right, very very traditionalist Catholics, is that they know at the very deep level that these stories do say that, that they are about inclusion – I think it infuriates them…They actually agree with it and they can’t bring themselves to say it because to bring themselves to say it…would mean a complete change of their life and they cannot abide by that.
While it’s always honorable to encourage others to reach out towards those that are truly on “the margins,” once you make that effort to start a dialogue, the most charitable and compassionate thing to do – is share the truth. And, although James Martin claims that his book does not contradict Church teachings, his public statements are highly problematic. Here are a few –
During a June 16, 2017 Jesuitical podcast, Martin said:
God made you this way. You are wonderfully made, just like Psalm 139 says. You were knit together in your mother’s womb this way, you know, it’s a mystery why you were made this way, but this is part of your identity.
In a August 24, 2017 interview with the pro-gay San Francisco periodical “The Bay Area Reporter,” Martin stated:
Most of the vicious stuff has been from the far right. I think there are five reasons for this: 1) fear of the LGBT person as the ‘other,’ 2) hatred of LGBT people, 3) visceral disgust at same-sex relations, 4) theological opposition to welcoming LGBT people because that means church teaching might be changed, which is terrifying to them, and 5) most importantly is discomfort with their own sexuality, especially because a few of the critics from the far right are self-professed former gays.
“The idea that someone can come-out and be honest and transparent and open about the way that God created them, I think is terrific – it’s something the Catholic Church can support.” (see video.)
“It’s not a sin to be LGBT, that’s the way God created you. I think almost every psychologist, biologist, and scientists would agree with that…”
“Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person—the part that gives and receives love—is ‘disordered’ in itself is needlessly cruel.”
“…some of that language needs to be retired. I think language like ‘objective disorders’ – those kinds of things are very hurtful for people.”
“There is simply no group as marginalized in the Catholic Church as LGBT people. Sometimes they’re treated like lepers.”
“…the Church has been really good at writing documents about them [homosexuals], preaching to them, fulminating about them, tweeting about them, condemning them, but they don’t listen to them very much.” (see video.)
Interviewer: Scott is asking an excellent and provocative question: “Father the purpose of a bridge is to get somewhere; where do you see the bridge ultimately leading to transformation of Church doctrine that arises from a deeper personal understanding of the LGBT community or is the bridge merely a dead end to the status quo?”
Martin: The bridge is definitely not merely a dead end to the status quo…and I certainly don’t think the status quo right now is where we should be staying.
Interviewer: How can one respond to persons citing Leviticus and Corinthians texts condemning homosexuality?”
Martin: All these Bible passages that people throw at you; I think really need to be understood in their historical context. I mean Leviticus and Deuteronomy and even the stuff from the New Testament where Paul talks about it once or twice, has to be understood in their historical context…certainly in Old Testament times, they didn’t understand the phenomena of homosexuality and bisexuality as we do today.
“In his long ministry, his three year public ministry, Jesus says nothing about the topic.”
“…of course doctrine develops, obviously we can change our teaching on these things.”
“So when people say: ‘How can you be gay and Catholic?’ You tell them: ‘This is my experience – I was born this way…’”
Interviewer: Let’s assume you’re successful and churches open their arms to the LGBT community. Is it even possible for LGBT people to feel welcome in the Catholic Church?
Martin: Yes, and many parishes show what this means in practice. Of course, some parishes are more forward-thinking and have LGBT support groups, like the successful “Out at St. Paul” group at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York.
Author’s note: I have been outreaching to the LGBT community in San Francisco for the past several years. After talking with many men and women who identity as “gay” or “lesbian,” in terms of those who have a history of interaction with the Catholic Church, the predominant experience is not one of marginalization and rejection, but deception and facilitation by gay-ministries and so-called “welcoming” parishes. Many have already heard the type of rhetoric and theories which Martin espouses; there are those that don’t agree with him, but most don’t want to wait around until, as Martin claims – “doctrine develops.” Unfortunately some believe it; at the New York City parish of St. Paul the Apostle, their LGBT outreach, “Out at St. Paul,” released a series of videos in which several members were interviewed; one same-sex “married” couple said:
If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.
Martin is certainly at least complicit in the perpetuation of this confusion. Examples of ministries and parishes that are considered “welcoming” include those in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Boston, San Jose, and Portland. Therefore, although I know I can never fully refute the distortions presented in these ministries and parishes, I still believe that those with same-sex attraction deserve to know the truth – and then they can make up their own mind based on the facts, not on the conjecture and opinions of a few priests. As Cardinal Robert Sarah recently wrote:
“Those who identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the Church about this complex and difficult topic.”
While Martin criticizes so-called “very traditionalist Catholics” for supposedly denying that Jesus sought out those on the margins for inclusion within the Church, speaking as someone who was once very much on the margins, I find it inexplicable that a well-educated man like James Martin cannot admit that Jesus did indeed go after the lost sheep, but He did so with love and Words of truth.
Also, I find it ironic that James Martin often makes the claim that the LGBT community is the most marginalized in the Catholic Church, but then he subsequently marginalizes and caricaturizes those who disagree with him as “far far right.” I disagree with him, and I don’t think I fit into that category.