Bishop McElroy: Right Wing Attacks on LGBT Issues a “Wake-Up Call” for Catholics

Right wing attacks on Jesuit  Fr. James Martin’s views on LGBT issues should be a “wake-up call” for Catholics, said San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy in a new essay.

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Bishop Robert McElroy

McElroy’s essay in America identified a “cancer of vilification seeping into the institutional life of the church,” namely the judgmentalism now on display against Fr. Martin. Last week, news broke that Theological College in Washington, D.C. along with a couple other institutions, had cancelled lectures by Martin because of his new book on LGBT issues in the church, Building a Bridge. For more information on these incidents, click here. To read New Ways Ministry’s statement on this incident, click here.

Praising Building a Bridge, McElroy admitted there is “legitimate and substantive criticism” which Martin has received. Yet recent attacks from the right go beyond acceptable discourse and should be a “wake up call” for Catholics, the bishop wrote. He continued:

“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church. Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities. . .

“The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church.”

The right wing groups have sought to “vilify” Martin by distorting his work and assassinating his character, said McElroy. Expanding his reflection beyond just the Martin incidents, the bishop explored the homophobic impulse. He said the attacks “tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture,” adding:

“The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the L.G.B.T. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. Gay sexual activity is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that L.G.B.T. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of sexual orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed. . .

“The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God.”

McElroy also identified another dimension associated with these attacks: the right wing’s “distortion of Catholic moral theology.” The bishop said what is central to Christian life is not chastity, but love. He explained:

“Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not. . .Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both.”

McElroy also pointed out how the attacks on Martin’s book echo conservatives’ rejection of Pope Francis’ pastoral approach to LGBT issues. McElroy wrote:

“Regarding the issue of homosexuality, in particular, many of those attacking Father Martin simply cannot forgive the Holy Father for uttering that historic phrase on the plane: ‘Who am I to judge?’ The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church.”

McElroy’s essay ends on a disappointing note. In his concluding paragraph, he wrote that it is “judgmentalism on both sides” which has created the divide between LGBT people and the institutional church, rhetoric similar to the “on all sides” phrasing so sharply criticized in recent secular conversations on race . Martin has been criticized for likewise saying both sides are to blame without acknowledging the power differential between marginalized LGBT people and the powerful church leaders who allow or even enact such marginalization.

McElroy’s essay, which you can read in full by clicking here, is a strong defense of Fr. Martin and a welcome acknowledgement of the prejudice and abuse that LGBT people in the church face. The dialogue over LGBT issues in the church must also address power dynamics at work in the discussion.  If church leaders claim that there is “judgmentalism on both sides,” the extremely necessary “wake-up call” to expel the “cancer of vilification”that McElroy calls for won’t happen.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Building a Bridge, reviews about it, and the conversation around it, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 20, 2017

 

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Support Pours in for Fr. Martin After Lecture Cancellations

Support for Fr. James Martin, SJ, has been strong after lectures by him were cancelled due to pressure from right-wing websites that criticize Martin for his new book on LGBT issues in the church.

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Fr. James Martin, SJ

Last Friday, Martin posted on his Facebook page that Theological College in Washington, D.C. had cancelled a scheduled talk by him. He also reported that two other talks in October, one for the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York City and one for CAFOD, the English bishops’ humanitarian aid program were canceled. All of these talks were about encountering Jesus and not LGBT issues.  For New Ways Ministry’s statement on the cancellation at Theological College, click here.

Martin said the cancellations were “a result of anger or fear over my book ‘Building a Bridge,’ about LGBT Catholics.” He continued:

“In the case of Theological College, the fears were of angry protesters disrupting their Alumni Day. In the case of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Dinner, it was anger from some members over the topic of LGBT Catholics. In the case of Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems. In none of these cases was the local ordinary–in each a cardinal–in any way advocating for the cancellation of the talk. The impetus was purely from those social media sites.

“I have asked each organization to be honest about the reasons for these cancellations. That is, I told them I did not want to lie and say, “I withdrew” or “I declined” or “I was afraid to come.”

“So I share with you as much as I can in the interests of transparency, which we need in our church. And to show you the outsize influence of social media sites motivated by fear, hatred and homophobia.”

Rightwing websites instigated the attacks on Martin, referring to him as “homosexualist” and “sodomy-promoting,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. Theological College’s rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, cited the “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites” because of Building a Bridge as the reason why cancellation was “in the best interest of all parties,” reported Crux.

Interestingly, The Catholic University of America’s president, John Garvey, distanced the school from Theological College’s decision. The seminary is “under the auspices” of the university, but acted apart from direct oversight in deciding to cancel the lecture, according to a statement.

Martin’s supporters rose quickly to his defense, including an outpouring of such support on social media. Jesuits Fr. John Cecero, S.J. and Fr. Timothy Kesicki, Martin’s superiors, along with the editor-in-chief of America, where Martin works, all released supportive statements. Despite the cancellations and with such support, Martin is undeterred, saying of the rightwing websites:

“[They] traffic in hatred and they foment fear. . .Perfect love drives out fear, as we learn in the New Testament. . .But perfect fear drives out love. But I’m not deterred or even disturbed.”

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907

Email:  olkiewicz@cua.edu

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2017

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Gender Ideology, Transgender Reality: A Deacon Parent’s Perspective

Deacon Ray Dever

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger: Deacon Ray Dever of St. Paul Catholic Church, Tampa, Florida

One morning this past spring, I found myself somewhere I honestly never could have imagined I would be: sitting in a dreary courtroom in Washington DC with my firstborn. We were patiently awaiting her turn before a judge.

It was a long way from the familiar, comfortable surroundings of my home and my Catholic parish in sunny Tampa Florida.  And it was an even longer way from a place I was almost ten years ago, a place of almost total ignorance of LGBTQ issues.  The issue that morning was a legal name change for my 23-year old transgender daughter, a recent graduate of Georgetown University.  The name change was another milestone in her challenging journey towards living as her authentic self.  While this milestone was certainly positive for my daughter, it forced me to reflect once again on the enormous and painful disconnect between the reality of the lives of transgender individuals and the rampant misinformation that often dominates discourse about transgender issues in both the Church and the public square.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis expressed concern with “an ideology of gender”, which he imagines to be an ideology that seeks to eliminate sexual differences in society, thereby undermining the basis for the family.  (There have been numerous, thoughtful discussions of the confusion around so-called gender ideology, including here on Bondings 2.0.  You can read some here, here, and here. )  Independent of Amoris Laetitia, individuals in the Church hierarchy have issued blanket condemnations of trans individuals, occasionally citing discredited or marginal information sources as “science” to support their positions.  I have nothing but respect for the good intentions that undoubtedly underlie these statements, but my personal experience is that these statements have fueled misunderstanding and bigotry, and not love,  truth, and life that are the essence of Jesus Christ.

These church discussions of “ideology of gender” do not ring true for anyone with any significant first-hand knowledge of trans individuals.  Such people would be baffled by the suggestion that the trans people they know, or the presence of trans individuals in society, are somehow the result of an ideology of gender.  Long before there were gender studies programs in any universities or the phrase “gender ideology” was ever spoken, transgender people were present, recognized, and even valued in many cultures around the world.

Trans individuals are not people who have been indoctrinated into some ideology that convinces them they can simply choose their own gender. They don’t just decide one morning to start dressing differently.  They are transgender by virtue of some combination of biological and psychological factors that scientists are just beginning to understand.  The only choice that trans individuals have in the matter is the challenging choice to embrace who they are and to live their lives openly as their authentic selves, in the face of rejection, discrimination, bigotry, and even violence that they know they will have to endure.

In the public sphere, recent efforts to curtail legal protections for the transgender community, including all the nonsense around bathroom bills, are further evidence of how pervasive the misunderstanding and confusion about gender identity continues to be.  Given the wide availability of information and testimonials,  there really is no excuse for that kind of thinking.  The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, who together represent over 300,000 doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists,  have each affirmed the reality of transgender individuals, and have issued documents opposing all forms of discrimination against them and providing standards of health care for them.  The United Nations has opposed legal discrimination and violence that trans individuals suffer in many parts of the world.  Companies and organizations we all do business with every day–from Apple to Wal-Mart–recognize trans individuals with equal employment opportunity policies and inclusive health insurance.

Since I wear the two hats of parent of a transgender woman and permanent deacon in the Church, my reaction to gender identity controversies is both personal and pastoral.

From the personal perspective, I share the concerns of all parents for the well-being of their children, including their adult children.  These concerns are amplified when an LGBTQ individual is involved.  Our prayers and hopes for our children are colored by the reality of the discrimination they will likely face for the rest of their lives.  The probability of being a victim of violence or committing suicide is greater for the LGBTQ community than for the general populace, and even greater for the transgender community in particular.  My family is always a bit on edge when we go out together, constantly worried that unfriendly stares and remarks might escalate to a confrontation, and that a confrontation could become violent.  Nobody should have to live that way.  All that transgender individuals want is simply to live their lives as who they are, with the same rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy.

My pastoral perspective is informed by the call that all permanent deacons share: to bring the Church into the world and to bring the problems of the world back to the Church.  Well, here’s one such problem:  the community of faith includes transgender people who are marginalized, unjustly condemned, and suffering simply because of who they are, and that marginalization and suffering extends to their family and friends.  Every time that a trans (or gay, lesbian, bisexual) kid is rejected by their family in the name of faith and ends up homeless and struggling to survive, we as a people of faith need to take responsibility.  We can’t just sweep it under the rug and hide behind some vague Church document or isolated scripture passage.

In its discussion of gender ideology, Amoris Laetitia warns against falling into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.  I definitely agree.  But I think this warning begs the question:  are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and we have the hubris to deny what God has made?  I pray that the Church will be open to learning and embracing the truth about transgender individuals, who have the same inherent value and dignity as all human beings.  Perhaps we all need to have a little more humility and a little more faith in what God has created here on earth.

–Deacon Ray Dever, September 18, 2017

Related posts:

To review all Bondings 2.0 posts on gender ideology, click here.

“Going to Wings”: A Catholic Lesbian’s Memoir of Coming Out

Sandra Worsham

Today’s post is from guest blogger Sandra Worsham, author of  Going to Wings, the memoir of her coming out as a Catholic lesbian.  (published by Third Lung Press, August, 2017, available at independent bookstores and on Amazon.com)

“The struggle of the gay Christian’s complicated effort to reconcile sexuality and faith is often overlooked by church leaders and more secular gays. But it is a complex, and deeply engaging journey.”     –George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

It has taken me seventy years to write my “coming out” memoir, Going to Wings, because I had to live it in order to write it. When I was twenty-seven years old, I tried to tell my mother that I was gay. That day of “The Telling” was a dividing point in my life. My mother’s reaction was so bad that I couldn’t follow through with my decision to be public. She said that she would have to move away, that she couldn’t live in our town if I was going to be gay.

From that day forward, and for the next thirty years, I tried to change myself. I decided that day that I would not be gay and that I would be “as good as I could be.” I would never have to feel guilty again. That period was the beginning of my leaving the Baptist Church and becoming a Catholic. The Catholic Church, I believed then, would tell me in no uncertain terms what was right and what was wrong. Not to be gay would be “right.” At age twenty-seven, I gave myself to the Catholic Church. For twenty-five years I played the organ for the Saturday night vigil, and I cantored the Psalm. Singing the Psalms was my way of praying. And I formed a close celibate relationship with my good Catholic friend, “Teeny.”

After my mother, and later, Teeny, died, I realized that for all those years, I had buried a part of myself. I got on Match.com and met someone. I began to explore all of me, even the part that I had hidden. I met Letha and, on Valentine’s Day, 2010, we were legally and spiritually married at the Second Congregational Church in Bennington, Vermont. That summer we had a wedding reception at our home in Milledgeville, Georgia, complete with a tiered cake and a guest list of over fifty people, straight and gay. I didn’t send my parish priest an invitation, but someone in the church showed him hers. She needed the priest to tell her that it would be “all right” if she attended. He told her no, that her attendance would signify approval. Then he called me into the rectory and fired me from playing the organ. This priest, who had only been at our church for a few months, didn’t know me, and he didn’t know about my many years of faithfulness to the church. Yet, I hung my head in shame and left the rectory.

As I left, he called out to me, “You and Letha are welcome to worship with us.”

I stopped and turned, “Can I receive the Eucharist?”

“Well, no, not that,” he said.

Letha and I tried to find a church together. But on the Sundays that she didn’t go with me, I knew that no church was going to give me the close feeling I had to Jesus that I had found in the Catholic Church. Yet, I was not welcome to receive communion, and I could no longer play the organ. Finally, after several years of trying other churches, I went back to talk to the priest. I told him that I was angry with him, that I needed to forgive him, and that I wanted to come back. I told him that I wanted to receive the Eucharist. He asked me if I could go to one of the surrounding churches, but not to ours. “Where you went wrong,” he said to me, “was making it public.”

I talked with Sister Jeannine Gramick from New Ways Ministry who told me that the priest could not refuse me if I came to him in the communion line. “They are not supposed to presume,” she said. She told me that my going to communion might make the priest feel uncomfortable but that he would get used to it. I talked with the priest again before I went back to communion, not in the confessional, but in a face-to-face conversation. I told him that I had missed mass for a long time. I told him that I had tried to join the Reformation. I did not refute my marriage, I did not express sorrow for being in a gay relationship, and I did not ask his permission to receive the Eucharist.

Sister Jeannine told me that I had a mission:  the more people I told about being gay,  the more tolerant people would become. But she warned me that things would not be easy, that the servant could not expect more than the Master. Many times when I go to mass, the priest seems to rise up like a big black shadow with wide bat wings, obscuring my view of the altar. I keep reminding myself that there is hope in Pope Francis.

Letha and I are happy. We have a good marriage. I sit in my chair and read and write. She draws intricate designs on a pad. I’ve written my story as a book, Going to Wings  which has been published, and the enthusiasm and support have been overwhelming. I have told my story, and Letha designed the cover.

What about the title Going to Wings? On Tuesdays we meet our friends for dinner at The Brick, a restaurant in downtown Milledgeville, Georgia. When they first invited us to come to “Wings,” I thought, Cool! An expression of new-found freedom!

“Nope!” they said. “The chicken wings are cheap on Tuesdays.”

But for me, “Going to Wings” means a lot more than that.

–Sandra Worsham, September 15, 2017

 

Seminary Cancels Fr. Martin’s Talk Due to Criticism of His LGBT Book

The following is a statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the decision by a national Catholic seminary to disinvite Fr. James Martin, SJ, due to criticism of his new book on LGBT issues.

Theological College, a national seminary in Washington, D.C., has delivered a devastating blow to the Catholic Church, academic freedom, and pastoral outreach to LGBT people by canceling the speaking engagement of Jesuit Father James Martin because some social media sites have criticized his book, Building a Bridge, which encourages dialogue between the institutional church and the LGBT community.

The decision is an impotent one in which the seminary’s leaders reveal that they are powerless to stand up to commentators whose views are beyond the mainstream of Catholic thought. It reveals cowardice on the part of the seminary’s administrators who do not have integrity to withstand pressure from outside forces, and instead opt for censorship instead of discussion.

Fr. James Martin, SJ
Unless it reverses its decision, Theological College’s renown as an academic institution is irreparably damaged.  Worse yet, the decision does great damage to the tenuous relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community which Fr. Martin’s book has already been strengthening. Scores of Catholic parishes and colleges have welcomed Fr. Martin to speak since the publication of Building a Bridge.

It is astonishing that the seminary leaders did not side with the two cardinals and a bishop who praised Fr. Martin’s book as it was being published.  One of those cardinals, Kevin Farrell, is the head of Congregation for Laity, Family, and Life at the Vatican.  Indeed, Fr. Martin himself is a Vatican consultor on communications.  What could possibly motivate the seminary rector, Fr. Gerald McBrearity, to feel that he could not let a speaker with the impressive credentials and Vatican approval that Fr. Martin has to speak in an academic setting?

This decision is ludicrous for two other reasons.  First,  Fr. Martin was not scheduled to speak on the book in question or on the area of LGBT issues. He, instead, was speaking on his book about the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Second, by his own acknowledgement, and the reviews of many scholars, Building a Bridge is a mild book, whose most strong claim is that Church leaders should treat LGBT people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–ideals which are demanded by Catholic doctrine in the Catechism.

Theological College’s statement said that Fr. McBrearity made the decision “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy.”  Based on those criteria, the decision is an epic failure as, in fact, it will attract more controversy than Fr. Martin’s speaking appearance would ever have done. It tarnishes the reputation of the school and of the Catholic Church in the U.S.  It makes Catholic leaders look censorious and small-minded.  Indeed, almost everyone in the Catholic Church has been discussing LGBT issues over the past decade.  Why should a book whose aim is reconciliation on this topic be cause for barring a celebrated author from speaking?

Since its publication early this summer, Fr. Martin’s Building a Bridge was reaching a wide audience of church leaders, including many bishops.  In my travels to several Catholic professional and ecclesial conferences these past few months, everyone said they had read, were reading, or intended to read the book.  All who had read it spoke of its great value. Instead of being a danger to the church, all saw it as a great gift. Despite this setback, the conversation on LGBT issues in the church to which Building a Bridge has given new life will still continue.

Fr. Martin is experiencing the rejection of many who speak out prophetically.  It is the same rejection experienced by millions of Jesus’ followers and, indeed, by Jesus Himself. For the sake of Fr. Martin, for Catholic academics, and for LGBT Catholics, we pray this sorry and shameful action by Theological College will soon be reversed.

To ask Theological College to reverse its decision disinviting Fr. Martin, write to:

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, Rector

Theological College

401 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, DC 20017

Phone:  202-756-4907

Email:  olkiewicz@cua.edu

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 16, 2017

 

Students Resist Catholic School’s Anti-Marriage Equality Program

Students and parents at an Australian Catholic school have resisted administrators’ decision to host a program where the presenters advocated that people vote against marriage equality in the nation’s non-binding plebiscite on that issue, which is now underway.

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Pro-marriage equality signs posted by students

Officials at St. Brigid’s College, Lesmurdie, a high school in Western Australia, invited a Christian group called “Loving for Life” to lead a sexual education program for 11th and 12th graders. Students claim the presenters urged the registered voters among them to vote “No” in the plebiscite.  Students have responded by posting pro-marriage equality signs around the school.

A St. Brigid’s parent told WA News that “kids came out of the program saying it seemed they were urged to vote no, and they were obviously pretty upset.” The parent added:

“‘They said they were told about how marriage should be between a man and a woman and why that’s the case, and of course there’s a few girls in the class who are gay, and they said they just felt completely unsupported by their school. . .Why would they come out to the school the week the postal vote was sent out? I don’t believe [it was a coincidence] for a second.'”

A student said presenters framed the program as an “open discussion,” but “any time that one of us had our own opinions. . .we were shut down, ignored and told we were wrong.” Parents were also upset that no consent form had been sent to them, as is standard for sexual education.

Both Loving for Life and St. Brigid’s administrators are denying the program’s content deviated from the normal presentation to include anything on marriage equality. Dr. Amelia Toffoli, the principal, said:

“‘The College has no intention of influencing individual family decisions in relation to the Marriage Equality postal survey, nor does it endorse programs that are intended to politicise important social matters affecting its community’. . .

“‘St Brigid’s College seeks to provide a learning environment that supports students to develop as critical thinkers, who are able to consider and respect diverse viewpoints and contribute meaningfully to their communities whilst understanding Catholic teaching on important issues, such as the Church’s teaching on marriage.'”

Whether administrators intended to influence students’ views on marriage equality or not, hosting an LGBT-negative program at this moment was an insensitive decision. The plebiscite now underway has prompted a heated and sometimes nasty debate, including the public posting of neo-Nazi literature targeting LGBT parents. This moment is therefore one in which Catholic schools should be especially supportive of LGBT and questioning students.

If St. Brigid’s administrators need a model for how to provide this support, they can look to other Catholic schools in Australia. For example, rectors at Xavier College in Melbourne and Saint Ignatius’ College in Sydney called on their school communities to discern carefully about how they will vote in the plebiscite. In addition, Trinity Catholic College in New South Wales recently welcomed two transgender students and provided them necessary accommodations.

Beyond officials’ actions, however, are students’ actions to be inclusive. Faced with programming that was not inclusive and may have created an unsafe environment, St. Brigid’s students affirmed clearly the goodness of LGBT people and their relationships. In their resistance, we can all find hope for the future.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 15, 2017

Fr. James Martin Responds to Vile Attacks with Integrity and Solidarity

Fr. James Martin, SJ, has received a variety of different responses to his recent book on LGBT issues in the Catholic church (Building A Bridge). One recent exchange on social media revealed just how harsh and childish some critics can be, and how well Martin is choosing to respond.

James Martin cropped
Fr. James Martin, SJ

Austin Ruse, who writes for the alt-right website Breitbart and is president of a right-wing organization (which used to be identified as Catholic but has since become secular) that opposes LGBT equality, attacked Martin on Twitter recently. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Ruse used harsh anti-gay slurs, and said the priest was leading lesbian and gay people to hell.

Ruse’s comments were a response to another Twitter controversy during which the conservative website CatholicVote.org had tweeted, “And then this Dominican showed up and started beating @JamesMartinSJ like a rented mule. The crowd went wild.”

But against such vile language and even the implicit threat of violence, Fr. Martin has responded with integrity and solidarity. He explained his decision to respond on Facebook:

“I almost never engage with hateful social media comments. But this time was different. For me, it represented, in the first place, the crossing of a line by a prominent Catholic website (the encouragement of violence even in a joking way is beyond the pale); and in the second, a teachable moment brought about by a slur (‘pansy’), about homophobia in our church, even in high echelons.”

In another Facebook post, Martin acknowledged that LGBT people face “hatred and contempt” every day and he hoped that through the support of community he would try to”make them feel like beloved children of God.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter defended Martin as a “gifted spiritual writer” and “gentle soul,” while calling Ruse a white nationalist “fire-eater.” He stated:

“To most American Catholics, Martin is one of the sons in whom we take the most pride, a churchman who helps others grow in their relationship with the church and with its head, Jesus, a priest who makes ancient traditions accessible to modern readers. And, to those of us who have known him as a colleague, the private Fr. Martin shines with the same wit and holiness and pastoral solicitude as the readers encounter in his writing. He is a treasure and his works will be read long after the fire-eaters have been forgotten.”

MartinInclusion.jpgWinters’ defense of Martin is especially important since the columnist disagreed with parts of the priest’s book.  Winters said Building a Bridge was “not my favorite book” on homosexuality, and like other reviewers quibbled with Martin’s decision to forgo any discussion of sexual ethics. Winters also said he thinks there are theological hurdles to the LGBT discussion and “some of those hurdles may prove insurmountable.”

 

A wide spectrum of reviewers have critiqued Building a Bridge, from Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. But despite these critiques, Martin’s book is having an impact on the church. He has used it to breathe new life into the conversation on LGBT issues in the church, and has likely opened the eyes (and possibly hearts) of Catholics who might be less affirming of LGBT people. If nothing else, he is using his high profile platform to help eradicate in the church the kind of hate speech used by Ruse and those faithful like him. For his efforts, Winters is right: Martin will surely be remembered long after his vile critics are forgotten.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 14, 2017