A gay-affirming Jesuit priest may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s a stereotype that Reverend James Martin is attempting to break with his new book, Building a Bridge: a call for inclusion of LGBT Catholics.
The book was approved by his Jesuit superiors as being “in line” with church teachings, but traditional Catholics have attempted to destroy Martin on social media, calling him, among other things, “effeminate” and a “heretic.” Several of Martin’s plans for speaking gigs at Catholic universities have been also cancelled because the negative press would attract unwanted attention:
On Friday, Theological College, the national seminary at the Catholic University of America in Washington, withdrew its invitation to Father Martin, who was scheduled to deliver a speech on Jesus in early October. The seminary said in a statement that the decision was made after “increasing negative attacks” on social media. And while seminary officials “in no way” agreed with the critics, the college wanted to avoid “distractions” during centennial events, the statement said.
John Garvey, the university’s president, made it clear in a statement released Saturday that it did not support the decision to disinvite Father Martin. He also lamented how attempts to stop “the civil exchange of ideas” on campuses nationwide apply to both ends of the political spectrum. “It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate the same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity,” he said.
Reverend Martin wasn’t naïve about facing backlash for his views, but even he admits it’s been stronger and more vitriolic than he expected:
“It’s insane. This is about reaching out to people on the margins. But on that issue it tells us that we have a lot to learn. If we can’t even begin a dialogue without a charge of heresy, then we need to take a good look at how we understand the gospel.”
There have been quite a few issues over the centuries that started out as heresy in the Catholic Church, such as the discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. The Church, for its part, did apologize to Galileo for threatening him with death at the stake for his teachings. (Sure, it was nearly three centuries past his death, but better late than never, right?) The Catholic Church has also been complicit in, and belatedly apologized for, acts of violence against heretics.
Maybe a few centuries from now, the Church will issue an apology to Martin as well.
(Screenshot via YouTube)