Is Robert George wrong to vouch for pro-LGBT priest James Martin?
June 25, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – When a respected conservative Catholic academic appeared to vouch for a pro-LGBT priest, confusion and controversy erupted in some Catholic circles.
A chummy tweeted photo of Princeton’s Prof. Robert P. George with Fr. James Martin, SJ triggered a discussion among those who are far more accustomed to agreement than disagreement with each other.
While the whole affair is likely uncomfortable for everybody involved, it raises some important points for reflection.
1] Prof. George’s credentials, orthodoxy and motives are above reproach.
It would be hard to name anyone alive today who has fought harder for Catholic orthodoxy, marriage, and religious and academic freedom in this country than the man who occupies the McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Prof. George is also the founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and recently served as chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Prof. George is a big deal, so many Catholics pay close attention to what he says and does.
2] Were the terms established by Prof. George that resulted in him supporting Fr. Martin framed incorrectly from the start?
Fr. Martin has devoted his life to preaching gay liberation theology in the Catholic Church. Those who have paid attention to the ministry he has carved out for himself have watched him promote ideas that reject church teaching and best pastoral practices.
So last October Prof. George publicly challenged him.
In retrospect, the questions put to Fr. Martin by Prof. George in a Public Discourse article to test the Jesuit’s faithfulness to church teaching may have been framed incorrectly, allowing too much wriggle room.
Months later, Fr. Martin responded in America Magazine with an article that sounded as if it had been cut and pasted from the Catholic Catechism. It seemed at first as if he had had a change of heart. He easily passed Prof. George’s test with flying colors, and so now Prof. George dutifully, respectfully attests to his Catholic orthodoxy.
But Fr. Martin watchers see no resulting change in his words or actions. He continues to promote pro-LGBT ideology at odds with Church teaching.
Just last week Martin made two public statements which call into question his orthodoxy:
First, he sent out a Tweet praising his own parish for producing a booklet where people assert they are born gay, where men call each other “husband,” and a man who is HIV positive thinks church teaching is wrong when it asks for homosexuals to be chaste.
Second, when the Vatican incorporated the term ‘LGBT’ into its Youth Synod document––the first time in the history of the Catholic Church––Martin observed that for orthodox Catholics “It will be harder to object now,” to the infiltration of gay ideology.
Either of these statements on their own are cause for grave concern.
It’s easy to see why judgments about Fr. Martin remain all over the map.
3] Did orthodox Prof. George prematurely give his seal of approval to a heterodox priest?
In itself, the photo which triggered all this is not intrinsically problematic––just two handsome smiling guys. But unstated messages were read into the photo due to the simmering controversy which preceded it.
Austin Ruse, President of C-Fam, penned a reaction for Crisis Magazine critical of Prof. George’s Tweet:
It was a shocking photo. There was Jesuit James Martin with his arm around Professor Robert George of Princeton, both of them grinning ear to ear.
Professor George published the photo on his Twitter feed and it appeared this beacon of orthodoxy had given his imprimatur to the heterodoxy of James Martin, who has quite famously opposed Church teaching on homosexuality.
Others, including some of Prof. George’s Twitter and Facebook followers, expressed varying degrees of dismay, but most agreed on one thing: Prof. George just gave undue credibility to Fr. Martin’s promotion of gay liberation theology.
One of George’s Twitter followers responded: “Your outreach and bridge building is commendable, but I can’t shake the feeling that working with Martin does nothing but allow him to leech credibility from you.”
Another said, “I respect you greatly. But the flaws in Fr. Martin’s philosophy and theology are not just little things that can be tweaked.”
Clearly, the photo and subsequent online discussions pulled the scab off a festering disagreement among orthodox Catholics.
In this equation of Prof. George + Fr. Martin, it appears that Fr. Martin has derived all the benefit––having perhaps been given a desperately needed leg up from a prominent conservative Catholic in order to gain broader acceptance of his message––while Prof. George derived little, leaving some wondering if his good will was taken advantage of.
4] Some chaste same-sex attracted Catholics feel the sting of friendly fire.
Austin Ruse continued:
Professor George ought to know the bruising he has caused among those who believe James Martin brings confusion and even scandal to the question of homosexuality. Those of us fighting to keep Martin out of our parishes now have to contend with George’s imprimatur. And I have heard from several ex-gays who are crushed and even angry with Professor George and who believe he has cut their legs out from under them.
Full disclosure: I am one of them.
I do not think Prof. George intended to do this, but he has demoralized the folks who do a herculean job––and who personally put the most on the line––by standing up against the lies and empty promises of the gay liberation theology championed by Fr. Martin. These are the chaste same-sex attracted men and women who daily, diligently identify and uncover and interpret the untruths and odd silences of Jesuit Fr. Martin and his ilk.
These would include the men and women of Courage, the Church’s Apostolate to the same-sex attracted, and others such as the courageous Joseph Sciambra, a valiant warrior bringing the bright light of Gospel truth to the dense dark LGBT world of San Francisco.
I don’t think Fr. Martin has ever said one kind word about the mission of the Courage Apostolate or has even acknowledged its existence.
Ruse went on:
Joseph Sciambra attends gay pride parades wearing a “God Loves Gay Men” t-shirt and handing out rosaries. He loves these men so much that he exposes himself to abuse. He told me, “I am done with Martin and all those who collaborate with him. It is very clear what Martin is up to.” He says it was priests just like Martin who confirmed his homosexuality that led to Sciambra’s lost decade in the bowels of the sex-drenched gay world. He says the opinions of Catholic elites—priests, prelates, and lay academics—are “utterly devoid of any knowledge about the actual reality of the gay experience.”
“Many will be led astray by this increasing influence which puts the ‘New Ways Ministry’ model of LGBT acceptance to the fore,” noted Catholic author Leila Marie Lawler on Facebook, “and the ‘Courage’ model of healing wounds in the dustheap.”
5] Prof. George has adamantly defended his stance, but has not successfully settled the controversy
Prof. George responded to Austin Ruse and others by writing a lengthy article for Public Discourse in which he explained his reasoning, but failed to put the issue to bed. In fact, it reignited discussion.
Whatever ambiguity or perhaps error there may have been before his recent piece in America, Fr. Martin has left no room for detractors (or, for that matter, supporters) to suppose that he believes marriage can be between persons of the same sex or that homosexual conduct can be morally good—propositions that are clearly in defiance of Catholic teaching. [...]
If Fr. Martin is lying, which I resolutely do not believe he is, then he, of course, is answerable for that to God. But please note that by the same token, anyone who falsely accuses him of lying is also answerable to God.
There are many––myself included––who have such a long history of dealing with and reporting on Fr. Martin’s promotion of gay liberation theology within the Church that we can’t easily wrap our heads around the notion that he is a faithful promoter of Catholic orthodoxy. Understandably, many of us are “from Missouri” on this (‘show me’ State) and will remain so until Fr. Martin’s statements prove otherwise. That will take a considerable amount of time, and I hope Prof. George gets that.
Prof. George has also previously said that anyone who doesn’t buy into Fr. Martin’s claim of faithfulness to Church teaching is “churlish,” which has the effect of diminishing their objections. Yet there are many reasons, including a long history, which invite skepticism from reasonable people of faith.
Joseph Sciambra responded to Prof. George’s tripling down on Facebook, by pointing out: “James Martin wants to ‘dialogue’ with certain sectors of the LGBT community. Those who agree with him - he wants de-pathologize; those who disagree with him, he never misses an opportunity to pathologize. He claims that ex-gays need to deal with their ‘own junk.’”
Sciambra’s statement is accurate, and it demonstrates why it’s hard for many to suddenly assent to Martin orthodoxy.
6] Prof. George’s words will be weaponized against those who defend orthodox teaching and pastoral practices.
The various pro-LGBT efforts in dioceses and parishes around the country have now been given conservative cover for their LGBT ‘ministries.’
Prof. George’s now very public friendship with Fr. Martin will pave the way for more speaking engagements for the Jesuit
Most troubling, it will be used as a cudgel to squelch criticism by orthodox Catholics of Fr. Martin and all other efforts to normalize homosexuality and transgenderism within Catholicism.
7] Will this be used to immunize the upcoming World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin against criticism for its pro-LGBT stance?
Fr. Martin’s presentation, titled “Exploring how Parishes can support those families with members who identify as LGBTI+,” is perhaps the first instance of the Vatican seemingly denying the reality that there are only two genders.
It’s the participation of people like Fr. Martin that spurred orthodox Catholics to plan a simultaneous conference featuring authentic Church teaching, which will be held nearby. The alternate conference, hosted by Ireland’s conservative Lumen Fidei Institute, aims to defend the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
Regarding the Jesuit priest’s presence at the WMOF, Lumen Fidei head Andrew Murphy said, “I think any faithful catholic would be deeply disappointed to have someone who has caused so much confusion with his various interventions and so much harm to the body of the Church by this confusion,” according to The Tablet report.
“I’ve spoken to many clergy in Ireland, America and in England who cannot believe that such a man would invited with Vatican approval,” continued Murphy. “All we can say is that this man doesn’t represent the teaching of the church and he is heavily influenced by the anti-Catholic homosexualist lobby.”
Prof. George’s recent comments regarding Fr. Martin will most likely be employed as a shield that WMOF organizers can use to deflect criticism.
8] Likewise, will the perceived George/Martin bromance be touted to blunt criticism of the LGBT-affirming Vatican Youth Synod?
It has just been learned that for the first time in history, Vatican officials have seemingly embraced the notion that some people are born gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender via the inclusion of the term “LGBT” in the preparatory document for the Holy See’s upcoming Youth Synod.
This is a stunning turn of events, undermining centuries of Church teaching and pastoral wisdom.
The mere act of employing the term”transgendered,” and “gay” instead of “same-sex attracted” defies not only Scripture and the Magisterium, but natural law.
Pro-LGBT New Ways Ministries issued a statement which suggests that the Vatican’s first ever use of the term LGBT can be “traced to the effect that Fr. James Martin’s book Building a Bridge has had on church discussions.”
Fr. Martin himself was quick to praise, “the first apparent use in a Vatican document of the term ‘LGBT,’” adding, “This kind of progress comes from a church willing to listen.”
9] We’ll see where this goes.
All this comes at a crucial time in the history of the Church, when LGBT ideology seems to be overtaking Catholic orthodoxy, insinuating itself even within the Vatican. This is not a good time for faithful Catholics to find themselves at odds with each other.