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Fr. James Martin in a March 7, 2018 America Magazine Youtube video titled ‘Spiritual Insights for LGBT Catholics.’ America Magazine / Youtube
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Bishop criticizes Fr. James Martin’s support for controversial Jesuit House chaplain

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, May 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee reproached Jesuit Father James Martin this week in response to Martin’s Twitter defense of a controversial priest asked to resign recently as chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bishop Richard Stika offered the reminder in a tweet that one individual’s personal opinion shouldn’t carry too much weight, and made light of Martin’s ever-present focus on his books.

The bishop tweeted, “Father Martin has his opinion of the hiring or firing of an individual. His opinion is just that, an opinion! Opinion isn’t fact even from a guy who just writes books.”

Martin had tweeted successively about what he called the “unjust firing” of Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy.

Conroy was reportedly asked to step down by House Speaker Paul Ryan last week.

Some reports say the request was because of the priest’s allying with liberal House Democrats, with mention of a House prayer led by Conroy and an interview he gave as being overly political. Conroy has said the Wisconsin Republican had told him he should stay out of politics.

House Republicans have said Ryan told them Conroy’s November 2017 prayer touching on tax legislation before the House for debate was not a factor in Conroy being asked to step down.

The prayer had asked God in part that the House’s work on the law “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Ryan had told the House Republican Conference last week that people had expressed concern that their pastoral needs weren’t being met with Conroy, with feedback from some House members saying they’d like a more active and engaged spiritual adviser who is more approachable.

The ouster caused uproar among some House members of both parties.

Conroy retracted his resignation Thursday, saying in a letter he’d not been given a reason for his termination, claiming inconsistency between public and private explanations for his being let go, and also saying that his departure would have to be due to firing for cause.  

Conroy has openly criticized Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

Martin, editor-at-large for Jesuit-run America magazine and consultor for the Vatican Communications office, is known for his focus on a controversial homosexuality-affirming message, which is the subject of his current book and frequent topic for his speaking appearances.

Martin is also known for his social media presence and sizable following there.

Martin, his followers and other supporters will say he is not advocating against Church teaching, and that he only seeks acceptance by the Church for LGBT-identifying Catholics.

Still, while he speaks frequently about LGBT issues as they relate to the Church, Martin does not talk about the Church’s teaching for all non-married people to be chaste, and regularly affirms those living in active homosexuality. And he remains silent when some among his large social media following are nasty in jumping to his defense should he be criticized.

Martin had posted three consecutive tweets in regard to Conroy.

The one shared by Stika in his tweet said that advocating for the poor and marginalized is what every priest, minister and Christian, is called to do, and further that, “If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with Jesus.”

Bishop Stika’s tweet received a number of negative responses, some continuing in the vein that advocating for the poor was the sole issue at hand in the Conroy controversy.

Bishop Stika is one of a few bishops to have offered any public criticism of the contentious Jesuit.

Martin tweeted congratulations to his “Jesuit brother” Conroy for “rightly rescinding” his resignation.

Martin also stated in part on his Instagram account:

The Speaker forgot something about Pat Conroy. It's the same thing that many Cardinals forgot about Pope Francis: Jesuits aren't pushovers.

Jesuits: Afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted since 1540.

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