TORONTO, August 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Unfriendly reaction to his book calling for the Catholic Church to treat the LGBT community with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” stems in part from people’s fear of their own “complicated sexuality,” Jesuit Father James Martin said.
If these people are uncomfortable with their “complicated sexuality,” he said, then they will be threatened by any discussion of homosexuality and project that fear onto others.
“The hostility may also come from fear of their own complicated sexuality,” stated Father Martin, offering an often-used argument that those opposed to homosexual acts must themselves be battling latent tendencies.
“We’re all on a spectrum in terms of our sexuality, as my friends who are psychologists and psychiatrists tell me,” he continued. “And if you’re uncomfortable with that reality, or uncomfortable with your own complex sexuality, then any discussion of homosexuality will be very, very, very threatening. That fear is then directed outwards, towards other people.”
Father Martin was interviewed earlier this month for Orthodoxy in Dialogue, an online publication edited by three Trinity College doctoral students in theology at the University of Toronto.
Well-known for his promotion of LGBT issues, the America Magazine editor-at-large and Vatican communications consultant has been doing interviews and promotional appearances for his book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.
In the interview, Father Martin applies the Catechism language of “respect, compassion and sensitivity” to relations between the Church and LGBT-identifying Catholics.
And while he never says directly that the Church must accept homosexual acts, Father Martin contends that Christ welcomed people before he did anything else and that LGBT Catholics should be made to feel welcome in their own church.
Indeed, he clarifies more than once in the interview that he avoided Church teaching on sexual morality in his book. This was because LGBT Catholics and the institutional Church “are simply too far apart on those issues,” he said.
Father Martin went on to state, “Church teaching is clear: Same-sex relations are impermissible. By the same token, most LGBT people feel that same-sex relations are part and parcel of their lives.”
The first half of his book is derived from a lecture he delivered last fall to New Ways Ministry, a group condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the U.S. Catholic bishops for homosexual advocacy in conflict with Church teaching.
In the book, he advocates for the use of “gay,” “lesbian” and “LGBT” as a sign of respect to their community and to welcome LGBT-identifying Catholics to participate in Church ministry. He also criticizes the firing of Church employees based upon open their embrace of LGBT lifestyles, claiming they are being unfairly targeted.
Clergy and other Catholics have criticized the book for its seeming advocacy that LGBT inclinations are from God and for its apparent push to relax Church teaching on sexuality.
Father Martin was asked in the Orthodoxy in Dialogue interview why his book provoked hostility in some Church quarters when it didn’t actually broach the subject of sex itself.
The priest acknowledged some “some fierce, and often vicious, pushback,” and said it was “mainly confined to certain far-right websites and magazines.”
Addressing the source of the hostility, Father Martin said it comes from disagreement with what he’s “trying to do.” He disputed the idea he’s trying to alter Church teaching.
This is “ridiculous,” he said, and to illustrate that he is “not suggesting changes in teaching,” he pointed to the official approval for his book from his Jesuit provincial, along with its endorsements from three other progressive Church leaders – Cardinal Archbishop of Newark Joseph Tobin, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.
Father Martin said some people are threatened by his suggestion of listening to the experiences of LGBT people. He added that hostility can also stem from fear of the LGBT person as “the other.”
He frequently cites #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to say that LGBT Catholics must be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” However, this four-word selection of the passage fails to comprehensively articulate the Church’s teaching on ministering to individuals with homosexual inclinations.
The full passage Father Martin often pulls from states:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
While Father Martin regularly emphasizes the “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” portion of #2358 when advocating the LGBT cause, not every aspect of this section of the catechism has his support for preservation.
In Father Marin’s address last fall to the New Ways dissident group, he discussed sensitivity in choice of language and suggested that the part of this catechism passage describing homosexual inclinations as disordered needs updating, a sentiment he repeated this past June in another interview promoting his book.
“Some bishops have already called for us to set aside the phrase “objectively disordered” when it comes to describing the homosexual inclination (as it is in the Catechism, No. 2358),” he told the homosexual activists. “The phrase relates to the orientation, not the person, but it is still needlessly hurtful. Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is “disordered” in itself is needlessly cruel.”
Asked by Religion News Service in June whether he affirmed and agreed with the Catechism’s “teaching or language” that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, he replied that he’s not a theologian. But he “would say some of the language used in the Catechism on that topic needs to be updated, given what we know now about homosexuality.”
Father Martin did not clarify, however, what understanding of homosexuality he was referring to, or did he explain how or when it came about.