Father James Martin, editor-at-large of the Jesuit-run America magazine, said the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s use of the term intrinsically disordered in regard to homosexual acts is “needlessly hurtful.” He offered “differently ordered” as preferable, because it could express the concept “more pastorally.”
Asked whether he affirmed and agreed with the Catechism’s “teaching or language” that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, Father Martin replied that he is 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.”
His response did not clarify what understanding of homosexuality he referred to, or when or how it came about.
His comments about the “need” to update some of the Catechism’s language on homosexual acts came in an interview with Religion News Service (RNS) in conjunction with the release of his new book.
He has received an award from an LGBT group condemned by the Vatican for his efforts to “expand the dialogue on LGBT issues” in the Church. And he repeatedly supported transgender bathroom access in the nation’s schools on Twitter in February after President Trump overturned former President Obama's transgender bathroom edict compelling schools to allow gender-confused children into bathrooms facilities of the opposite sex.
Father Martin was appointed as communications consultant for the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications in April.
Under the headline “This Vatican adviser is moving Catholics toward LGBT inclusion,” the RNS interview also had the prominent Jesuit stating he isn’t the only person connected to the Vatican who wishes to see the church move toward LGBT inclusion.
Citing the fact that the latest Catechism was published under the late Pope Saint John Paul II and shaped in part by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would go on to be Pope Benedict XVI and who “too would take a hard-line stance against homosexuality,” the RNS piece introduced the Father Martin interview by positing how now, two decades later, “Pope Francis has signaled what many believe to be a softening on the matter.”
Father Martin described the Catechism’s teaching on the disordered nature of homosexual acts as “earlier” in relation to his thoughts on the teaching as expressed in his new book. And he said that describing “one of the deepest parts of a person” as disordered was unnecessarily hurtful.
“Earlier, for example, the Catechism says that the homosexual orientation is itself 'objectively disordered,'” he said. “But, as I say in the book, saying that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is disordered is needlessly hurtful.”
Church teaching holds that each person has a sexual identity that’s either male or female, and sexual identity does not encompass inclinations, preferences, or behavior. These things are separate from a person’s identity, the Church teaches, therefore things such as homosexual inclination or activity are not innate in a person’s identity.
In the interview, Father Martin then put forth an alternative expression for describing the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts — that instead of disordered these acts are just different.
He said, “A few weeks ago, I met an Italian theologian who suggested the phrase ‘differently ordered’ might convey that idea more pastorally.”
Father Martin also said “there are quieter ways of welcoming LGBT people,” which among other things include encouraging them to participate as lectors and in other public ministries.
He does not clarify whether welcoming LGBT individuals in public Church roles must be accompanied with the call for all Catholics toward repentance and rejection of objective sin as the Church teaches.
He told RNS that LGBT-identifying Catholics can feel welcome in “more forward-thinking” parishes with LGBT support groups such as “Out at St. Paul.”
He does not make clear whether such forward-thinking parishes would affirm sexual behavior out of marriage, or encourage Catholics with same-sex tendencies to live chastely as the Church teaches.
Out at St. Paul is an LGBT ministry at St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. The group’s name and participation in “Pride” events implicitly encourages those suffering with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria to act upon their inclinations in conflict with Church teaching.
In Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, Father Martin argues that Church leaders should address LGBT individuals by the term they use to refer to themselves.
This often would result in using male pronouns for females and vice versa, which contradicts Church teaching on gender.
Father Martin says as well in the book that Church employees should not be fired for contravening Church teaching through supporting homosexual acts or openly professing homosexuality, because “such firings selectively target LGBT people.”
Last month on his Facebook page, Father Martin posted some news coverage on Lexington, Kentucky, Bishop John Stowe’s April speaking engagement for the LGBT group New Ways Ministry. New Ways is the Vatican-condemned LGBT group that honored Father Martin last fall.
He invited discussion on his social media page of Bishop Stowe’s appearance for the LGBT group.
Responding to a comment on his post that said canonized saints would not be impressed, Father Martin stated:
“Some of them were probably gay. A certain percentage of humanity is gay, and so were most likely some of the saints. You may be surprised when you get to heaven to be greeted by LGBT men and women.”