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‘Souls could well be lost’: Moral theologian blasts pro-LGBT Fr. James Martin

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October 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Famed moral theologian Janet Smith criticised Jesuit Father Martin’s “slick dissent” from Church teaching on sexuality “and its pernicious influence” in a recent column. She said that his “scandalous” interpretation of Catholic teaching could jeopardize the salvation of the people who hear his message. 

“Souls could well be lost,” she wrote in a column last week for Catholic World Report. Smith is a professor of moral theology at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.

“Anyone reading his book or listening to his talks can reasonably conclude that Father Martin believes the Church does not present correctly God’s plan for sexuality,” Smith said, “that he thinks the culture knows better.”

The book she referenced was Martin’s Building a Bridge, which Smith called “one of the most aggravating instances” of reemerging dissent in the Church.

The book is “full of ambiguity,” she said. 

While Martin continually claims that he doesn’t oppose the Church's moral teaching, Smith noted that “the subtext makes his position clear, as do many statements made in his public presentations." 

“For Catholics who have some background in theology and philosophy it is deeply disappointing when a highly educated priest uses specious arguments to advance his cause,” she said. 

“For those whose every fiber of their Catholic being leads them to want to trust priests, bishops, and religious superiors, such instances of untrustworthiness are scandalous; for those of us who have been fighting dissent for nearly 40 years, seeing a dissenter get ecclesial support and public acclaim is demoralizing,” she added. 

Despite receiving criticism from bishops and cardinals, Martin maintains that he is simply trying to welcome LGBT-identifying Catholics into the Church.

But, as Martin's critics point out, the Jesuit priest neglects to speak about the Church’s call for everyone to reject sinful lifestyles, to confess and repent of sin, and to amend their lives.

Smith notes how Martin also neglects to mention the Church’s longtime ministries for those experiencing same-sex attraction, such as Courage and Encourage, presumably because they convey the Church’s teaching that condemns homosexual activity. 

She noted in the article Martin's tendency to affirm homosexuals in their behaviors. 

“For instance,” related Smith, “at a recent presentation at Villanova University, he told to a young man, ‘I hope in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner [in church] or, you know, soon to be your husband.’”

The moral theologian said that while she was “profoundly frustrated” that Martin’s views have a wide audience within the Catholic Church, she was also “gratified, inspired, and consoled” that so many faithful Catholic leaders have refuted his thinking. 

She cited, among others, a critique of Martin's outreach coming from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, Theologian Eduardo Echeverria, and Father Roger Landry. Added to this list would be Cardinal Robert Sarah and Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki. 

“We should commit ourselves to distributing copies of these refutations to others whenever his name comes up,” said Smith.

Smith also criticised Martin’s “welcoming effort,” saying that it was an approach that “seems largely condescending.” 

“Instead of challenging people to embrace the fullness of the faith, he tries to hide or downplay, or even reject, the teachings of the Church in order to appear welcoming,” she said. 

“True welcoming means we make it clear we want everyone to join us in following Jesus; we want to share with others the truth and beauty we know, and we will do our best to explain beliefs and teachings that might be hard to understand or accept,” she continued. 

“We do so not thinking we are any better than anyone else but wanting to be faithful to our beloved Jesus, who commissioned all Christians to stand up for challenging truths,” she added. 

The moral theologian said that those who want to be welcoming and compassionate to those who experience same-sex attraction need to learn about causes and treatment, Church teaching, and how to listen to those who suffer from the attraction. 

She linked to her book with Courage International Executive Director Father Paul Check, Living the Truth in Love - Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction. 

And she recommended the book Out of a Far Country, co-written by a mother and her son on their journey into Christianity through dealing with his homosexuality, as well as Daniel Mattson’s Why I Don't Call Myself Gay.

Smith also suggested books by Andrew Comiskey, who ministers to those with same-sex attraction, citing, in particular, his book The Naked Surrender.

“We cannot and must not be content simply to rant and rave and wail because of Father Martin’s slick dissent and its pernicious influence,” concluded Smith.

“We must be the ones reaching out with genuine love, a love that strongly believes in the transforming and fortifying power of grace to enable us to embrace God’s plan for sexuality, whatever challenges it presents,” she added. 

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