In the English speaking world, in the wake of the withdrawal of speaking gig invitations to Jesuit Father James Martin, Jesuits and their allies have coagulated. They now pour it on, to create a critical mass of hatred against those Catholics who stick up for clear traditional moral teaching. That means that their well-established Big Jesuit Machine, and those who aid and abet their agendas, are picking on the little guy who dares to raise their heads to object.
At the Jesuit-operated organ Amerika I saw on 18 September an op-ed by San Diego’s (Berkeley Jesuit trained) Bishop Robert McElroy:
Bishop McElroy: Attacks on Father James Martin expose a cancer within the U.S. Catholic Church
The “C” word. No, that’s not dramatic. But, hey, he got your attention.
Let’s have a look at His Excellency’s piece with my usual emphases and comments.
Father James Martin is a distinguished Jesuit author who has spent his life building bridges within the Catholic Church and between the church and the wider world. He has been particularly effective in bringing the Gospel message to the millennial generation. When we survey the vast gulf that exists between young adults and the church in the United States, it is clear that there could be no more compelling missionary outreach for the future of Catholicism than the terrain that Father Martin has passionately and eloquently pursued over the past two decades. There are few evangelizers who have engaged that terrain with more heart and skill and devotion. [We are not going to admit the premise that that there is a “vast gulf that exists between young adults and the church” in the traditional community. As one writer put it recently, tradition is for the young. In one “old Mass” community after another, you find a predominance of young people, growing in numbers with new families. While some promote this sort of outreach, others promote outreach through defending homosexuality.]
Last year Father Martin undertook a particularly perilous project in this work of evangelization: building bridges between the church and the L.G.B.T. community in the United States. He entered it knowing that the theological issues pertaining to homosexuality constituted perhaps the most volatile element of ecclesial life in U.S. culture. [To me, “evangelization” includes the content of our Catholic Faith. If the bishop thinks that talking about homosexuality is perilous, I invite him to step into the shoes of those whom he is about to condemn and try the increasingly perilous activity of defending the Church’s doctrine on faith and morals.]
It was this very volatility that spurred Father Martin to write his new book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity. Using a methodology that is fully consonant with Catholic teaching, [Is it? Is innuendo part of that methodology? For example, when you look at the preview available through Amazon (they almost always provide a brief sample), after his dedication Martin has an “epigraph” citing Ps 139, “For it was you who formed my inner parts”. This can be nothing other than the innuendo that people who have same-sex attraction are made that was by God, and, if they are made that way by God, then what they do is okay. In that “epitaph” Martin doesn’t say that, but his meaning is clear.] employing Scripture, the rich pastoral heritage of the church and an unadulterated realism [?] that makes clear both the difficulty and the imperative for establishing deeper dialogue, Father Martin opens a door for proclaiming that Jesus Christ and his church seek to embrace fully and immediately men and women in the L.G.B.T. community.
Building a Bridge is a serious book, [Janet Smith pointed out that it is pretty short, being “essentially an expanded talk”. HERE] and any such work invites substantive criticism and dialogue. This is particularly true with a complex subject like the relationship of the L.G.B.T. community and the church. Many analyses of Father Martin’s arguments have pointed to important problems that do not have easy answers and to the reality that dialogue must always proceed both in respect and in truth.
But alongside this legitimate and substantive criticism of Father Martin’s book, there has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin, to distort his work, to label him heterodox, to assassinate his personal character and to annihilate both the ideas and the dialogue that he has initiated. [Of course no one would want to do that. No one would want to suggest that people who have different ideas are, for example, a disease involving abnormal cell growth.]
This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church. [Finally, we get to it.] Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities. [We know that the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher begged off. The national major seminary called Theological College at CUA begged off. However, so did the Bishops of England and Wales, who found a way to beg off having Fr. Martin address Cafod. These are not insignificant institutions.]
The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church.
The attacks on Building a Bridge tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture against members of the L.G.B.T. community. The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the L.G.B.T. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. Gay sexual activity is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that L.G.B.T. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of sexual orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed. [Go back through that and substitute the term “Tradition Loving Catholics” or “T.L.C.”, and make an appropriate adjustment. That’s how the catholic Left treats the T.L.C. community.* Also, while I think we all admit that we can all treat all people better, I must add that telling people that their sins are not sins is not a way to treat them well!]
The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. [Interesting word choice: purge What comes to mind immediately? The German philosopher Paul de Lagarde wrote, “I have long been convinced that Jewry constitutes the cancer in all of our life; as Jews, they are strangers in any European state and as such they are nothing but spreaders of decay.” ] If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God. [And if prelates of dioceses don’t embrace what St. John Paul II commanded by his Apostolic authority and show respect to traditional Catholics and give a wide and generous application of the legislation concerning traditional expressions of our liturgical worship, they are responsible for a widening gulf between the church and our God and will perhaps even contribute to real schism.]
[This is where I have some real concerns.] The second corrosive impulse of the campaign against Building a Bridge flows from a distortion of Catholic moral theology. The goal of the Catholic moral life is to pattern our lives after that of Jesus Christ. [Augustine reminds us that Christ, being perfect, isn’t the best model for us. He recommended the lives of the saints. But… let this pass.] We must model our interior and exterior selves on the virtues of faith, love, hope, mercy, compassion, integrity, sacrifice, prayerfulness, humility, prudence and more. One of these virtues is chastity. Chastity is a very important virtue of the Christian moral life. The disciple is obligated to confine genital sexual activity to marriage.
[You could hear this next word coming, right?] But chastity is not the central virtue in the Christian moral life. Our central call is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not. [Let’s be clear about this. The Bishop just wrote that chastity, which “very important” does NOT have a “singularly powerful role” in determining our moral character or our relationship with God.]
This distortion of our faith [namely, that chastity has a “singularly powerful role”] cripples many of our discussions of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. [I think he means that we shouldn’t insist in our discussion that homosexuals abstain from same-sex acts.] The overwhelming prism [the things that project rainbows?] through which we should look at our moral lives is that we are all called to live out the virtues of Christ; [Okaaaaay. Christ was chaste. Christ was not a homosexual. Also, Christ’s exemplary display of virtue in Scripture did not exclude the flipping of tables and the whipping of people with cords.] we all succeed magnificently at some and fail at others. [I admit that I haven’t been good at whipping people with cords lately.] Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church [WOAH! Who says that? That’s smacks of the proverbial straw man.] are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both. [WOW. There is a lot to unpack here. As Janet Smith mentioned in her critic of James Martin’s “expanded talk”, it takes a lot of words to examine something that is briefly put. I’ll comment further, below.]
The third impulse behind the campaign against Building a Bridge arises from a rejection of the pastoral theology that Pope Francis has brought into the heart of the church. Regarding the issue of homosexuality, in particular, many of those attacking Father Martin simply cannot forgive the Holy Father for uttering that historic phrase on the plane: “Who am I to judge?” The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church. Pope Francis continually reminds us that the Lord unceasingly called the disciples to reject the temptation to judge others, precisely because it is a sin so easy for us all to fall into and one so injurious to the life of the church. [I think we can dismiss this out of hand. Criticisms of James Martin’s agenda have nothing to do with Pope Francis. Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.]
The gulf between the L.G.B.T. community and the church is not primarily based on orientation; it is a gulf created by judgmentalism on both sides. [No. We don’t accept this premise. The gulf is not based on the orientation of homosexuals towards people of the same sex (which the CCC restates is “disordered”, and not just “different”. The gulf is a matter of excusing or permitting or exalting homosexual acts. And as far as both sides are concerned, I haven’t seen a lot of outreach from the other side.] That is the real starting point for a dialogue between the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. community in the United States today. Father Martin should be thanked for pointing to this reality, not shunned. [I don’t see how not being invited – or being dis-invited is “shunning”. If that is the case, then I’ll be waiting for the Bishop’s article about how I’VE been treated recently by a certain important prelate with whom he is often grouped.]
I want to go back to that part about chastity. The Bishop carefully makes a statement about genital acts, etc. Fine. He is a Catholic bishop, after all. He says that chastity is “very important” However, he says in the next paragraph that chastity does NOT have a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God.
Much depends on what he means by “singular”. “Singular” usually means “extraordinary, remarkable”. “That was a singular accomplishment!”, one might say. Only lower on the list of possible meanings does “singular” mean “unique”, as if to say, “the only one that matters”. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it sounds to me as if McElroy meant to say that chastity does NOT have an “extraordinarily powerful role” in determining our moral character, etc.
Does that sound right to you?
I think that chastity does have an extraordinarily powerful role in our moral lives and our relations with God and others. I also think that – and it may be that the Bishop was trying to get to this – sins of the flesh are NOT the worst sins that we can commit. But to write something like that… that chastity is NOT singularly important… to my mind is at least imprudent.
What do I mean?
In a nutshell, the worst sins we commit are the spiritual rather than the carnal, wherein we – poor wounded humans that we are – succumb to our passions and appetites. However, the Church is right to place such an emphasis on carnal sins because of how easily we can fall into them and how they numb us to sin, make us stupid, and open us to worse sins. Our passions and appetites are so very dangerous because they are so seductive. They quickly draw us away from our ultimate and best end, and thus, by them we damn ourselves. Remember: carnal sins are enough to lose heaven! You know the Seven Deadly Sins. They are called “Deadly” for good reason.
The other thing I thought about as I read the Bishop’s unfortunate phrase is that Our Lady of Fatima warned about sins against chastity.
Our Lady said:
“More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
That was exactly 100 years ago. Human nature hasn’t changed since then and sins against chastity are far more widespread now than they were then and even more horrifying. It sound to me as if the Mother of God thinks that chastity is more than “very important”. It might even be “singularly” important, given the stakes.
Sr. Lucia explained that Mary was referring primarily to sins of impurity. Even if sins of impurity are not the worst among the sins that we can commit, they are grave and very common. Sins of impurity, sins against chastity, are often not confessed well because there is a great sense of shame for committing certain impure acts – especially impure acts of a disordered nature with someone of the same sex, and, hence, a greater difficulty in confessing all of them in the sacrament of penance. These days, with pornography everywhere and women and girls dressing with spectacular immodesty, and with the massive “pro gay” media campaign going on EVEN IN THE CHURCH we have a dangerous spiritual hurricane ripping souls from God.
However, we are NEVER called to do the impossible! To suggest that would be a violation of God’s promises. Christ said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Lk 18:27)
In this matter of chastity and its “singular” nature in our spiritual lives, I’m going to go with Mary rather than Bishop McElroy, and emphasize how important it really is.
Moving on, I don’t think that there are any regular readers here who hate “gays” or who want to discriminate against them. If there are, knock it off, for you are endangering your own souls.
I also don’t think that this whole debate is really about “homophobia”. And you know what I mean.
Finally, a note about an image that McElroy used: cancer. You know precisely what he is signalling. This is a dogwhistle. Cancer is something that needs to be “cut out”, “destroyed”. He thinks that those who disagree with Fr. Martin’s agenda should be “cut out” like the “cancer” they are. At whom is he aiming the scalpel? Opponents “both in Catholic journals and on social media”. A nice thing for a bishop to publish.
And to metastasize the “cancer” image, this is like Big Tobacco targeting the whistle-blowers.
The moderation queue is ON.
*As mentioned, above, here’s that paragraph with substitutions and adjustments: “The attacks on Summorum Pontificum tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture against members of the T.L.C. community. The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the T.L.C. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. The Traditional Latin Mass is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that T.L.C. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of traditional orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed.”
From a German reader by email:
Dear Father Zuhlsdorf
Read Bishop McElroy’s “cancer“ piece – it very much is lacking the loving, understanding, bridge building attitude that he so advocates.
What is really, deeply upsetting is his “purge” reference – you were quite right in picking up that particular connection you made. I live in the country that lived through a “purge”. That is plain nazi-talk and not a language a Catholic prelate should employ.
I wanted to drop an email to that extend to His Excellency, but their webpage doesn’t even give a general email.
Would you happen to know how to reach him electronically?
Wow. No electronic contact? That’s interesting.
No, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to reach him or the diocese other than to look on their website or write snail mail. HOWEVER… maybe their FAX still works! 001-858-490-8272
After all, when it comes to the Church, according to the phrase I coined when I worked in Rome…
YESTERDAY’S TECHNOLOGY TOMORROW!