Is homosexualist activist Jesuit Fr. @JamesMartinSJ a heretic? Canon Law with Ed Peters.

MSS Creation of Eve Stammheim Missal c 1170 MS 64 smCanonist Ed Peters posted at his excellent site In The Light Of The Law, an illuminating post bringing greater clarity to what heresy is and what Jesuit homosexualist activist Fr. James Martin thinks.

Peters doesn’t have a combox, but I do.

Be sure to visit Peters’ site often.

My emphases and comments.

Further remarks re Fr. Martin

Two important essays, one by Janet Smith at Catholic World Report (29 sep 2017) and the other by Dan Hitchens at First Things (2 oct 2017), along with their links to and quotes from Fr James Martin’s own words (and sometimes, as Smith and Hitchens note, to Martin’s refusal to say certain words), occasion these comments on Martin’s recent complaints (21 sep 2017) that he has “been accused of heresy, ridiculously, by some critics (I’m not contradicting any revealed truths).” There are several issues to sort out here.

First, yes, I am very sure that some [but not all] of the accusations of heresy made against Martin are, indeed, ridiculous. As are some of Martin’s accusations that, for example, among his critics: “Heresy” is a word they use as frequently as [pace Mary McCarthy] “and” and “the.” Apparently there is plenty of ridiculousness floating around out there. All purveyors of the ridiculous should cease spouting it. [What are the odds?]

To my canonical observations.

Martin’s rebuff of heresy accusations above (“I’m not contradicting any revealed truths”) suggests that either he does not know or does not wish to acknowledge that [NB] “heresy” is not limited to the actual contradiction of revealed truthsCanon 751 defines heresy as “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt” of certain truths (my emphasis [and mine!]). Thus one’s “obstinate doubt” concerning revealed truths, and not just one’s outright contradiction of such truths, can, upon proof, result in a finding of heresy.  [Did you get that?  “upon proof”.  Note well that Dr. Peters has already pointed to Martin’s “own words”. If a person repeats some position, publicly, does that constitute a “proof”? If it doesn’t, I don’t know what does.  However, in the case of a formal charge of heresy, Fr. Martin should be given every opportunity to make a clear, formal statement.]

Next, when speaking to a male questioner recently, Martin expressed the “hope [that] in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner or, you know, soon to be your husband”. [Blech.] Any reasonable listener will conclude that Martin not only hopes that a man may someday marry a man with the Church’s blessing, but that Martin believes “same-sex marriage” to be radically possible under Church teaching and that it is a matter of regret that such Church recognition is not yet available.  [I believe he truly holds that position.  He talks about this publicly.  That said, I hope that this sobering canonical presentation by Ed Peters will help Fr. Martin take a time out and then make a clear statement in public affirming the Church’s teaching.]

Here, I suggest, Martin effectively denies infallible Church doctrine that marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. I see only two canonical issues in the wake of his statement:

[So… it’s infallible. However… is it revealed truth? An important distinction follows…] (A) Whether the infallible Church teaching on the absolute impossibility of marriage between two persons of the same sex is itself a “revealed truth” (in which case the issue is indeed one of heresy) or whether it is a “proposition to be held definitely” (in which case the issue is “opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church”, but not heresy strictly speaking), with the weight of scholarly opinion, however, favoring the view that Church teaching on the male-female aspect of marriage is divinely revealed, meaning that one’s “obstinate denial or obstinate doubt” concerning that teaching would be heresy; and,

(B) Whether Martin’s comment, coming as it did during a public Q-and-A session, accurately reflects his actual position on marriage—an important point because both heresy (per cc. 7511364, etc.) and opposition to definitive Church teaching (per c. 1371, etc.) require a demonstration of one’s deliberateness in so holding before any penal consequences could be levied.  [Martin’s response seems to be his actual position.  If it isn’t, then he would have been prevaricating in so answering, which is unlikely, given everything he has said and written on the topic.  Did he just “blurt” his response without thinking?  I suspect that he has, indeed, thought this through.]

Either way, Martin’s shocking (as coming from a priest) comment, uttered against the backdrop of his frequent refusal to state his own positions directly (as opposed to his practice of characterizing his positions as sound, etc.) make the pursuit of clarity here very important.

Scholion on Pio-Benedictine law and the Eastern Code.

Martin’s frequent, often seemingly studied, ambiguities regarding Church teaching on various doctrinal and moral issues would have been more directly cognizable [Fr. Z kudos for the great word “cognizable”.] under the Pio-Benedictine Code of 1917 than they are under the Johanno-Pauline Code of 1983, notwithstanding 1983 CIC 209. The old Code squarely stated: “The faithful of Christ are bound to profess their faith whenever their silence, evasiveness, or manner of acting encompasses an implied denial of the faith, contempt for religion, injury to God, or scandal for a neighbor.” 1917 CIC 1325 § 1. Of course, giving scandal (CCC 2284-2287) to one’s neighbor, even if not directly scored in the new Code, is still a grave evil against [which] all should be on guard. Similarly, Canon 10 of the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches (1990) makes ‘adherence to the authentic living magisterium of the Church’ and the ‘open profession of the Faith’ matters of law. Interesting, eh? [Very.]

This was a useful post, as virtually all of Prof. Peters posts on law are.

I think that if Fr. James Martin wants to continue to preach or to speak publicly on any Church property, he should be asked directly to affirm the Church’s teaching concerning marriage.  It is sad to have to say that, but he has brought this on himself by his own words and his own silences.

The comment moderation queue is ON.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Poor Yorek says:

    In the meanwhile, Canon 1369 gathers dust in the closet.
    [Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.]

  2. Bressani56 says:

    Fr. James Martin was recently caught on video describing the official language of the Catechism regarding homosexual acts as “extremely damaging and needlessly hurtful.” Proof is time code 30:19 here:

    Fr. Martin calls the language of the Catechism extremely damaging, and Bishop McElroy condones this? Are we allowed to say that important parts of the Catechism are extremely damaging? He also says homosexuality should be called “different love.” He says an “intermediary step” (from “intrinsically disordered”) would be “differently ordered” because LGT people are “different in their affection.”

  3. Sawyer says:

    Although there should be ample opportunities to pose pointed questions to Fr. Martin, asking him to clear up uncertainties about where he stands, in public and on a recording over the next several months, one such opportunity will be at the 2018 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA. (A.K.A. “Three Days of Darkness”) There Fr. Martin is scheduled to present a workshop on his LGBT “Building a Bridge” book and related topics. (Why the Archdiocese is allowing him to speak so prominently and on this topic is a good question.) Fr. Martin usually speaks in the main arena, whose workshops are streamed live, recorded and archived for viewing. Almost every workshop in the arena has a Q&A session during the final twenty minutes of the workshop period. This past year Michael Voris confronted Jim Wallis during an arena Q&A session. I would hope that he or someone else would similarly ask Fr. Martin directly whether he affirms and will state publicly his unequivocal support for those specific Catholic doctrines that he is quite reasonably suspected of rejecting while encouraging others through his dissembling to also reject them.

    Anybody who wants to verify that Fr. Martin will be giving such a workshop can go to the RECongress website and look at the speaker and workshop listing. There will also be some transgender-affirming workshops and a workshop in Spanish by a former priest (Orlando Espin) who is in a homosexual “marriage”. Three days of darkness indeed.

  4. Andrew says:

    He is good at carefully weighing his words so as neither to deny nor to affirm anything while making it clear what he favors. Here is an example of how to do it:

    “I finished reading a book written by Fr. JM. I hate reading heretical books.” Did I say Fr. JM’s book is heretical? No way!

  5. Alas, poor Yorek, Canon 1369 is ignored, but not lack of my calling attention to it. See, as one example among many,

  6. Alanmac says:

    Martin continues to use the ANglican/Episcopalian play book every time he raises the homo issue and every time he does people leave and donations go down.
    Has he not seen what the LGBT issue has done to Protestant churches?

  7. JonathanTX says:

    One could just as easily write, “I think that if [Pope Francis] wants to continue to preach or to speak publicly on any Church property, he should be asked directly to affirm the Church’s teaching concerning marriage. It is sad to have to say that, but he has brought this on himself by his own words and his own silences.”

    Fr. Martin is only following Jefe’s example in this regard.

  8. sibnao says:

    I am one of the ordinary pewsitters who is shocked by the casual, worldly languange Fr. Martin has reportedly used regarding this topic. What I would love to see is a bishop (or pope) require him to clarify his statements, and for said authority to declare on heresy one way or the other. There’s no point in discussing if a guy is a heretic because we don’t have the office that allows us to discern that.

    If only the guys whose job it is to sort this out, who have the mandate, would just do the job. I sincerely hope Fr. Martin is not a heretic but rather a personable guy who hates to say anything negative. But until the bishop does his job, I’ll never know, and instead try to figure out how to explain to my scandalized believing Evangelical friends (not to mention my cynical teenagers) why this kind of thing is allowed to be said under the guise of Christian teaching.

  9. Poor Yorek says:

    Dr. Peters wrote: … but not lack of my calling attention to it.

    Indeed! We corresponded very briefly about Canon 1369 more-or-less around the time of the reference you cite. I appreciated your taking the time to respond.

  10. All day I have been very sad over so many things, especially the shootings in Vegas. I came in here to see what was new and started to read this post. My brow furrowed thinking, “What next?” Then my eyes fell on the sentence below and your comment in red. That one word actually made me laugh aloud and lifted some of the sadness I have experienced all day. Thanks for the chuckle in the midst of such a sad situation.

    “in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner or, you know, soon to be your husband”. [Blech.]

  11. Aquinas Gal says:

    And Martin is doing all this with the support of his superiors.
    Jesuits. That’s the problem.

  12. spock says:

    ” Martin expressed the “hope [that] in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner or, you know, soon to be your husband”. ”

    HE Cardinal Arinze said once with regard to the question of pro-aborts receiving Holy Communion; “ask the children from first Communion, they will give you the answer…. You don’t need a Cardinal to answer that.”

    With regard to Father Martin and heresy, do adult Catholics really need a Canon Lawyer to answer this question ?

    This is material heresy; the question of formal heresy belongs to the Bishop but clearly if this isn’t heretical, what is ? I may as well throw all of my reason out of the proverbial window and never speak again.

    I understand that Father Martin was welcomed into the diocese of Chicago recently….

    Another great reason to join a Catholic Byzantine Church in the Chicagoland area !

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    Dr. Peters has, at least, established (“Any reasonable listener will conclude that Martin not only hopes that a man may someday marry a man with the Church’s blessing, but that Martin believes “same-sex marriage” to be radically possible under Church teaching and that it is a matter of regret that such Church recognition is not yet available.“) is teaching objective Error.

    Now to my mind — remembering that the doctrinal and canonical definition of what heresy is remains dependent on particular judgments in particular cases — no matter how ghastly Fr. Martin’s claims may be, they still do not technically constitute heresies IMO, but grave Errors ; I would personally support removing Fr. Martin’s authorisations to teach from him, or to forbid him from making any declarations contrary to marriage dogma, rather than seeking to have him formally condemned for heresy at this time. Error must be corrected, and those in Error given a chance to repent, before heresy is punished as such, as it requires resistance against such corrections for heresy to be constituted.

    So the problem here is less Fr. Martin, but the decision of those in Authority over him to abandon their duty of correction and admonition against his false teachings.

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    correction :

    available.“) that Fr. Martin is teaching objective Error.

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  16. Nancy D. says:

    To condone the engaging in or affirmation of same-sex sexual acts, is to deny the Sanctity of the marital act. To deny the Sanctity of the marital act, is to deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, and thus deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    The objective Error that Fr. Martin is teaching is that an apostate [?] can remain in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.


  17. Nancy D. says:

    Revealed Truth.

    Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.
    Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: [5] For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.

  18. Nancy D. says:

    Yes, Father, Reordering and identifying human persons according to sexual desire/inclination/ orientation, which sexually objectifies the human person, and denies the inherent Dignity of our beloved sons and daughters, in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, is a complete renunciation of Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    “God’s Truth is mighty, and it shall prevail.”

    Our Call to Holiness, has always been a Call to be Chaste in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds.

    “It is about the marriage”, in Heaven and on Earth.

    It is Through, With, and In Christ, in the Unity of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists.

    One bridegroom, one bride, on earth.

    One Bridegroom, One Bride, (One Holy Mother Church), in Heaven.

    “No one can come to My Father except Through Me.”

    “And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.”

  19. Julia2 says:

    And what about Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ? …who has what appears at first blush to be a great ministry for former gang members: “Homeboy Industries.” He’s invited to speak in the Diocese of Orange (SoCal), despite his dissident views as delineated by here:

    I can’t help but think that what these gang members eventually need is the real Truth (obviously in love). But Fr. Boyle’s the one building the relationships and putting in the work in this community…and likely leading them astray. In the video footage he says that God is right and the Church is wrong – here’s the video:

    Yet, in a very appealing TED talk, he quotes our Lord, “that they may be one.” Indeed. But the Israelites many times seemed unitedly “one” when they murmured against God, built a golden calf, killed the prophets, etc…but they were in error. Under who’s definition are we to then unite “as one” if the Church is wrong, but God is right? Who then defines God’s views on the matter? Oy. Protestantism. Fr. Z – any thoughts on combating/addressing/dealing with the attractiveness of dissidents who use so much Truth and do wonderful things, yet artfully weave in lies that tug on emotions and personal experience? I’m sure you’ve opined on this before, so pls pardon the ignorance.

  20. KateD says:

    He’s not contradicting revealed truth? Wha?!?

    Isn’t the Bible revealed truth?

    Leviticus 18:22

    Leviticus 20:13

    Matthew 19:3

    I’m no Jesuit, but the language seems clear to me.

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