In a recent interview to promote his new book about building bridges to the LGBT community, Jesuit Father James Martin pushes for Catholics to stop using the terminology “same sex attraction” for homosexuals.
Martin believes we should use the term “gay” or “LGBT” or “LGBTQ” because he says, “Names are very important, and I find the seeming inability of people to use something as simple as LGBT, particularly when Pope Francis himself has used the term gay, as disrespectful.”
Surely Martin understands why the term “same sex attraction” is used to describe people with a homosexual inclination. It is not to disrespect anyone, but because Catholics believe every person is greater than their sexual inclinations, and that it is degrading to identify a person only by their sexual urges.
As Pope Francis says in The Name of God is Mercy, “I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.”
Francis is echoing Pope Benedict XVI who in 1986, as Joseph Ratzinger wrote, “The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.”
Martin is right that people with same sex attraction should be met with compassion, respect and sensitivity, but it is surprising that he doesn’t mention the difficult call to celibacy that Catholicism expects. Eve Tushnet, herself a gay person, points this out in a sensitive and thoughtful review of Martin’s book.
Without a doubt some Catholics have marginalized and dismissed homosexual persons, but Martin also fails to mention the one Catholic apostolate that respects, accepts and ministers to LGBT Catholics while remaining faithful to Catholic teaching.
Courage and EnCourage is a Catholic apostolate that engages with people with same sex attraction and their families. They offer a whole range of resources for clergy and health workers who are working with people who are attracted to the same sex. With chapters across North America and Central America, Courage runs retreats, Bible studies, online support groups, conferences and study days.
Courage understands and welcomes people with same sex attraction while remaining faithful to Catholic teaching. With his laudable desire to minister to people with same sex attraction, one wonders why Martin is silent about this dynamic, compassionate and respectful Catholic apostolate.
Instead Martin associates himself with LGBT groups who openly dissent from church teaching. In October 2016, Martin received the the annual “Bridge Building Award” from New Ways Ministry. New Ways is a pro-gay-identity, pro-gay-sex, pro-gay-“marriage” group whose work has been condemned by both the Roman Curia and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In 1999, the Vatican condemned New Ways Ministry and put in place a permanent prohibition against Sister Jeanine Grammick working in this area of ministry. Grammick defied the restriction and the prohibition has not been withdrawn. Neither has the USCCB withdrawn its condemnation of New Ways Ministry.
In 2010 Cardinal Francis George stated, “No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”
Should Martin — newly appointed communications guru for the Vatican — publicly support New Ways Ministry? There would be no problem if New Ways had changed their ways, but it is still openly in favor of gay identity, gay sex and gay marriage. And yet Martin acknowledges that Grammick is “one of his heroes.”
He also publicly praises Frank DeBernardo, author of a booklet promoting same sex marriage, for his “tireless leadership of New Ways Ministry.” Writing here at Crisis website, Deacon Jim Russell comments further on Martin’s association with New Ways.
Furthermore, it would seem that Martin is not the only one who now regards Grammick as a hero. Martin’s new book is endorsed not only by Grammick herself, but also by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Roman Curia’s newly formed Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life; Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey; and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego.
In April 2017, the New Ways Ministry symposium in Chicago, included among the speakers Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, and John Stowe, bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. Furthermore, during the same week as Gay Pride marches, Tobin endorsed gay activists by publicly welcoming them to Mass at his cathedral.
Of the Newark meeting, New Ways director deBarnardo said, “It’s the beginning of a dialogue…the church leadership, for the past 40 years, has just been so silent, and unwilling to dialogue, and unwilling to pray with L.G.B.T. Catholics that, even though this isn’t the ultimate step, it’s a first step.”
This is simply untrue. The apostolate Courage has been supported by the hierarchy and has been reaching out in prayer, welcome and pastoral guidance to homosexual people for many years.
While it is right to treat homosexual persons with respect, compassion and sensitivity, the signals being sent out are very bewildering.
On the one hand the Vatican and the USCCB have said that New Ways Ministry is in no way a Catholic organization, and that it confuses Catholics about church teaching.
On the other hand the Vatican’s communications advisor Martin, two Cardinals and three bishops seem to publicly endorse an organization that pushes for gay-sex, gay marriage and gay identity.
Those who ask for clarity are sometimes vilified by progressives, but is it too much to ask whether New Ways Ministry is now a bona fide Catholic group? If it is, does that mean New Ways’ ministry with their militant gay agenda is acceptable?
We’re all for building bridges, but wouldn’t that be a bridge too far?