Bishop McElroy: Attacks on Father James Martin expose a cancer within the U.S. Catholic Church

Photos: iStock, composite: America Media Photos: iStock, composite: America Media

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.

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.

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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, 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.

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, 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.

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. 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.

There has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin.

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.

[Related: Cardinal Sarah offers critique of L.G.B.T. book, Father James Martin responds]

 

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. 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.

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 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. 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.

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.

Our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our relationship with God. It does not.

This distortion of our faith cripples many of our discussions of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. The overwhelming prism through which we should look at our moral lives is that we are all called to live out the virtues of Christ; we all succeed magnificently at some and fail at others. Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both.

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.

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. 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.

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Franklin P. Uroda
2 months 3 weeks ago

If Father Martin teaches that it's okay for homosexuals to have sexual activity, the fact that Jesus God Almighty loves them and offered His life for them doesn't do away with their free will to commit grave sin. Do current publications used in Roman Catholic courses in Moral Theology approve of homosexual sexual acts?

Mark Herlihy
2 months 3 weeks ago

I suspect you have no first-hand knowledge of what Father Martin writes and teaches.

JOE CANAD
2 months 2 weeks ago

Your suspicion is unfounded... have you bothered to listen to his many public, televised addresses condoning this??? OR, read any of his books? He is directly re-writing using a post-modernist, "let's be modern" theme. It is wrong, it is clearly contradicting Church teaching and also scripture.

Just because what is being said conforms to a 'personal agenda' doesn't make it right. When in doubt consult with the CCC and St. Thomas Aquinas... and James is totally wrong acc. to those sources on most of his post modern, pro-gay agenda.

The fact that he has so much support within the clergy is the hard part.... Shows that the actions of Bella Dodd and a host of other campaigns have been far more successful in riddling the Church with the seeds (now in bloom) of its destruction.

Robert Killoren
2 months 3 weeks ago

You are aware that masturbatory sexual acts are also a grave sin and morally disordered no more or less evil than homosexual acts. Yet I do not hear the voices who condemn LGBT rising in righteous indignation condemning men and women who are so obsessed with pornography and masturbation that it interferes with their responsibilities to their work and families. "The fact that Jesus God Almighty loves them and offered His life for them doesn't do away with their free will to commit grave sin." Our God is a God of mercy. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Robert - I agree those acts are morally disordered and sinful. Pornography is especially grave because of its addictive character and the culture of abuse it entails. The difference is that no one is clamoring for doctrine to change on those sins. They are handled in the confessional, as all homosexual sins should be. Those sins, and worse ones like pedophilia, are all forgivable for those with a contrite heart.

Oliver Plunkett
2 months 3 weeks ago

Yes, but people that suffer from pornography and masturbation don't have parades in major cities around the world, needing acceptance and proud of their sin, even declaring it's not a sin at all, encouraging others to support them etc. If there were big masturbation parades or pornographic parades I'm sure the outcry to save their souls would be equal. Note there are groups within the Church that work with folks that acknowledge their struggles and want a relationship with Christ and strive for purity and chastity. I also acknowledge your understanding that homosexual acts are grave sins.

Ellen B
2 months 3 weeks ago

Do current publications used in Roman Catholic courses in Moral Theology approve of sexual acts outside of marriage? Unless you have only had sex within marriage & only for the purpose of procreation, I'm assuming that you are in the same moral theology boat as a homosexual engaging in sexual activity. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Jim Englert
2 months 3 weeks ago

I think part of the value that Martin's attempt to initiate a more respectful conversation here is that it might well point out aspects of standard Catholic moral thinking that are problematic. I'm thinking of your concluding question, which presumes that "homosexual sexual acts" necessarily belong to a single category. To get at what I mean, just change the question to pertain to "heterosexual sexual acts". Does Catholic moral theology approve of such acts? Well, yes and no, of course. This, it seems to me, is the fundamental blindspot of traditional Catholic moral thinking here, namely, that it is incapable of distinguishing between (a) promiscuous behavior and (b) stable loving relationships committed to fidelity and permanence. Most of us, I suspect, who think of this in terms of people we know well, that we love dearly, can't help but find it absurd not to be able to posit real moral difference here. What do we make of that difference? How do we talk about it in terms that are not utterly discordant with traditional moral thinking? I don't know, don't have those answers. But I do have that question. And most gay persons, as well as most straight persons, I suspect, know almost intuitively that there is a real moral difference between those two states in life, (a) and (b), in their/our own lives, as well as in the lives of others. Unless and until the Church grapples with that distinction, all our talk about 'approval or disapproval of homosexual sexual acts' will remain highly suspect. Indeed, should remain so. I think there's a clue in the Catholic tradition of analogical reasoning. It's common in our culture, I think, to make too little of real, substantial difference between sexually-differentiated and same-sex sexual love. As it is common in the Church to make too little of real, substantial similarities. Most straight couples who are close to gay couples, either as friends or family, find ourselves nodding knowingly at such similarity, in very concrete situations, at very concrete moments, some of great joy, some of overwhelming sadness, most pretty darn mundane. Talking about realities in terms of similarities-in-the-midst-of-difference is analogical speech. And we Catholics used to be really good at it. We should get good at it again. Maybe we'd get somewhere on this. But that will never happen as long as we try to come up with answers to your question, rather than realizing that it's the question itself that leads us up one more blind alley, and locks us in there.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Jim - of course there are sinful heterosexual acts, whether they are in stable or unstable, monogamous or promiscuous situations. No one is raising these acts because no one is pretending they are not sinful. A stable loving relationship of two heterosexual people can still be sinful if they are not validly married to each other (many cases of divorce or adultery fall into this situation).

Robert Lewis
2 months 3 weeks ago

"Sinful" maybe, but not "mortally sinful."

Jim Englert
2 months 3 weeks ago

Robert, that's the kind of distinction that traditional Catholic moral theology has made that could point the way forward. Less convinced that it's directly applicable. But many 'schools' of Catholic theology have been very good at making careful distinctions of one form or another, and I think we can learn much from them here.

Jim Englert
2 months 3 weeks ago

That underlines the point I'm trying to make, Tim. To assert that "heterosexual sexual acts" is not a single, unitary category, calling for a single, unitary moral judgment, will elicit a 'Well, Duh!' response in almost anyone and everyone. More and more people offer a similar 'Duh! to the suggestion that "homosexual sexual acts" is similarly not a single, unitary category, and so similarly not amenable to single, unitary moral judgment. And I'm convinced that they're onto something. Precisely what is way beyond my ken. And I think the only way we're going to be able to move toward some real understanding of what that might mean is through conversation, respectful argument, raising questions that others aren't raising and having questions raised for us that had never occurred, and likely would never have occurred to us in the solitude of our own minds.

J Brookbank
2 months 3 weeks ago

I am a straight Catholic woman living in community with two gay women, one of them also Catholic. We are all professionals with more than a hundred years of service to the community and public safety work between us. I know nothing of their "bedroom activities", the focus of many here. They are not interested in having anyone know anything about their "bedroom activities". Asked about their lives, they speak of the essential work they do in the community and the loving home life that fills and heals their hearts and souls, allowing them to serve the community the next day. For people like Tom Z, they announce their "bedroom activities" when they introduce themselves as a family. For me, when they identify themselves as a loving family committed to serving the community, they announce the beauty of family and the shared joy of serving the community, even the people who reject them. They are the most Christian, generous women I know. These are the people and the lives Fr Martin and the Bishop ask each person here - and the broader Catholic community - to engage with respect, love and humility.

Robert Lewis
2 months 3 weeks ago

This is brilliant. Thank you for it.

Chuck Tingstad
2 months 3 weeks ago

Well stated, sir.

J Brookbank
2 months 3 weeks ago

Jim, this is tremendously well stated and helpful. Though I do not understand the meaning of one statement ("It's common in our culture, I think, to make too little of real, substantial difference between sexually-differentiated and same-sex sexual love"), I believe you provide a taste of the dialogue that is possible.

Jim Englert
2 months 3 weeks ago

I appreciate those kind words. And am not sure myself precisely what I mean by my suggestion relative to "our culture." It's more a sense of something that gnawed at me 5 years ago when Archbishop Nienstedt had successfully lobbied the legislature here in Minnesota to put a 'Marriage Amendment' on the ballot. I read widely on this matter in the year leading up to the election, followed the two 'campaigns' closely. Went to a forum sponsored by the Archdiocese at the local Newman Center, and was stunned by the paucity of thoughtfulness of the panelists. I surely voted against the amendment, but I also found my 'side' engaged in too casual a dismissal of concerns that some people -- not the bigots, not the American Catholic Taliban -- had. It came down to what our politics now usually comes down to, polarized camps that speak only to and with their fellow campers, and find it exceedingly difficult to understand the other side. What I sense to be the "differences" I mentioned have to do with the fact that heterosexual love is not just a relationship between two persons, but also, through those concrete persons, a union of the two fundamental ways of being human that there are. The East speaks of Yin/Yang, the medievals spoke of 'the communion of opposites,' both in reference to human love and to Transcendent Mystery. There's an otherness in sexually-differentiated sexual love that is, I think, not insignificant. And while I think the Church often makes a hash of its talk about procreation, it remains a fact that procreation is a matter of some significance to our human family. And there's also this difference, heterosexual lovers live in a culture and society that has a long and wide tradition of customs and laws and songs and celebrations, while same-gendered lovers do not. I want to make it clear that I affirm with joy the fact that such things -- surely not completely absent in the tradition, but far more hidden -- are theirs now to develop. I really do wonder, though, if "Marriage" is the best mode of doing that, or whether it won't, at least in some ways, actually stifle that, same-sex couples more co-opted into the existing tradition that has long developed for, and by, heterosexuals, rather than creating a tradition more uniquely fitting. But those are more questions that rumble around between my ears than they are judgments, convictions, things I think to be true. More like things I wonder about.

No idea if you'll see this, and no idea if this would be of any interest, but I keep a small web page, where, among numerous other things I've worked on over the long years, I share a lengthy letter I wrote to Archbishop Nienstedt, raising a host of questions about what I perceived to be his fraudulent effort on this matter back in 2012. Should you like to take a look at it, the web page can be found by googling [methodicanarchist's share page], then click [Files] in the upper left corner, then [Letters], and then [Archbishop]. My reflections on the possible value of analogy to this discussion can be found on pages 50-54.

Again, I so appreciate your kind words, and wish you great blessings.

JOE CANAD
2 months 2 weeks ago

Yes, I agree that many gay couples are committed to each other, however you really need to focus on the root. (1) God gave man the ability to have form, "in His image" and with that, to reproduce. (2) The angels were so offended by His conveyance of these upon Man, they dissented, and we have Lucifer and Hell as a result. (3) God commanded that we not waste the divine gift of reproduction. (4) Up to 1960's all Church Fathers, theologians and scholars in good standing followed the same line:

- Ordered use of a gift is to use it as it was designed, and congruent with Natural design. This means that if nature's design is not used, it is "disordered" and "un-natural".
- No matter how you slice the apple, homosexual activity can not, will not and never will, result in procreation.
-Since procreation is the "Ordered" outcome of "natural" sexual activity, no matter the attractions and no matter how nice, kind and likeable the individuals engaging in it are, homosexual activity is necessarily "dis-Ordered" and "un-natural".

This is NOT to say we persecute homosexual activity or couples. However, you must simply buckle down and call a spade a spade... You do not, as Fr. Martin and so many within the Clerical Gay Lobby do, actively condone and promote it.

The foundation for this is as proven, old and solid as a belief in the Trinity. It is simply irrefutable.

In short, Martin and others are choosing the path of corruption of the Faith... LIke the 1600's schismatics, they are reinterpreting God's intent, defying the fact that scripture was inspired by God... instead they are stripping the divine guidance and saying "hey, it's only a bunch of creative thought, open to interpretation"....

That, my friend, is the seed of evil, not salvation... only the Dark Side of Lucifer uses temptation and self gratification... not God.

Elizabeth Stevens
2 months 3 weeks ago

I wonder what the backlash would be if Catholic parishes started to shun any Catholic person who has had sexual relations outside a consecrated heterosexual marriage. That was the case in many places many years ago. Morally, is that any different than what LGBT people are thought to be involved in and shunned because of it? I really think sexual morality is a huge issue that must be addressed, but which can only be addressed within a loving, caring, and committed community of faith, from the Pope on down to every Catholic person.

James MacGregor
2 months 3 weeks ago

Amen. You have identified a key element in human bigotry. We should remember not to judge someone just because they sin differently than we do!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9/ESV)

Rick Cortright
2 months 3 weeks ago

You're being silly. The church has always taught against all forms of adultery which by definition is outside of sacramental marriage.

Molly Roach
2 months 3 weeks ago

It may have taught but hasn't really enforced in any meaningful way. And this alone makes the singling out of homosexuals questionable if not suspect.

Tim Brantley
2 months 3 weeks ago

Adulterers rarely go around proclaiming that adultery is perfectly fine and that it's not sinful at all, as is the case with "gay" activists. Adulterers rarely insist that the Church needs to change it's teachings in regard to sexual morality. There's the difference.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Bishop McElroy - I like your closing exhortation "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. 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. " I agree there are voices on both sides of this divide who are not entering the debate fairly. But, one key piece of evidence is that any criticism to gaps in Fr. Martin's approach to dialogue is branded "homophobia" or assumed to be driven by hate, or fear. Isn't that the very judgmentalism that each side is supposed to foreswear?

Fr. Martin's podcast with Brandan Ambrosino goes farther than I have heard Fr. Martin go previously. I have written more about this in a previous combox and will mention only one concern here. It seems to denigrate the former gays who are trying to live chaste lives, suggesting some sickness is behind their decisions. Fr. Martin seems to think that all arguments from natural law and scripture are being put forward purely from hate or fear or sickness motives. That is radical and bigoted.

I think Cardinal Sarah, in his Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, gets the approach to dialogue most right, from a truth and compassion balance (they are of course intimately linked). His compassionate and mild criticism of Fr. Martin should also be seen as part of the dialogue.

I have bought and read other books from Fr. Martin and like a lot of his evangelical approach. But, I see this balance lacking in this podcast, in his reaction to orthodox faithful, in his insistence that Catholics should accept the ever-changing language of critics of the Church (is it gay & lesbian, or is it LGBT? If the latter, why no mention of bisexual or trans?) and the Church should abandon its language, in order to avoid being labeled homophobes or haters. There is no doubt that the secular world denigrates faithful Catholics and elevates LGBT sex lives. Fr. Martin has been the recipient of many awards from that world. So it is not a sign of courage to cave to misleading or false language.

If judgmentalism is so wrong, why not begin by setting an example? Fr. Martin could very much help by avoiding denigrating those who disagree with him (perhaps, he could just ignore the more outlandish name-calling) and stating why he fully accepts the Church's teaching on gay marriage. As Pope Francis said concerning the push for gay marriage in his own country, there are nefarious forces at work in this war on marriage and adoption. Lives and souls are at stake.

Pancho Mulongeni
2 months 3 weeks ago

I just want to point out that there is no way to really "stop being gay", because our evidence from social science and medicine shows this to be the case.No one would argue that miracles do happen, I agree. But then again, would anyone tell someone with a serious medical condition, for example HIV infection, that they can just go to a place of pilgrimage and be cured? Yet this is a bad example, being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (Bi and Trans people are included), is not a disease of any kind. I had to nonetheless, use it to show you there are no reasonable grounds to believe people can really change that part of themselves. Of course if people have sexual disorders, such as attraction to children, that of course would benefit from treatment. Again, not the same thing as LGBT. Sadly, many Catholics believe we LGBT people, the world over, are the cause of the child abuse problems of the Church. I will not reply to any more of your points. I just want to say your arguments are centuries old and you have tradition on your side. Now Fr Martin may suggest something new and your position appears attacked or denigrated - that's not actually the case, its just that he is offering something new. In Namibia, my part of the world, your views are actual dominant. In New England in the US, indeed, you may feel marginalized. But that's not most of the Catholic Church, so please let's be honest here, the views you espouse are sadly the norm. I sadly, because it means I still have to put up with people trying to tell me who to love, how to live (chastity or encourage me to become religious) because I am not heterosexual. I think the point of Fr Martin is that LGBT people should feel free in the Church and not told who to love, how to live, just based on their identification with a movement that started back in 1969, with the Stonewall riots.

Marge Banach
2 months 3 weeks ago

Pancho, I do not believe the church tells anyone who to love but to love all. These are choices to be made freely .We are invited to live the virtues that Christ lived and to become Christ for others. Jesus was chaste and so we strive to be chaste as His followers . Saints who espoused these virtues give us hope that we might attain virtuous lives also. While you may be attracted to men all your life, that does not mean that you do not have a choice on how to live with that attraction; that is, chaste or unchaste, just as any heterosexual has a choice on how to live with physical attraction to the opposite sex.

Pancho Mulongeni
2 months 3 weeks ago

And let me be free of judgement in taking that choice, as I seek out His will.

Andrew Wolfe
2 months 3 weeks ago

Pancho, your inability to "stop being gay" is a sad confession that your homosexuality is a compulsion robbing you of free will.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 months 3 weeks ago

"Pancho, your inability to 'stop being gay' is a sad confession that your homosexuality is a compulsion robbing you of free will." Pure baloney. If you are a "straight" person, Mr. Wolfe, I'd note that your inability to "stop being straight" is a sad confession that your heterosexuality is a compulsion robbing you of (purported) free will. I would add that the church's popular understanding of so-called "free will" is a doctrinal fiction. When one sins, one is not at all "free": One is "lost" in sin (Luke 15).

J Brookbank
2 months 3 weeks ago

I am stunned by this comment. I am just stunned. Pancho, I am sorry Andrew spoke to you this way. Wow. This stuff blows my mind. Where and how can Andrew live that his understanding is so limited?

Robert Killoren
2 months 3 weeks ago

I doubt that Fr Martin would object to any reasonable counter argument. That's not the problem. It is the irrational fear and loathing cast against the LGBT community that Fr Martin and the Bishop are talking about. Fr Martin makes a case and is met with a downpour of insults and condemnation that I bet you have never experienced. Nor is it anything like a reasoned argument.

Don Campbell
2 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Tim. Has there been a more obvious recent case of the "pot calling the kettle black"?

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

A good article and I agree that Fr. Martin shouldn't be criticized for his book.

But it is the church itself that has created this problem with its relentless attacks on gay people and on marriage equality ... how many of our pew dollars have gone to making those awful anti-gay marriage DVDs parishes sent out, how much of our money has gone to lobbying against the legalization of marriage equality in states before the Supreme Court decision? Cardinal Cupoch, considered to be somewhat liberal, wrote against legalizing marriage equality in his state of Washington by comparing it to incest and bigamy.

The majority of lay Catholics in the US and Europe disagree with the church's stance on LGBT people, their relationships, and marriage equality. It is the church itself that has to explain why it has made the tearing down of gay relationships so important.

Dcn Cliff Britton
2 months 3 weeks ago

Hi Crystal... I would argue that is is the "majority of lay Catholics in the US and Europe" who shoulder the burden of putting forth the arguments explaining why the unchanged teaching of the Church on the subject has been wrong and must be changed. Church teaching (fortunately!) has never been governed by fluctuating lay opinions. But there are 45,000 independent and fractured ecclesial communities whose teachings do flutter in the wind.

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Many have put forward arguments for why the church should reconsider its stance on gay relationships, from Fr. James Alison to Bishop Gene Robinson. But it's pointless because church leaders will not allow for change - for them, change in church doctrine means the church must have made a mistake. They would rather put a lot of people through the ringer and continuously lose members instead of admitting they have been wrong. The only things that don't change over time and with new information are things that are dead.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Crystal - the doctrine does not change because the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from falling into doctrinal error. I know from your past posts that you do not accept much of Catholic moral doctrine. But, if this changed, many other sins would also change (divorce, contraception, pre-marital sex, abortion, euthanasia, etc), as is evident in the faux church called Episcopal. It would be the end of Christ's Church, because it would mean no Church on earth was teaching the truth on morality. Hence, we would lose all confidence on what the Church teaches elsewhere - and the words of Jesus would have proven false. So, it cannot happen, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [the Church]" Matt 16:18. That is what faithful Catholics believe. We would be once again orphans, cast out into the darkness.

Dcn Cliff Britton
2 months 3 weeks ago

Hi Crystal... in business I am concerned with "gaining and keeping members" so I do change my products to meet my customer's needs. As clergy I have only one unchanging product, His Truth.... and I work to help people change to accept it. Pope Benedict said (paraphrased) "I'd rather shepherd a smaller but faithful Church"

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Catholic church is run by fallible men. That doesn't mean the Holy Spirit doesn't exist but it's pretty arrogant to think that only the Catholic church has its help or that the Catholic church doesn't make mistakes ... think slavery.

Don Campbell
2 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Deacon.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 months 3 weeks ago

"Pope Benedict said (paraphrased) "'I'd rather shepherd a smaller but faithful Church.'" Not at all Christlike. "His Truth"? As you see it? The only Truth (upper case) is "God is Love". Divine love does not condemn, nor will it allow us to condemn ourselves (Luke 15). We have been saved --- already!

Don Campbell
2 months 3 weeks ago

Crystal - What about remaining true to the faith handed down by the apostles, particularly as set forth in the Bible? The "people" can't simply override the teaching of the Bible about sex, nor can the Church. If they could, the faith would become meaningless. Your logic would reduce the Church to being the "Church of whatever the people believe right now."

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

I'm not saying that lay people (or clerics, either) should arbitrarily change teachings to suit the times.

But over time and with scholarship, the interpretations of those teachings can and should change in order to have them be as close as possible to what Jesus really intended.

What are the scripture sources for the church's stance against gay relationships? Leviticus would have us sell our daughters into slavery, kill people for planting two different kinds of crops together, etc., so it doesn't seem very trustworthy. The Sodom and Gamorrah story has been shown to not really be about homosexual acts but about hospitality (Susan Neiman). Fr. James Alison writes about Romans 1. Bishop Gene Robinson writes more on what the bible says about homosexuality. Jesus said nothing about it and as far as I know, neither did his apostles (I have links for this stuff if anyone is interested).

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Crystal - if a religion of scholars decided that the Real Presence or the Resurrection were meant to be taken as metaphor, or that Jesus was a good man but a captive of his cultural prejudices, or that his moral constraints have no hold on us and can be abandoned without consequence, what use would such a religion be? Why not discard it all and just listen to yourself. Follow your bliss, or your best guess. You are preaching the unbearable lightness of Episcopalianism. Notice how such a religion cannot grow. It cannot even attract you. You rail against Catholicism but cannot leave it alone.

Crystal Watson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Huh? Yes, Gene Robinson is an Episcopalian, but Fr. Alison is a Catholic priest. Susan Neiman is, I believe, Jewish. What matters is the truth, not who speaks it.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Crystal - any self-identifying Catholic can argue for anything they want, from reincarnation to euthanasia, abortion to atheism. That has no bearing on the actual teaching of the Catholic Church. The key difference with the Episcopalians (aka the First Church of nice) is that they change their teaching by vote, not by holding fast to the faith handed down by Christ. So, the Episcopalians have completely reversed themselves on contraception for hard cases (1930), for couple's choice (1958), & for population control reasons (1994). They were firmly against abortion (1958 & 1964), then permitted it for health reasons (1967), then for any reasons (1976), and for minors without notifying the parents (1991). They keep making it up as they go along, forever caving to the zeitgeist. You don't notice the difference because you too follow the zeitgeist. The Church follows Christ. Big difference!

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 months 3 weeks ago

Deacon Britton, you write in part, "Your logic would reduce the Church to being the 'Church of whatever the people believe right now.'" I remind you of LG-12, especially the following: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when 'from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God." The Spirit works among ALL the faithful, not just among the ordained, much less only among the hierarchs. Western Catholics are increasingly coming to question traditional moral teaching on some sexual matters. The bishops can learn as much from the rest of us as we can learn from them. Learning --- using our God-given brains --- requires open minds.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 3 weeks ago

Joseph - "the entire body of the faithful" sensus fidelium requires unanimity, which there obviously is not on any of these controversial issues. The Catechism is the teaching of the Catholic Church. Let me know when some part of the Catechism has a unanimous change (it must include you and me, and everyone else, or it cannot change).

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 months 3 weeks ago

Mr. O'Leary, I'm not sure what the phrase "the entire body of the faithful" means within the context of LG-12 other than what you think it means. However, it may very well suggest that doctrine is always under development because human experience itself is never static. With sufficient development over time, the bishops come to recognize that an actual change in doctrine is appropriate. Church teaching on slavery is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Rome upheld the morality of slavery for nearly two thousand years. Why? Because Jesus himself approved of the practice. Forces outside as well as within the church increasingly condemned slavery. Not everyone, of course, regarded slavery as sinful, morally wrong (this is where I do have a problem with LG-12's use of "the entire body of the faithful" unless there is background material explaining Vatican II's rationale for this language).

All magisterial teaching is *proposed for reception*. Both Vatican I and Vatican II taught that it is the church itself that is infallible at all times and that pope and bishops teach infallibly only under specified conditions. If a proposed doctrine is not *received by the faithful*, it may be it needs more time and/or better articulation for eventual reception, or it may be the proposal was never legitimate (or infallible, as the case may be) in the first place. The magisterium proposes; the church disposes.

The body of the faithful --- albeit not necessarily everyone --- concluded slavery is morally wrong, notwithstanding Jesus' approval. The conciliar fathers acknowledged this "universal" condemnation and acted accordingly. Today we are witnessing (at least in the West) the condemnation of traditional religious teaching against homosexuality including its prohibition of same-sex marriage. Most Catholics are convinced that homosexuality is God-given and that the opportunity to enter into monogamous and faithful marriage should not be denied to LGBT couples. We know today that the hierarchs can learn as much from the rest of the church as the latter can learn from the magisterium. In fact, if the bishops refuse to move forward, they risk losing their magisterium, i.e., teaching authority.

Regarding the Catechism, more than enough Catholics disagree with its content, etc. such that questions arise whether *all* of its teaching is legitimate, i.e., authoritative. It is the body of the faithful that is infallible at all times. Most church doctrine, of course, is not at all infallible.

JW Russell
2 months 3 weeks ago

****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.****

There are those words of the Bishop to consider, and then there are these words of Jesus to consider:

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."

Perhaps it's somehow, for some reason, worth noting that chastity is not THE central virtue of the Christian moral life.

But it is sure as heck not *optional*. Not if you want to "see God."

Pancho Mulongeni
2 months 3 weeks ago

Alright, I see the point. But why is "pure of heart" connected to sex? Did I miss something here?

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