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

Photos: iStock, composite: America MediaPhotos: 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.


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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Henry George
2 years 4 months ago

I must say that Bishop McElroy comes across as rather judgmental
against those who do not believe Fr. Martin is dealing in the
"Whole Cloth of the Truth".

As for Chastity, need I remind the Bishop that unless you
love for others is Chaste, you misuse them ?

J Jones
2 years 4 months ago

I have been willing, as have been some of my gay Catholic friends, to respect and, honestly, even have compassion for the deep feelings of discomfort and catechetical objections of very conservative Catholics with the fact of openly gay Catholic people. Most of those Catholics are really loving, faithful people face-to-face, and I am willing to listen without judgment and consider their concerns, which I believe are often genuinely grounded in a love for each child of God and a desire for their eternal safety.

And then I read here and in other places responses that speak strongly of a resistance to any actual Christian encounter with LGBT Catholics. By actual Christian encounter, I think I speak of the hospitality of table fellowship, that gathering where we sit side-by-side with the Other and just let them be for that hour of breaking bread. We quiet ourselves and just let them be. And we walk away grateful that we were able to share a moment's peace with another child of God.

It is hard for me to imagine that, having done that - having received in turn the hospitality and Agape from the person sitting next to them, all these good and faithful Catholics could spend so much of their lives reducing other faithful Catholics' lives to a failure to love God as evidenced by a sexual defiance of Scripture and the Catechism.

But I woke the last two days still stunned by Andrew's comment to Pancho. I woke the last two days still stunned by a vulgar snicker here over a juvenile pun involving the phrase "back door", and this from a writer identifying himself as a long-experienced parish minister. I woke the last two days still stunned by the considerable intellectual and spiritual energy expended here on adult and private sexual acts and the hostility to which that expense of your intellectual and spiritual energy leads.

I admit that my friends and I just move on from the parishes which attract those Catholics, knowing there are gorgeously Christ-centered Catholic parishes that welcome all who are hungry for Christ's company in the form of the Liturgy and the communion of saints and sinners that is the Catholic community.

But I see that I need to participate in Mass in the kinds of parishes where writers here and elsewhere participate. I need to go on respecting and caring for them, and I need to express my surprise and my different experience of the LGBT Catholics and I need to encourage table fellowship of the kind I describe with LGBT Catholics. I realize the dialogue Father James and Bishop McElroy propose is also my responsibility.

My thanks for Fr Martin and Bishop McElroy and to Tom who is subscribing to America Magazine and to all who have commented here with unkindness and a belief that the depth of a person's love for God can be judged by their private sexual acts with another adult. I have learned from you. I am saddened by what I have learned, and I know I need to spend more time with you and I need to identify when we are together as a faithful Catholic ally of the LGBT community.

Henry George
2 years 4 months ago

J. Brookbank,

What exactly is private - is adultery private, are "hook-ups" private ?
Few of the commentators are judging - but they are asking what is the teaching
of the Church and are we to follow it or not ?

Robert Lewis
2 years 4 months ago

Please tell me where, in any of this discussion, anybody protesting for Father's good and Christian intentions, is saying ANYTHING about "hook-ups". I suggest that you get your mind out of the gutter!

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago

Hi Robert,

I was asking a question concerning what is meant by "private actions".
Why you assume my mind is in the gutter, I do not know.

J Jones
2 years 4 months ago

Henry -

The focus of the article. the comments and the conflict has not been adultery, which is a violation of the sacramental and legal relationship and contract between two adults, or "hook ups", which is understood by most as promiscuity.

The focus is homosexual sexual contact, the bulk of which - like the bulk of heterosexual sexual contact - is conducted privately between two adults.

I will spend time thinking about your second statement.

At first pass, I find it disingenuous. I cannot think of a single comment here which suggests anyone here lacks awareness of Scripture or Catechetical teaching on same gender sexual contact and very few comments which suggest a question about how to respond to those words. A recitation is unlikely to sway anyone but it likely protects the reciter from real encounter with the Other and it certainly makes a dialogue nigh on impossible. (Does any one of the c ommenters here think LGBT Catholics and their straight Catholic allies are unaware of those teachings?)

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago

J Brookbank,

You mentioned private sexual acts and so I asked for clarity.

The Teaching of the Church, as far as I understand it, is that such acts outside of marriage are
not in the best interest of the two people involved.

Of course that would mean a life of non-sexual expression for those who are attracted to their same gender.

The question that Moral Theologians have been struggling with is whether that is too great a burden to
place on anyone. We live in a very lonely world and to find a partner and not to be able to express one's
affection for them via the use of one's sexuality seems to be asking the impossible.

Fr. Martin wants the Church to welcome anyone, which is what the Church should do.
However, Fr. Martin seems to be saying, outside of his book, that sexual relations between
same gendered people and their weddings should and will one day be approved by
the Church and they should be approved - the sooner the better.

As such some people want to know what Fr. Martin really thinks - is that too much to ask ?

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Henry -

First, as a Catholic who lives with a long-term, committed gay couple (one member of which is also Catholic), I am deeply grateful for and relieved to read your words, which do not include the disrespectful lecturing implicit in the recitation of Scripture to other Catholics and, most powerfully, are expressed with a humane understanding of what the Church's current teaching asks of LGBT Catholics.

Your humanity is breathtaking in its rarity in comment sections on this topic, and it is the path forward, I strongly feel, to the bridge of welcome and Christian embrace the LGBT Catholic community - and allies like me - seek.

If every comment here started with the humane understanding that the LGBT Catholic community differs from the straight Catholic community only in who they love and wish to spend their lives in intimate relationship with, the conversation about this topic would likely be considerably more productive and, certainly, less painful for those of us for whom this topic is deeply personal because they live it daily as LGBT Catholics or their family and friends.

So I thank you.

If the last line of your comment really sums up the question behind all these comments, most of which lack the humanity and respect of your comment here, then why is not that simple question asked, with folks moving on. Quoting Scripture at Fr Martin and the Bishop and at most LGBT Catholics and allies is not going to produce an answer.

My guess is that Fr Martin, like most of us excepting those who find their line of Scripture and close the ears of their hearts to the questions presented by human experience, is still discerning what he "really thinks" on this and is learning, as most humans do, how to articulate the still unfolding fruits of that discernment. Hence, the call to dialogue and shared discernment by all members of the Catholic community. I find that discernment and dialogue are scary ventures, no matter the topic.

Most of us know that young people who identify as gay are looking to the adult community for clues as whether they will ever be loved and accepted and whether they will ever be allowed to have families of their own without being treated like lepers and whether their committed, loving, stable relationships will ever NOT be viewed as the sexual equivalent of a gateway drug. We know that many of those young people see no hope when they listen to and encounter comments like most of those here and in the Church, and many decide that suicide is a less painful option than a long life lived without intimacy.

Fr Martin's willingness to say this is a topic for Catholics in general and not just the moral theologians shines like a beacon of hope for many weary of asking for and waiting for the humanity reflected in your comment here.

Thank you for your willingness to include your humane understanding of your brothers and sisters in your comments here.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 3 months ago

Prescinding from the matter of church doctrine, I've never observed a couple engaging in adultery or even "hook-ups". I suspect this stuff is done mostly out of sight, perhaps in the back seat of a car, a motel room, maybe out in nature somewhere?

Tim O'Leary
2 years 4 months ago

Most might agree that loving one's neighbor is wanting the best for them. Since eternal salvation is a much greater good than temporal peace or happiness, those who put peace, tolerance or self-fulfillment above concern for eternal salvation are simply not loving enough. It is a form of washing one's hands in the name of an easy life. It is a failure to love.

So, it all comes down to the truth, the only reality. Since I accept the teachings of the Lord in Scripture and as interpreted by the One True Church that is protected from error on such a central moral question, I am obligated, on pain of my own soul, to love my neighbor as the Lord and His Church teaches, and not treat my feelings as a higher authority. And if teachers fail to teach the whole truth, and endanger their listeners's salvation, they are dealing in a cover-up as bad as any sex abuse scandal. It is negligent malpractice of their vocation.

J Jones
2 years 4 months ago

Tim, the equation of sexual abuse of minors by their priests (and their religious brothers and their religious sisters) and the cover-up by countless consecrated leaders of the "One True Church" with dialogue about and the practice of consensual sexual contact between two adults (regardless of gender) is an absurd mixing of apples and oranges. It is a dialogue-ending anchovy tossed into the fruit salad. I am again stunned at this expenditure of intellect and spirituality on private sexual behavior between two adults.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 4 months ago

J - I see that you are stunned a lot, whereas it is only because you define love and love of neighbor very differently than the Gospel. You rightly see great harm of child sex abuse but see no harm in "private sexual behavior between two adults." So, you think we shouldn't worry about any harm in the latter situation. But, if we see harm there, should we not worry about our neighbor and just leave them be? That is not love. That is indifference. Especially when the scriptures say "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10 NIV)

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said (Matt 22:37-40): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” So, Jesus ties these commandments directly to the Law. To love one's neighbor as oneself does not mean to leave them to their own "private sexual behavior." We are not free to do that, for adults or children.

J Jones
2 years 4 months ago

Tim, yes, I continue to be stunned - deeply puzzled, baffled, incredulous, disturbed - that a discussion of LGBT Catholics elicits arguments like yours which reference the sexual abuse of minors by adults and the institutional cover up of the sexual abuse of minors by adult leaders of that institution. The suggestion that there is any logical - let alone moral - equivalency between a cover-up of violence against children and a refusal to condemn sexual contact between consenting adults is repugnant and is precisely the kind of unnecessary and ugly statement that contributes to deeply damaged and painful relationships in the Catholic community. This is the kind of rhetoric that contributes to the belief of young LGBT Catholic/Christian people that they are abominable people who will never be accepted or loved and , thus, ending their lives seems less painful. The lives of gay Catholics need not devolve, in discussions, to comparisons with perpetrators of crimes against children. And yes, it is stunning to me that that continues to happen.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 4 months ago

Of course, the abuse of minors is of a worse order of evil. I wasn't speaking about the perpetrators, but the victims. At what age do you define adult for these relationships (you say young LGBT people), especially given the possibility of gender confusion in youth? Very sadly, the first gay sexual experience of many "LGBT" teenagers is with a much older adult (see for example the recent revelations by George Takei). Even in the priest abuse scandal, the John Jay report on priestly sex abuse found that 90% were ephebophiles, meaning their target were post-pubertal teenage males. Tammy Bruce, the self-identified lesbian, pro-choice, former president of the National Organization for Women, opposed gay marriage because she believed they should be restricted to heterosexual couples. In her book, The Death of Right & Wrong, she said: "Almost without exception, the gay men I know (and that's too many to count) have a story of some kind of sexual trauma or abuse in their childhood - molestation by a parent or an authority figure, or seduction as an adolescent at the hands of an adult.”

Then there is the paper by Tomeo et al. In research of 942 nonclinical adult participants, gay men and lesbian women reported a significantly higher rate of childhood molestation than did heterosexual men and women. 46% of the homosexual men vs. 7% of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. 22% of lesbian women in contrast to 1% of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation. Tomeo, M. E., Templer, D. L., Anderson, S., & Kotler, D. (2001). Comparative data of childhood adolescence molestation in heterosexual and homosexual persons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 535–541.

The point of citing this research is that there is not a clear age where great harm ends. Even if there were, one should not be indifferent to one's neighbor. I do not deny that there can be great love between people of the same sex. Our faith (Jesus, Scripture, the Church) instructs that, to be good and not harmful, those friendships must be chaste, since sex was intended by God only for marriage of potentially future mothers and fathers: Jesus answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate. (Matt 19:4-6)

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago


I respect your sincerity and the amount of reading you clearly do.

You continue to compare adult relationships with the sexual abuse of children and adolescents.

No one here - not Fr Martin, not the Bishop, not LGBT Catholics, not I - is asking the Catholic Church to reconsider or condone the sexual abuse of children and adolescents by adults of either gender for any reason in any context.

No discussion can be productive or even respectful when the subject is a moving target. A conflation of LGBT Catholics with pedophiles and ephebophiles creates just that: a moving target and hopelessly conflicted and unproductive discussion.

Increasingly fewer Catholics are willing to consider these conflations as legitimate or worthy of time and emotional and spiritual energy required to engage by such ugly, unnecessary and hurtful rhetoric.

If the topic is victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse of children and adolescents, let's talk about victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse of children and adolescents.

If the topic is consensual, adult relationships, LGBT Catholics and the Church, then let's talk about that.

To conflate the two dooms the dialogue before it begins; it is a false equation; and it is deeply damaging, most particularly for young people.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago

J - If you look at my opening comment, you should see that I only used the sex abuse crisis as an example of a bad cover-up of the truth, in that case, for fear of scandal. But, I obviously hit a nerve. The topic I wanted to speak about is telling the truth. Any conspiracy not to tell the whole truth when lives/souls are at stake is a form of cover-up. That is why I think it is critically important for the Church and its representatives to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on this and all matters. I can see Fr. Martin's desire to avoid reiterating the teaching (which he says he does not at all challenge) might have some temporary strategic value in his desire for opening a dialogue, but he cannot persist in avoiding it and stay true to the truth. It results in a false ecumenism, built on weak foundations that can lose souls. Jesus did not shrink from this. Cardinal Sarah managed to do both in his WSJ Op-Ed. That is the better way.

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Tim - Thank you for clarifying your intent when raising the topic of perpetrators, victims and cover-up of the sexual abuse of children and adolescents by adults.

You did indeed "hit a nerve", one frequently hit when Catholics speak about the issue of homosexuality and raise the topics of sexual abuse. Wouldn't it be exhausting and maddening and ultimately painful if every time Catholics spoke of their families or the families of their beloved children or friends, gay Catholics quoted Scripture about adultery and promiscuity, research on divorce and domestic violence and wrapped it all up with "trust me" "stories about "my friend whose husband of many years raped all the girls in the extended family" and then the story about "my cousin who married a woman only to find out she rips her workers off on their paychecks" and then the guy who stays up all night masturbating in front of their computers. As a straight Catholic, I have to say I would be exhausted and enraged and ultimately deeply hurt if a dialogue about family and relationship - which we know are practiced by sinners because we are all sinners - always prompted a lecture about sin?

Wouldn't that hit your nerve? Wouldn't that make you feel judged? Wouldn't that make you think the other person was unwilling to consider your life as anything other than a gateway to sin? Wouldn't it make you wonder if they lecture EVERY one they meet about EVERY sin they detect in others EVERY day?

Though I am a straight Catholic, all of that describes the way I feel when the topic of LGBT Catholics come up in a forum like this and almost immediately people start talking about child abuse and promiscuity and adultery and masturbation and quoting Scripture and statistics to justify their non sequiturs and, most importantly, to justify the complete lack of understanding of the welcome and kindness and respect Jesus demands we extend to the stranger.

So thanks again for your clarification. Given what seems a sincere desire for dialogue, perhaps you and others will be think twice before engaging in the now-standard but unproductive rhetoric which demands that no discussion of LGBT Catholics is complete until child abuse, adultery, promiscuity, sodomy and masturbation have been bandied about.

Robert Lewis
2 years 4 months ago

One of the biggest problems of Fundamentalist Christians like you is that you separate the "afterlife" from this life, and you regard it as some kind of "reward" for following a set of rules. Even Saint Paul said "love and then do as you will." Even more mystically--and mysteriously--our Savior said "The Kingdom of Heaven is spread out before you"--obviously implying that for "redeemed souls" who live in the Spirit, "heaven" is right here and now, and that there is no distinction between times for the Love that is eternal. I and others here who felicitate Father Martin accept that human sexuality is flawed and that chastity is an ideal, but, at the same time, we maintain real chastity is maintained through many divers vagaries of human relationships. Jesus Christ did, indeed, teach that we are called upon to extend "peace, tolerance and self-fulfillment" to others, but not so much to worry about it for ourselves. So the questions arise, Mr. O'Leary, "How are you bringing 'peace, tolerance and self-fulfillment' to the many who are burdened by the disparagement of their natural--and very great--charism to love passionately their own sex? And what does it do for you personally to refuse to leave them alone in their quest for respect and acknowledgment of their unique challenges? What do you personally get out of it? Do you honestly believe that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is any more threatened by 'gay marriage' than it already is by the great majority's defilement of it by divorce? Is it possible that you don't actually believe that 'the Gates of Hell' cannot prevail against Christ's Church?"

Tim O'Leary
2 years 4 months ago

Robert - you miss so much of the Gospel. Isn't taking a phrase in one translation from St. Paul out of its context the very definition of fundamentalism? 1 Cor 10:23 (NIV) "I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"--but not everything is constructive. The ESV translation says “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Be sure to read St. Paul in context, including his first chapter of Romans and and sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians (esp. v. 9-10).

See if this comports with your attitude to the afterlife: "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matt 16: 24-26)

As to your denial of reward, see the following:
Matt 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...
Luke 6:23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven...
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High...
The Gospel many times speaks about preparing for the afterlife and putting it ahead of worldly concerns. The whole of Chapter 25 is about being ready for judgment day and the afterlife, culminating in the final judgment: (Mt:25: 44-46) "Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Robert Lewis
2 years 3 months ago

"Eternal punishment" is RIGHT NOW, as well, and I think YOU are being "punished" for your lovelessness and lack of compassion and empathy for your fellow human beings. I wouldn't want to be you.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago

Robert - There you go again, throwing insults and condemnation around as you claim to know what love is. I just left the bedside of a dying man. It seems ridiculous that anyone would be worried about anything other than one's eternal destiny when faced with impending death. Yet, the reality is, we are all much closer to death than we can believe. And Jesus is waiting with open arms for anyone open to forgiveness and mercy - not one demanding self-validation or rights that go against God's truth.

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago


I may be mistaken, and if I am, please correct me, but I do not think it was Saint Paul who said:

"Love and then do as you will"

but Saint Augustine, who, ironically, would probably disagree with you:

"See what we are insisting upon; that the deeds of men are only discerned by the root of charity. For many things may be done that have a good appearance, and yet proceed not from the root of charity. For thorns also have flowers: some actions truly seem rough, seem savage; howbeit they are done for discipline at the bidding of charity. Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good."

[Why do you call people "Fundamentalists" if they have not so acknowledge themselves as such ? ]

One might live in the "Spirit" and still find this world less than Heavenly.
I don't suppose while Jesus was being scourged and crucified or while Mary watched her only Son
being led to death and hung upon a cross They felt They were in Heaven.

I don't know where "peace, tolerance and self-fulliment" is taught by Jesus to be extended to others.
[Frankly, it sounds like one of those mottoes you heard at "Self-Realisation" gatherings in California in the 70's. ]

Jesus does want us to "extend" His Peace to one another and to tolerate one's faults/sins/mistakes
but that does not mean we should approve them. As for "Self-Fullfillment" - well unless you are a Pelagian -
I am not sure what that means - save we should have charity in our hearts/souls/minds/wills for everyone
but the Charity of the Holy Spirit, not of self-seeking humans.

You say there is a "natural charism to love passionately their own sex - gender".

Where is that written in Holy Scripture ?

That Divorce is accepted among Catholic and Christian couples is a great tragedy,
that does not mean the Church should compound that error by purporting to bless
the "Holy Matrimony" among same gendered people who are close friends.

For God made them Male and Female and they become one...

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Henry - Absolutely no one is advocating that the state or any church or any other institution or individual "bless
the "Holy Matrimony" among same gendered people who are close friends".

Close friends are close friends. The topic here is same-gendered love relationships. These are two distinct
kinds of relationships, one platonic and one romantic and sexual.

To deny that because you think the latter is sinful is deny reality; it is a manipulative and only apparently respectful acknowledgement of a relationship and thus is deceptive in its intent;, and and is disrespectful and unproductive.

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago

J Brookbank,
If the words that Jesus is purported to have said are indeed the words of Jesus then God created us Male and Female
in order that we might become one means that only a male may marry a female. Whatever the relationship between
two same gendered persons is - it is not the relationship that exists between a married couple.

The two same gendered people may be kinder, more patient, more solicitous than many married couples but
they cannot become one through marriage.

Same Gendered couples cannot have "sexual" relationships the way opposite gendered couples can and as such
they cannot be "One".

Where did I say in my previous post that same gendered relationships are sinful ?

If I did not and have not, why do you accuse me of something I am not, instead of asking me what I believe ?

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Henry, in response to your last question, I realize I am not certain that I have read a statement from you that consider gay romantic. sexual relationships sinful. You say you have not and, thus, I clearly made a careless and inaccurate assumption. I apologize and I am grateful you called my attention to the fact that you have not stated that here. My apologies.

I agree with you - and I imagine that most if not all gay Catholics would agree with you - that there are differences in the relationship between gay and straight couples. And I agree with you - and again I think most gay Catholics would agree with you - that the Bible's point of reference when speaking of marriage is a straight couple.

But that does not explain why you refer to a gay couple as "close friends" rather than as the "couple" that they are. It is, for me and many in the gay community, an obfuscating and disrespectful choice of words. "Close friends" describes a platonic relationship. Gay relationships are, by their nature, romantic, sexual relationships; otherwise, we would ALL call those dyads close friendships between two men or two women, and then Fr Martin would have had no book to write and we, no comments.

Referring to gay couples as "close friends" semantically denies and hides the facts of the relationship. Further, it is the language of the days of LGBT people being required to live closeted lives so as to maintain relationships with their families, churches and communities and to protect their jobs, housing and physical safety. I live with a stable, committed, loving gay couple, and I experience it as profoundly disrespectful and hurtful when someone refers to them as "close friends" or "housemates". They are a couple and **I** am the close friend and housemate. We feel lectured and judged and hurt when people who know they are a couple insist on calling them "close friends" or "housemates", They because their lives are denied and I because my friends lives are denied.

I believe it is impossible to be in respectful relationship and compassionate dialogue with members of our community - members of any community - if we deny their lives by insisting that a relationship is a friendship when it is, quite plainly, a committed, stable, and romantic, sexual relationship.

Acknowledging that they are romantic, sexual couples does not condone those facts and it is not then require you to condone the extension of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to LGBT couples. It does say, "I see and respect you, and I see and respect your love for your partner" and, there, I believe, the dialogue can begin.

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago

Hi J. Brookbank,

Part of the problem with America magazine is that it is very difficult to read all the postings and they do not
notify you when someone has responded to your post.

No need to apologise, there have been many posts by many people and all sorts of things have been said.
I do wish the dialogue box one writes a response is was bigger as I have a hard time seeing what I wrote
before - save for one sentence.

My view is this:
For His own reasons God created us Male and Female.
Only a male and a female can naturally produce children and God would
rather we do our part in creating new humans within a marriage.
Thus the words of Genesis, that are repeated by Christ:
"Male and Female He created them...and they shall become One."
As such, I cannot find any Scriptural authority for calling Same Gender Relationships - Marriages.
Even though the two people in the relationship may be far more devoted to each other than some
married couples.
I think for some people their friends mean more to them than their spouses.

As for partner...well to me that means very close friend - the closest friend one has.

As for sexual relations - only possible between a man and a women.

As for romantic - what does that mean ?

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Henry - quickly, then I will respond more fully. I think this might be the first time anyone has ever argued to me that the term "sexual" is proper only in discussion of relationships between men and women but not gay relationships.

For some reason, you seem to be assigning words (sexual, romantic, partner) meaning that differs from common usage. It doesn't seem productive for dialogue about real issues in real lives.

For what it is worth, I have no expectation that the RCC will extend the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to the LGBT community and I actually don't know a single LGBT Catholic who does expect that. Civil marriage (and institutions) and Catholic matrimony (and other Sacraments) are not the same thing, even though they share some language. That is why I do not respond to your comments about that topic. I have nothing to say about and none of my comments are intended to challenge OR support you on that specific issue.

Thanks for the conversation and acceptance of my apology, (And yes the tiny window for composing comments does lead me to do less carefully review and editing on my own comments. I often don't really have a sense of they "read" until I post and then have to go back in and edit because I discover a tone or thought i had written myself out of of by the time I was done typing. Maybe they will see these notes from the two of us and think of changing the size of the comment field in draft.)

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Henry -

I just read a great piece by Eve Tushnet in The Atlantic

Tushnet writes beautifully of close friendships between gay Catholics. CELIBATE gay Catholics. She writes of the vocation of friendship. She also writes beautifully of her understanding of Genesis, which was very similar to yours,

It made me think of your use of the words "close friends" in reference to gay couples in this context.

When Tushnet uses it, she is explicit that she is speaking of celibate relationships and, thus, is entirely accurate and taps into a rich Catholic tradition of profound love and devotion between celibates of different and same gendered pairs. That is a gorgeous tradition and provides a roadmap for intimacy for those who choose celibacy. In Tushnet's context, "close friendship" is an honest descriptor.

Robert Lewis
2 years 3 months ago

I think your article is extremely important, and worthy of note by all who've been commenting on these threads.

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Robert, I agree. She manages to make the case that most writers here are arguing and she does it without relying on any of the hallmarks of the approach which leaves LGBT Catholics and their allies feeling battered and bruised, hectored and lectured, unwelcome and feared, singled out for shaming and poorly-hidden disgust. This is a model for what the prevailing argument here can sound like when every hint of homophobia is absent or rejected, whether or not that homophobia is intended or conscious or explicit.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago

J - I too very much like Eve Tushnet's approach to this whole issue. She offers the bridge Fr. Martin is trying to build. Sadly, he does not seem to want to listen to self-identifying gay/lesbians who are committed to following the teaching of the Church. He completely left these witnesses out of his book, including the group known as Courage.

There is much of Holy Scripture and the words of Jesus that challenge us, so much so that some say quoting scripture is itself unkind. But, how else are we to know the mind of God? The Church teaches that Holy Scripture is inspired by the Holy Ghost and is our best window into God. it would be a shame if we left it out of discussions.

J Jones
2 years 3 months ago

Tim, Eve's approach is beautiful and it does have much to offer. I will have to reread Fr Martin's book to consider your observation that he does not address in it celibate gay Catholics or those who identify as "former gay" or "ex-gay Catholics". If I were writing on this topic, I might not include them in the book, either, because the bridge building for Catholics who identify as celibate and gay or no longer gay or abstinent from homosexual behavior through the help of Courage is, I think, a very different bridge than the one Martin and others believe is needed between the Catholic Church and those LGBT Catholics who have not committed to and are not interested in committing to celibacy.

Eve offers a beautiful model path forward for those gay Catholics who choose to live as celibates. I celebrate that. She also offers the rest of the Church one very compelling and loving and Christian model for how to communicate around this issue. I hear nothing but kindness and authenticity and generosity in her writing about her faith life as a gay Catholic woman who has chosen celibacy. I hear love, plain and simple. That love was so freely offered that it took my breath away after reading the comments here and elsewhere.

And yet Eve and other celibate Catholics don't need the bridge Fr Martin is writing about. Just like Catholics whose marriages have been annulled have a very different experience from that of Catholics who divorced and remarried without getting an annulment.

Eve's work is important in a hundred different ways, and, as far as I can tell, she is not a representative of the LGBT Catholics Fr Martin intends to address in his book.

I don't know anyone who considers the quoting of scripture "unkind". I know I don't. I do think that it can be terribly unproductive once it has been established that everyone knows the scripture and the teaching and I don't know any gay Catholics who don't. Banging someone's head against it tends to have the same effect that banging someone's head against a wall does: very little changes except that everyone ends pissed off and sore.

Henry George
2 years 3 months ago

Hi J. Brookbank,

Thank you for the reference to the Atlantic Article.

In many ways I agree with her.

Robert Lewis
2 years 3 months ago

In all the years of my experience as a lay Catholic, I never heard "conservative" priests or their parishioners rail against THIS to the extent that I'm now having to listen to this hysteria over some "same-sex-attracted" lovers who want the benefits that the American Constitution (a product of a secularist Enlightenment or Protestant-heresy-dominated society that was absolutely inimical to Roman Catholic theology and anthropology) provides to all other citizens who want to live together in what is, essentially, a civil union, blessed by Protestant clerics who cannot help but approve of "dissoluble" marriages (which are explicitly endorsed in the Lutheran and Calvinist traditions of "companionate marriage"). Do you "conservative Catholics" have even an inkling of what kind of society was produced in America during the last two hundred years? Apparently not, because you waited until the advent of "gay marriage" to begin such a serious "culture war" against the marriage ideology of the dominant society, whose DNA implied that it HAD to be open to the right of the "same-sex-attracted" to what it falsely called "traditional Christian marriage." The barn door to it was open long before the "gays" laid claim to it, and such strident opposition to it, when you never preached with equivalent fervor against the serial monogamy of the American institution of divorce, is nothing less than the rankest hypocrisy, smacking fully of homophobia.

Thomas O'Neil
2 years 3 months ago

Homosexual acts: this means any kind of sexual activity between a man and another man or a woman and another woman. Even those who experience normal sexual attraction towards the opposite sex experience sexual disorders. They feel tempted to commit acts of adultery, fornication, etc temptations to adultery and fornication are not sins. Feeling is not the same as consent. Because of original sin everyone has to struggle to master unhealthy sexual desires. However in the case of those who feel same sex attraction, the struggle presents an additional difficulty. If you experience sexual attraction to those of the same sex, remember that even though the feeling is not in itself a sin, it is a disorder. It can be corrected, but it will take effort to live chastity - over and above the usual effort others have to make, especially in our permissive society. People with disorders usually do not see their condition as a disorder. After experiencing strong feelings of same sex attraction for years, the attraction can feel as if it were normal. If you have it, you will only be able to correct it by being humble enough to admit that feelings of same sex attraction go against nature - even when they feel natural to you. The disorder is easier to correct if you speak to someone who can help you to live chastity before the disorder gets worse by engaging in homosexual acts.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

"Live in accord with the spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed. That is why you do not do what your will intends." Galatians, St. Paul.

Jesus, indeed ate with sinners, but sinners who then repented of their sins.

Search your heart, you know what Jesus is asking you to do.
"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Go and sin no more." "There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. " .

George Bell
2 years 3 months ago

Calling others who don't think like you a cancer is not very good for dialogue.


The latest from america

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher leaves a military court on Naval Base San Diego on July 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
President Trump’s intervention in the military justice system undermines the idea that soldiers are moral agents at the service of the public good, writes Matthew Shadle of Marymount University.
Matthew ShadleJanuary 21, 2020
The challenges of attending church with a curious toddler are well known enough to be cliché, but like any set of new parents, they are new to us.
Emily KahmJanuary 21, 2020
Life at a refugee camp in Kindjani, Niger, for Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram in 2016: A young girl drinks water delivered to the community by Catholic Relief Services. (CNS photo/Michael Stulman, CRS)
The pastor’s murder is only the latest attacks in the West African nation. On Jan. 19, Boko Haram insurgents ambushed two separate Nigerian army patrols, killing 17, and slaughtered a bridal party on Dec. 27.
Shola Lawal January 21, 2020
Pope Francis told a group of U.S. bishops their job is to step back from partisan politics and help their faithful discern based on values.
Catholic News ServiceJanuary 20, 2020