Pope Francis meets with Father James Martin in private audience

Jesuit Father James Martin, author and editor at large of America magazine, meets in a private audience with Pope Francis on Sept. 30, 2019 (Foto ©Vatican Media)

Pope Francis received James Martin, S.J., in a 30-minute private audience in the papal library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace this morning, Sept. 30, in what is seen here as a highly significant public statement of support and encouragement for this U.S. Jesuit. Father Martin is well known as a public speaker, author and for his pastoral ministry to L.G.B.T. people.

“I was very moved by my encounter with a real pastor,” a joy-filled Father Martin told America after the meeting. “I am most grateful to the Holy Father for his generosity in granting me an audience in the midst of his busy schedule,” he said.

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Father Martin would not reveal what the pope said to him in the course of their conversation, except that “we both laughed several times.” He did say, however, that “among other things, I shared with Pope Francis the experiences of L.G.B.T. Catholics around the world, their joys and their hopes, their griefs and concerns. I also spoke about my own ministry to them and how they feel excluded.” He concluded, “I saw this audience as a sign of the Holy Father’s care for L.G.B.T. people.”

“I was very moved by my encounter with a real pastor,” a joy-filled Father Martin told America after the meeting.

[Explore all of Father James Martin, SJ’s articles]

It was their third meeting but their first substantial conversation. Significantly, it took place not as a private encounter in Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives, but in the pope’s private library where he meets heads of states and international organizations, cardinals and bishops conferences, leaders of the other Christian denominations and of the world’s major religions, as well as distinguished persons. By choosing to meet him in this place, Pope Francis was making a public statement. In some ways, the meeting was the message. They spoke to each other, seated at the table where the pope meets his high-level visitors. The encounter lasted 30 minutes and was conducted in English and Spanish with the assistance of a translator, who was the only other person present.

Father Martin, editor-at-large for America, first met Pope Francis after Mass at Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where the pope lives, in 2016. At the time, Francis greeted him briefly. They met for the second time early last week when the pope greeted him along with other members of the plenary assembly of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications. On that occasion, Francis, who had appointed the Jesuit as a consultant to the dicastery in 2017, invited Father Martin to meet him in a private audience. The audience took place today between 11:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (Rome time).

A Vatican source (who asked not to be named) told America before the audience that Pope Francis had read Father Martin’s 2017 book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. The same source said the pope was also aware that Father Martin had been heavily attacked by some people, including clerics, in the United States, sometimes viciously, for that book, as well as for his lectures and ministry to L.G.B.T. people.

Father Martin revealed that, at his request, Pope Francis wrote a personal note to his nephew, Matthew, who is taking the name Francis for his confirmation.

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Judith Jordan
10 months 1 week ago

rose-ellen caminer--
Your remarks show thought and empathy. Bravo!

rose-ellen caminer
10 months 1 week ago

Thanks, Judith!

Tim O'Leary
10 months ago

Rose-ellen - It is clear your view, and Judith's, and many other of Fr. Martin's most ardent supporters regarding homosexual sex are heterodox. Your praise of Fr. Martin and Pope Francis implies you believe their public stances are duplicitous. I don't think you have any evidence to support that.

Judith Jordan
10 months 1 week ago

Michael Barberi---
I agree with your thoughtful comments.

Michael Barberi
10 months 1 week ago

Judith,
Thank you for your kind comment. Homosexuality is a complex issue that I have written about many times. The Church continues to believe that homosexuality is a intrinsic disorder, but they do not call it a physical or psychological disorder. Rather they consider homosexuality to be a theological disorder. In other words, the Church believes that the natural order of God is heterosexuality and homosexuality is an intrinsic disorder of the natural order. This is a natural law theory and is controversial. There have been many theories of natural law and they have all changed over the centuries. Thus, there has never been a consistent theory of natural law with an agreed upon content. Theologians have consistent disagreed with the Church about the use of natural law to justify many sexual ethical teachings of the Church.
Just because Catholics today disagree with many of the Church's teachings, such as contraception and same-sex marriage or union, does not automatically make them evil, misguided heretics or unfaithful Catholics. Nor does the non-reception of these moral and sexual ethical teaching make them automatically guilty or culpable of sin in their actions in marriage or civil union, provided this is the judgment of their informed conscience and they have followed a process of discernment, prayer, education and spiritual guidance. Rarely does bishops and priests today believe taking the pill for birth control is a mortal sin when a couple has children and they prudently use this method to regulate their fertility. Some day the Church, I pray, will offer another pathway for those born homosexual to be able to receive the Eucharist and are fully welcomed as part of the Church without the requirement to live a lifetime of sexual abstinence or become a priest. Such an imposed requirement represents an extreme burden. Heterosexuals have a choice of marriage or celibacy. Homosexuals do not have this choice.

rose-ellen caminer
10 months 1 week ago

We have to be careful when assessing behaviors or tendencies as theological disorders. What other groups can we dismiss as theological disorders? Who else can we dismiss as abominable? Was it Pharaoh or God who sinned when "Pharaoh's heart was hardened"? To dismiss a condition of humanity as a theological disorder sounds as though God made a mistake at creation. Even though God created us male and female in His own image, Genesis suggests that sexuality did not exist until we ate from the tree of knowledge. The punishment for that transgression was death because unlimited procreation requires death as a counterbalance. "Who told you that you were naked?" "Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The awareness of nakedness leads to an attraction to one gender ,another gender, or some combination there of. A binary view of sexuality may work with two people but becomes more complicated with additional numbers. Whether you call it a theological disorder or simply a sin, the issue is still the same;we are talking about eternity here.

Judith Jordan
10 months 1 week ago

Michael Barberi---

Thank you for your information and I agree with your comments. I did not know about the “theological disorder.” It sounds as useful as the so-called debate among medieval theologians about "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

My sister is a lesbian married to a lesbian. They are both kind, generous, and thoughtful. They follow the Gospel of Christ not by merely donating money to charity. They also actually reach out to impoverished people and work with them in trying to improve their status. They have made a positive impact on many families.

To refer to gays as having an intrinsic disorder is not only a repudiation of the science of psychology, but is a cruel insult. Are we to believe that God created an intrinsic disorder? Why aren’t men who continually batter and abuse their wives and children not labeled as having an intrinsic disorder; or rapists; or women who torture their children.

I agree with your comments about the natural law. It is used in so many absurd ways. Why is it unnatural to use birth control? It is an advancement in medical science and an essential element of women’s health. I think when the Church throws up obstacles for women to obtain birth control, then the Church is behaving in an immoral matter and threatening the health and sometimes lives of women. What is natural about transplanting someone’s organs into another person’s body? It is a great medical procedure, but natural?

If God made us to procreate, then what is natural about celibacy? It is astounding that a group of celibate men would make decisions about birth control. It reminds me of a funny story I heard long ago. Someone stated that the people in the pews know that when it comes to sex, many in the clergy are a bit “unhinged.” I have met some of them.

I agree that numerous bishops and priests today do not believe that birth control is morally wrong. The problem is the institutional Church keeps them from speaking out. The Church has an abnormal focus on the “pelvic issues” at the expense of so many teachings that came directly from Christ. There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty. How many verses are there about birth control? Within the Church, look at the number of times you hear or read about sexual issues compared to the Beatitudes. Frequently when the Church talks about poverty, many conservative Catholics raise objections about the particular teaching, but the same people lecture us we must follow the Church’s teaching on sexual issues.

I think our prayers will eventually be answered and the LGBT community will be assimilated into society and the Church. Generations from now, people will look back at us and view us as we look back on those within the Church who used to condemn an epileptic as possessed, burned “heretics,” accused women of being witches, and, denied a Catholic burial to suicides. Many things the Church used to condemn, it has changed its teachings because it learned and was educated, often by the secular community.

JOHN GRONDELSKI
10 months 1 week ago

But Francis can't find time to answer the dubia cardinals, at least before they die? Double standards from "accompaniment."

mary greene
10 months 1 week ago

An opportunity for the Pope to show his loving approval of the queer Church on the heels of his unequivocal disapproval of the cassocked Church.

Arnoldo Miranda
10 months 1 week ago

This is totally unnecessary to report. If this happened, it should have been kept private so that the faithful wouldn't have to even comment. Humility is a hard virtue to master and this story demonstrates this.

S AA
10 months 1 week ago

I think you're right, that the meeting is pretty much the message - where it was held, the fact that it was granted, the ready photographer, the news recaps, etc. The message to us regarding the two men who remain alive of the four who remain in wait for such a meeting is what?

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
10 months 1 week ago

While I disagree with Father Martin on some points he raises, I also think he has something important to say. Especially, those of us who disagree with him on a number of issues should be listening to him on those very issues. I presume he does take note of what we say. If everyone is listening we have communication and an exchange of ideas, which could lead to collaboration and consensus.

Kevin Murphy
10 months 1 week ago

In so doing, Francis takes Archbishop Chaput, who just corrected Martin, down a peg, which I'm sure Francis totally enjoyed. I truly believe him to be a vindictive man who spouts on and on about gossip and "adjectives" but continues to insult those he doesn't like ie traditional Catholics and priests. As mentioned before, there are web pages devoted just to his insults. A small man.

L Hoover
10 months 1 week ago

I keep hearing that religiosity is falling out of favor in the U.S.. Perhaps if commenters here were to review their writings before posting, the wordy might recognize just how pompous, irritating, and judgmental they can be when given space to pontificate. I, and perhaps the majority of believers, prefer Catholics and other religious types who approach their faith with simplicity and humility. We understand, faith is fundamentally about loving God and loving our neighbors....and not about denigrating those with whom we disagree. Or from another perspective, it's about going forth with a spirit of advocacy rather than accusation.

I thank Gerard O'Connell for bringing us this article about the good and devoted Fr. Martin's meeting with the good and devoted Pope Francis. May they bear good fruit. I thank commenters for caring enough to have opinions….but suggest that some of you might want to get over yourselves before again downing those with whom you disagree. Different-ness does
not have to be the enemy.

Christopher Minch
10 months 1 week ago

Amen!

Christopher Lochner
10 months 1 week ago

Disagreement is not denigration.

Christopher Lochner
10 months 1 week ago

Disagreement is not denigration.

L Hoover
10 months 1 week ago

Nope, but denigration, expressions of contempt and comments that might constitute slander, generally detract from a discussion involving opposing views.

I admit to being perplexed when readers here employ their intellectual skills to demonstrate that, based on Catholic doctrine, homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered”, and yet they abandon doctrine that is generally referenced, to protect and show respect and deference to popes as the popes go forth in the world, trying to do God’s work. I don’t get it, nor do I want to. "Intrinsically disordered" strikes me as an allegation and I don't want anything to do with that construct because I imagine it causes harm, that it hurts the Spirit in people.

L Hoover
10 months 1 week ago

Unintentioned duplicate.....

L Hoover
10 months 1 week ago

Unintentioned triplicate....

Maria Alderson
10 months 1 week ago

OMG OMG OMG HE MET WITH POPE FRANCIS!

Danny Collins
10 months 1 week ago

And two of McCarrick's biggest friends and protectors meet. Of course, no progress has been made on the investigation in to how an open serial sex abuser accumulated so much power in the Church. The victims haven't even been interviewed for the fake investigation. Corruption enjoys company, I guess.

Michaelangelo Allocca
10 months 1 week ago

Um, you do realize that it was "Saint" John Paul II who did most of the promoting of McCarrick to the highest ranks, don't you?

Tim O'Leary
10 months 1 week ago

From the Wikipedia link below, one can see that JPII elevated McCarrick in the largest consistory of his papacy (Feb-2001). There were 42 Cardinals (including the future Pope Francis) and many other names would have been considered and rejected. He also couldn't have known McCarrick well, since McCarrick was doctrinally more liberal than JPII favored.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinals_created_by_John_Paul_II

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
10 months 1 week ago

It takes courage to answer a call.

Vincent Gaglione
10 months 1 week ago

As I read all the comments here, all the standard bearers of Catholic rigorism and rules, all the innuendoes about those people committing egregious sexual sins, I recalled the story of Christ and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) I don’t know how to interpret Christ’s behavior and comment except to think he meant something akin to what the hell business is it of yours, all sinners yourselves, to insinuate yourselves into punishing someone else for their sins. And, for good measure to disturb the critics here, a nod to the #metoo movement, how the man involved in the adultery was not the person brought to Christ!

The commenters’ fascination with Archbishop Chaput’s intellectual prowess in recounting the written rules of the Church on the subject makes him and them something akin to the Pharisees. So wedded to the Jewish laws, they tried to ensnare Christ to self-convict Himself as ignoring and disobeying Jewish law.

When it comes to sin, it is not the business of any human being to judge and condemn. It’s our business to encourage people to sin no more, as Christ told the woman. And He didn’t do it with words and rules used as cudgels to exact conformity. He knew full well that sins are repeated!

Craig B. Mckee
10 months 1 week ago

One can only wonder where "the "Church" and the LGBTQ+ community would be today, if only former (and expelled!) Jesuit Father John McNeill (R.I.P.) had received similar treatment by the Vatican of his day...

JOHN GRONDELSKI
10 months 1 week ago

So Jesuitical: a "private" audience with a picture broadcast around the world. "Who am I to say anything" without saying a word.

Eternal Life
10 months 1 week ago

My question is:
Is there any other designation for LGBT sexual life except being a sin?
And who does not commit one like Jesus would ask those who wanted to stone the adulterous woman... but they all walked away in shame.

The duty of the Church is to regularly declare in no uncertain terms her teachings, rules and regulations.... and whoever conforms benefits accordingly.

Those who do for one reason, circumstance or the other could not conform to those teachings, rules and regulations ( and in this instance LGBT ) must be allowed to worship their God freely in accordance with their conscience.

Only God can forgive or punish sins.

Crystal Watson
10 months 1 week ago

The church's stance on LGBTQ people and relationships is based on questionable interpretations of scripture. The leadership know this, but it seems to be in their interest to keep the outdated teachings. Why? Because the church can't be seen admitting a mistake? Because the church would lose its supply of self-loathing gay priests?

WILLIAM GRANIERI
10 months 1 week ago

I posted a comment yesterday and it was deleted because it was not in line with the liberal views of this magazine. James Martin has his own agenda. James Martin lost his priesthood a long time ago in the back of a limo. He travels the world and stays in the best places in the world. I love Pope Francis but James Martin is one more reason why the next time I go to church will be in a hearse.

WILLIAM GRANIERI
10 months 1 week ago

"If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Martin Luther King Jr.

This pretty much describes the Catholic Church. This generation of Catholics should go from Paul back to Saul and burn the church down and rebuild it with a married and lay ministry. In the meantime the church needs to get rid of the Halloween costumes our Bishops wear and get rid of the gold and show some humility.

John Barbieri
10 months 1 week ago

If they had a private meeting, it is none of our business!

Richard Neagle
10 months ago

Fr Martin labels catholics by their sexual orientation as does this evil world in which Satan rules. The catholic church does not label people as such . No one is born to sin and damnation , and no one is born a sodomite. A totally evil notion and Fr Martin is leading souls to hell by affirming this notion. He should repent now and ask the forgiveness both of God and of all those children of God he has scandalized . Salvation of souls is the supreme law. Sodomy is a grievous mortal sin which condemns a soul to hell . No priest should be affirming these poor souls in their damnable sin.

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