ROME — Pope Francis expressed his anger over the way a 2019 meeting with LGBT promoter Father James Martin was manipulated to convey apparent papal approval for his work, according to U.S. bishops who met with the pope earlier this month.
Father Martin met with Pope Francis for a 30-minute private audience last September 30, which the Jesuit-run America magazine called “a highly significant public statement of support and encouragement.”
“By choosing to meet him in this place, Pope Francis was making a public statement. In some ways, the meeting was the message,” the magazine declared.
According to bishops from the southwestern United States who met with Pope Francis on February 10, the pope was upset over how the meeting had been played up to look like he was expressing support of Father Martin’s LGBT advocacy.
One bishop who was present at the meeting said that Francis “made his displeasure clear” about how the meeting had been interpreted, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.
“The Holy Father’s disposition was very clear; he was most displeased about the whole subject of Fr. Martin and how their encounter had been used. He was very expressive, both his words and his face — his anger was very clear, he felt he’d been used,” the bishop told CNA.
Another of the bishops told CNA that the pope assured them that Father Martin and his superiors had been chastised over the way they conducted themselves.
“He told us that the matter had been dealt with; that Fr. Martin had been given a ‘talking to’ and that his superiors had also been spoken to and made the situation perfectly clear to him,” the bishop said.
“I do not think you will be seeing that picture of him with the pope on his next book cover,” the bishop added.
A number of U.S. prelates have criticized Father Martin’s approach to LGBT ministry, suggesting that the Jesuit fails to challenge active homosexuals to live chastely.
“Father Martin’s public messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church by promoting a false sense that immoral sexual behavior is acceptable under God’s law,” wrote Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois shortly before Martin’s meeting with Pope Francis.
Those who experience same-sex attraction need the Church’s support “in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity,” the bishop said, while Father Martin “either encourages or fails to correct behavior that separates a person” from God’s love.
“This is deeply scandalous in the sense of leading people to believe that wrongful behavior is not sinful,” Paprocki said.
For his part, former Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput warned Catholics of a “pattern of ambiguity” in Father Martin’s approach to homosexuality.
“Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues,” the archbishop wrote in Catholic Philly, “I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims.”
In the past, Archbishop Chaput had reproached Father Martin for failing to summon gay Catholics to “conversion,” rather than simply offering “affirmation.”
What Father Martin’s book “regrettably lacks,” Chaput wrote in reference to the priest’s work Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, is “an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.”