As a number of priests and bishops denounce the homosexual culture at the root of recent clerical sex scandals, Jesuit Father James Martin addressed the World Meeting of Families in Dublin on Thursday, urging greater “openness and respect” toward gays.
The newspaper of the Italian bishops conference, Avvenire, published an interview with Father Martin Wednesday, touting the work of the priest in building bridges between the Catholic Church and the “LGBT community.”
“Unfortunately, there is still a lot of homophobia in our Church,” Father Martin said. “Some far-right Catholics in particular are not even willing to listen to LGBT people. It is a sad consequence of the desire to demonize people for their diversity and otherness, the exact opposite of how Jesus behaved with people considered different.”
For Father Martin, LGBT Catholics are not so much following an immoral lifestyle as being “different” and living on the “margins.”
“Recall that in the Gospel, Jesus related especially with people considered on the margins—the Samaritan woman, the Roman centurion, the lepers, and so forth, and welcomed them into the community of his disciples,” he said.
“For Jesus there was no ‘us’ and ‘them,’” he said. “There was only ‘us.’ As I see it, the resistance to treating LGBT people with the dignity of human beings comes from a deep dimension of sin in our human condition, that part of us that demonizes the other as ‘other.’”
Father Martin said it is paradoxical that people often reduce LGBT people to “a problem of sex,” but failed to note that the four letters by which they self-identify—lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender—all relate directly to sexual orientation and practice.
When asked what LGBT Catholics need to do to improve their relationship with the Church, Father Martin said they need “respect, compassion and sensitivity,” for example, treating bishops with respect even when they disagree on some topics.
Curiously, he did not say that LGBT Catholics need conversion, chastity, or repentance from a sinful lifestyle, the very omissions that have moved leading prelates to criticize Martin’s approach in the past.
Last summer, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput chided Father Martin for failing to summon gay Catholics to “conversion” rather than simply asking for “affirmation.”
The Archbishop commented on Father Martin’s book, Building a Bridge, saying that what the text “regrettably lacks” is “an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.”
Similarly, Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah criticized Father Martin for his failure to preach the Church’s message on the immorality of homosexual relations.
The Guinean cardinal, who heads up the Vatican’s liturgical department, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that people who identify as LGBT are owed the truth that same-sex relations “are gravely sinful and harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them,” especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the church.
Last Saturday, a Wisconsin bishop wrote a sharply worded letter stating it is high time “to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord.”
To be clear, in the specific situations at hand, he wrote, “We are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics,” referring to a recent report from a Pennsylvania grand jury as well as scandals involving a Honduran seminary, Chilean clergy and bishops, and a prominent U.S. cardinal.
“We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals,” Bishop Morlino wrote in the Catholic Herald. “We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all.”
“To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further,” he writes.
The bishop criticized deceitful attempts by LGBT activists as well as mainstream media to diminish the homosexual nature of the vast majority of clerical sex abuse.
“There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of pedophilia,” he said.
“To fall into the trap of parsing problems according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority,” he said.
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