Fr. James Martin, SJ, a long time advocate of LGBT Catholics, is livid over the recent responsum given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to the dubium asked by Catholics in Germany if it was possible for the Church to bless same-sex unions. The CDF answered in the negative. Fr. Martin insists that this is a cruel and un-Christian response to the genuine needs of those in committed same-sex unions among LGBT Catholics. The CDF, however, reiterated only what the Church’s teaching has been since the time of Christ – that God’s will for sexual intimacy is reserved for one man and one woman bound together in Christian marriage. Homosexual sexual expression is inconsistent with God’s will for married love, and therefore the Church cannot bless it.
Fr. Martin wrote on twitter, “Not since the anger over sex abuse in 2002 and 2018 have I seen so many people so demoralized, and ready to leave the church, as I have this week, after the CDF document on same sex blessings. And not simply LGBT people, but their families and friends, a large part of the church.”
This, of course, is always the threat hung over the Magisterium’s head when they reiterate a teaching that is unpopular with a certain group of Catholics: “They’re going to leave the Church!” As if that were the most horrible thing that could happen. In truth, it is not. Recall in Chapter 6 of the Gospel According to John, when Jesus declared that He was the bread of life and that, in order to have eternal life, one must eat His body. Many turned away. Did Jesus call them back? Did He say that He was sorry for having given them a teaching they could not abide? No. In fact, He let them walk away. With great sadness, He let them walk away. But, He did let them walk away. Jesus was not willing to sacrifice the truth of God because it was difficult or impossible for the people to accept.
It is for the Church to preach and teach the truth with passion and compassion. It is not for the Church to compromise the truth to satisfy the feelings or personal beliefs of particular groups of people who intend to live their lives according to their perceived needs or desires, regardless of what the Church teaches. If this means fewer people in the pews, so be it. Those in the pews will be those who are more faithful. For too long too many leaders in the Church have catered to those who demand the Church compromise her teachings and practices to meet their perceived needs, while frankly giving short shrift to those who struggle to remain faithful even to the hard teachings of Jesus.
What Fr. Martin and many LGBT Catholics found particularly distressing was the support of Pope Francis for the CDF responsum. They thought they had an ally in Pope Francis, and by “ally” I mean a pope who would be willing to compromise Church teaching for their sake. I recall a few years back Fr. Martin saying that he expected it would take about twelve years for the Church to embrace same-sex marriage. It is now clear that Pope Francis has no intention of bending on the Church’s position on same-sex unions, at least when advocates of such attempt to place them on the same level as marriage itself.
Fr. Martin has been walking the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy on this question for some time. His association with New Ways Ministry, an organization that has been repeatedly condemned by the Church for misleading Catholics on the question of homosexuality, is indicative of his increasingly heterodox position. New Ways Ministry has publicly stated that those associated with the organization will continue to bless same-sex unions. As such, Fr. Martin’s current stand is not one of simple opinion on the matter of the CDF responsum, but more of active disobedience. His superiors in the Society of Jesus (and recall that Pope Francis is a Jesuit) need to reign him in or Fr. Martin needs to be honest and make a break with the Church. We need no false prophets here.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.