Conservative Bishops Endorse Criticism of Fr. James Martin’s LGBT Ministry

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Conservative bishops in the U.S. have endorsed Archbishop Charles Chaput’s criticism of Fr. James Martin, SJ, and his LGBT ministry, criticism on which the archbishop has doubled down.

Last week, following a talk Fr. Martin gave, Archbishop Chaput published a commentary that chastised the priest for perceived ambiguities in his LGBT ministry and for associating with groups like New Ways Ministry. Martin offered a brief reply reaffirming his commitment to church teaching and explaining his model of accompaniment.

[For an analysis of Archbishop Chaput’s criticism, click here.]

But Martin’s reply did not satisfy Chaput who again challenged Martin at CatholicPhilly, acknowledging positive aspects of the priest’s work while ultimately condemning it:

“Finally, Father Martin and I emphatically agree that persons with same-sex attraction are children of God and well loved by him. Thus they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The Church must earnestly seek to do that while remaining true to her convictions.

“But it is clearly not true that the ‘only thing’ Catholics with same-sex attraction hear from their Church is a message of rejection. Or if it is, perhaps the responsibility can lie as much with the listener as it does with the Church. We each have the freedom to choose. Listening, like teaching, is an act of the will.”

Chaput’s criticism has been backed by two conservative bishops. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois said in a statement that the archbishop offered “a helpful caution” about Martin who acts in ways that are “deeply scandalous.”

Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville tweeted that Chaput pointing out the “theological and moral errors of Fr. Martin” was beneficial, adding:

“[Chaput] praises his outreach but challenges his moral and theological thoughts. He also states clearly that this is a great error. I would add the pain it causes by setting people [up] for pain as morally it can never be accepted by the Church. The Archbishop also adds that the vicious attacks on Father is [sic] wrong and sinful. It is one thing to disagree but another to be vicious and hide behind a handle.”

In related news, The Hawk, the campus newspaper for St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia where Martin spoke preceding the controversy with Chaput, reported on students’ support for the Jesuit priest. Facing right wing protesters during Martin’s talk, students counter protested peacefully and affirmed his LGBT work to build bridges.

Chaput’s criticism, as well as Paprocki’s and Stika’s concurrences, are ill-founded. A more thorough response to the archbishop and why he is wrong on nearly every account is available here. But there is a simpler truth to keep in mind beyond the points of this debate: ultimately it is the affirming students of St. Joe’s and their peers who are the church’s future.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 25, 2019

4 replies
  1. Anton
    Anton says:

    I’ve already written to a couple of those bishops, including Chaput, reminding them that Jesus, too, was challenged for his “moral and theological thoughts”. And look where it got HIM! Seems to me that Phariseeism is alive and KICKING. In AD/CE the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed and we are aware of the consequences of that event. Could it be something similar is taking place with/within Roman Catholicism? Just wondering.

  2. Kris
    Kris says:

    Rejoice, Fr Martin! You are in impeccable company.

    The conservative figures of the day attacked Jesus’ ministry, too, for being ‘deeply scandalous’.

    You’re chartering a good course when religious conservatives start to grumble.

  3. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Bishops Chaput & Paprocki remind me of the High Priests with whom Jesus took exception. They haughtily brandish the letter of the (theological) law while missing the spirit of the very thing. For them to denounce Martin’s words or positions as scandalous is remarkable. Catholic attendance on Sundays , adherence to Catholic doctrine, and even esteem for the clergy has diminished not because of men like Martin, but because of men like them.

  4. P.conley
    P.conley says:

    Once popes led troops into battle, screaming for the blood of conquest as they sought to build the papal states. Today these failed popes are remembered only as an embarrassment to the church. So too failing American bishops like paprocki and chaput will be remembered. Both groups sought to use jesus and the new testament to disguise violence and hatred. It didn’t work for past mistakes, and it doesn’t work today.


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