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