I Stand Firmly with Father Martin.

Yesterday, as I entered Front and Palmer for a wedding ceremony, an elderly lady came over to me and greeted me almost immediately. She began with, “Hello, Monsignor! I am so happy you are here! Emily is my granddaughter! My only wish was that she was married by a Catholic Priest and here you are! They told me so much about you and they love you very much! I told my parish priest in Pittsburgh that you would be coming, and he remarked that you were most likely an ‘Order’ priest. He said, ‘Order priests always go where they are needed; they keep the Church afloat!’. I understand you are a Franciscan and I am so grateful you are doing this for us, it’s how I know they will stay in the Church!”

And so, we do. Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carthusians, Salesians, Carmelites, and Jesuits like Father James Martin. We continue to focus on the needs of the world, and we keep our eye on Jesus to bring healing, love, hope and peace. I often say that at Saint Miriam, we grow – not because we do all things right, or don’t make mistakes, but rather because we experience the grace of God in our errors and God blesses us as we bless others. When you are a vehicle of healing, God helps because the world needs more of us; less rules and regulations and more grace and love.

This past week, Fr. James Martin, SJ has been embroiled in a conflict with Archbishop Charles Chaput. Since he and I have gone at it a few times over the years, I know some what of what Father Martin is up against. Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” and speaks frequently on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism. He spoke recently at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University.

It seems that was enough to enrage the Archbishop! “Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, 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,” Chaput wrote. He was joined in by a chorus of other conservative bishops, like Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, who wrote further that “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..” Really? God’s law, you righteously proclaim while you spew division and hate?

All of these bishops state clearly that while people with same-sex attraction are created and loved by God and are welcome in the Catholic Church, they need to “guide, encourage, and support each of us in the Christian struggle for virtue, sanctification, and purity.” That is code for ‘change or get out’ and that is not imago dei, the hallmark of our Catholic Christian faith wherein we believe that all are created in the image and likeness of God. All of us. Yes, Gay, straight etc. – all means all.

“One of the reasons that I don’t focus on same-sex relations and same-sex marriage, which I know are both impermissible (and immoral) under church teaching, is that LGBT Catholics have heard this repeatedly. Indeed, often that is the only thing that they hear from their church. What I am trying to do instead is encourage Catholics to see LGBT people as more than just sexual beings, to see them in their totality, much as Jesus saw people on the margins, people who were also seen as ‘other’ in his time,” Martin added.

Amen. Right? Those of us who are – or ever have been – on the margins, or rejected, or vilified for whom we are, know of what he speaks. And, we also now know why we exist at Saint Miriam.

Chaput wrote back in anger to Father Martin that, “The point is not to ‘not challenge’ what the Church believes about human sexuality, but to preach and teach it with confidence, joy, and zeal. Biblical truth liberates; it is never a cause for embarrassment.” There is only one embarrassment here, and it is not Father Martin lifting high the mandate of the Gospel.

You would think listening to those church leaders who object to Father’s inclusion of gay and lesbians that somehow God is only for straight people. How sad that we would reduce God to such a small box: straight, white-only, ‘good’ Catholics? That will make heaven a very small monolithic, boring place!

Father Martin is a member of the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus. I guess in the end, all of us who serve as priests shouldbe. Perhaps Archbishop Chaput needs to go back to re-learn why he became a priest in the first place.

As for me, I stand firmly with Father Martin.




Leave a Reply