Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father James Martin Has It Right


Those of us who are the recipients of God's amazing love, mercy and forgiveness have been given an important mission: to spread that same love, mercy and forgiveness to others. God didn't bring His Grace into our lives so that we can keep it for ourselves and among our own little community. Whatever we have received from Our Lord must be passed on to others, especially to those "most in need", or that Divine Love which saved us from our sins will actually destroy us in the end.

St. Paul told us that unless we love, nothing we do has any worth.   St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a great saint and doctor of the Church, in searching for the purpose of her life, stated, "At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church, I will be Love!" St. Teresa of Calcutta told us, "Love each other as God loves each one of you, with an intense and particular love. Be kind to each other: It is better to commit faults with gentleness than to work miracles with unkindness."  St. John of the Cross said, "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone."

Almost everyone who calls himself Christian will agree that we are commanded to love one another. The problem is that we don't all agree on what this actually means. Some people feel that love means standing in judgment of others, showing them their sins (as we see it), and demanding that they change and become like us.  But is this the way Jesus Christ approached people?

That was the way of the Pharisees in Jesus' time, and Our Lord would have none of it.  Jesus said the Pharisees "crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden."  (Matt. 23:4).  In contrast, Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matt. 11:30).  In fact, Jesus said his mission was to free us from everything that weighs us down, as recorded in Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jesus told us that we are to be the salt and light of the world, bringing people to the saving light of Jesus Christ Himself.  In the words of recently-named consultor to the Vatican communications office, Father James Martin, the Church is a bridge for people to cross to reach salvation.  

Ah, Father James Martin - those are fighting words to many Catholics.  They see Father Martin as a heretic, and as Michael Voris told us this week, unless Father Martin changes quickly, he is without a doubt headed to hell!  And what is Father Martin doing that is so terrible that he has all but sealed his eternity in hell?  He has reached out to gay people in the church without judgment. 

But let's hear Voris himself tell us about the great heretic, Father James Martin:
Now, someone has to say it very clearly, for the good of his own soul; Fr. James Martin is speeding straight toward Hell. He is lying about the Faith and deceiving many. He is one of the leading homosexualist priests in the United States and is abusing his authority and role as a priest to the press for his own agenda.

Voris doesn't stop there.  He also levels this condemnation against Father Martin:
He is possessed of evil. Fr. Martin is on the way to Hell by his own choosing. Whatever demon he is wrestling with has gained the upper hand over him; and he has completely succumbed to him.
Wow.  Talk about being judge, jury and executioner.  I haven't listened to Voris in a long time, and it is plain to see that he has not changed even a little bit.    Our Lord warned us not to judge one another, the reason being that we cannot judge another's heart.  In fact, Our Lord warned us that we will be judged as we judge others.  But Voris doesn't seem to pay too much attention to Christ's command not to judge, does he?  On the contrary, Mike really seems to get a high out of condemning other people, especially when it concerns priests and bishops.  Of course, as he has done so many times in the past with others, Mike misquoted and mischaracterized Father Martin to suit his own purposes.


Sadly, many in the Catholic blogosphere agree with Voris. Father Martin has become one of their favorite whipping boys, and as they do with everyone else with whom they disagree, they throw every condemnation possible at him.

Father Martin has recently released a book entitled, "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity." Even though this title is taken directly from the Catechism, many cannot abide using the words "respect, compassion and sensitivity" in connection with gay people. Many who call themselves Catholic feel that the only way to deal with gay people is condemnation. It is okay to show mercy and compassion to other sinners, but not to the gay community.


I have not read Father Martin's book, but there is an article from his America magazine published last October entitled, "We need to build a bridge between LGBT community and the Catholic Church" which you can read HERE.  I believe this article laid the foundation for his book.  In this article, Father Marin defined the meaning of  "respect" for the LGBT community 
First, respect means, at the very least, recognizing that the L.G.B.T. community exists, as any community would want its existence recognized. It also means acknowledging that the L.G.B.T. community brings unique gifts to the church, as every community does.
Father Martin is telling us that we must recognize the humanity of those who identify as LGBT. Being gay does not mean that you are not a child of God or that you don't have anything to offer.  Being gay does not mean that you don't deserve respect.  In fact, just to identify as gay is not a sin.  Father Martin writes, "the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Catholics are called to treat the homosexual person with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” (No. 2358).

Father Martin continues:
Recognizing that L.G.B.T. Catholics exist has important pastoral implications. It means carrying out ministries that some dioceses and parishes already do very well. Examples include celebrating Masses with L.G.B.T. groups, sponsoring diocesan and parish outreach programs and, in general, making L.G.B.T. Catholics feel part of the church, and feel loved.
This, for many Catholics, is just going too far. Why should gays get such special treatment?  They are involved in a life of sin that could result in the loss of salvation, and you still want us to celebrate them?

Yes, that is exactly why we need to reach out to them in this way. Anyone who has ever had a gay friend or relative or is gay himself will tell you this is not something people voluntarily choose. They don't wake up one morning and just decide to be gay. The reason many feel they are born this way or that God made them this way (which I don't believe) is because it is such an innate part of them. They don't choose to be gay any more than the rest of us choose to be straight.  It is just who they are.  

We need to remind our gay brothers and sisters that they are no less children of God than anyone else, and that Jesus Christ died for them as much as he did for the rest of the world.  They are not less in the eyes of God, and they are not less in the eyes of the Church.  But they are dealing with a very heavy cross.  We are asking them, in many ways, to deny who they are.  

Those who are straight need to think about what this means.  What if you were told that your feelings for the opposite sex are wrong, that you can never be with the person you love and with whom you want to share your life?  How would you feel to be told that you must, in essence, remain alone? Don't you think you would need some special help? Would it be enough for someone to tell you that you are a rotten sinner, you need to change, and if you don't, you will go to hell?  Or would it be better to be affirmed and acknowledged as a human being and have someone walk with you on this difficult path?

This is what Father Martin is saying.  He continues:
Some Catholics object to this approach [welcoming gays into the Church], saying that such outreach betokens a tacit agreement with everything that anyone in the L.G.B.T. community says or does. That seems an unfair objection, because it is raised with virtually no other group. If a diocese sponsors, for example, an outreach group for Catholic business leaders, it does not mean that the diocese agrees with every value of corporate America. Nor does it mean that the church has sanctified everything that every businessman or businesswoman says or does. No one suggests that. Why not? Because people understand that the diocese is trying to help a particular community feel more connected to their church, the church they belong to by virtue of their baptism.
One of the accusations Michael Voris levels against Father Martin is "He uses gay vocabulary, for example, never using the term same-sex attracted but preferring 'LGBT,' which is not how a Catholic priest should be speaking." This is Father Martin's response:
Second, respect means calling a group what it asks to be called. On a personal level, if someone says, “I prefer to be called Jim instead of James,” you naturally listen. It’s common courtesy. And it’s the same on a group level. We don’t say “Negroes” any longer. Why? Because that group feels more comfortable with other names: “African-Americans” or “blacks.” Recently, I was told that “disabled persons” is not as acceptable as “people with disabilities.” So the latter term is what I’ll use. Why? Because it is respectful to call people by the name they choose. Everyone has the right to tell you their name.
. . . 
Names are important. Thus, church leaders are invited to be attentive to how they name the L.G.B.T. community and lay to rest phrases like “afflicted with same-sex attraction,” which no L.G.B.T. person I know uses, and even “homosexual person,” which seems overly clinical to many. I’m not prescribing what names to use, though “gay and lesbian,” “L.G.B.T.” and “L.G.B.T.Q.” are the most common. I’m saying that people have a right to name themselves. Using those names is part of respect. And if Pope Francis can use the word gay, so can the rest of the church.
We need to ask ourselves, are we interested in reaching out to the gay community and bringing them into the Church and leading them to salvation, or are we only interested in condemning them?  As Father Martin states, if we wish for the gay community to become Catholics in good standing, we must first start with respect, and a large part of respect means "calling a group what it asks to be called."

Father Martin continues:
Finally, respecting L.G.B.T. people means accepting them as beloved children of God and letting them know that they are beloved children of God. The church has a special call to proclaim God’s love for a people who are often made to feel like damaged goods, unworthy of ministry and even subhuman, whether by their families, neighbors or religious leaders. The church is invited to both proclaim and demonstrate that L.G.B.T. people are beloved children of God.
Gay people have suffered tremendous persecution all through history.  For the most part they have had to hide who they really are and live a lie.  Did you know that the computer was invented by a gay man, Alan Turing, who used the first computer to, in essence, win WWII for the allies.  But he was a gay man in Britain during a time when homosexuality was considered criminal, and when he was "convicted", he was chemically castrated and died a short time later.

Many gay people have been murdered for the simple fact that they are gay.  Hate crimes continue right to our day.  In fact, as of 2014, gays were targeted for hate crimes more than any other group according to an article in the New York Times, as can be seen in the graph below:

We need to assure that EVERYONE is welcomed by the Mystical Body of Christ.  Our Lord never excluded anyone in his earthly ministry.  There is no one for whom he did not die.  In fact, he tells us that his love is even stronger for the sinner, as he told St. Faustina: "The greater the sinner, the more right the soul has to My mercy."  LGBT people are beloved by God.  They need to be beloved by his people.

If we can show respect and love for the LGBT community, they will know they can trust the Church. By learning to trust the Church, they will also come to know and trust Our Lord, and that is when great miracles can take place.  We can't change anyone, but Our Lord can.  Our job, as Father Martin says, is to be that bridge that takes them to Jesus Christ.  Will this be accomplished by condemnation or by love and acceptance?

Father Martin lists a few of the gifts that LGBT people can bring to the Church:
Many, if not most, L.G.B.T. people have endured, from an early age, misunderstanding, prejudice, hatred, persecution and even violence, and so often feel a natural compassion toward the marginalized. Compassion is a gift. They have often been made to feel unwelcome in their parishes and in their church, but they persevere because of their vigorous faith. Perseverance is a gift. They are often forgiving of clergy and other church employees who treat them like damaged goods. Forgiveness is a gift. Compassion, perseverance, forgiveness are all gifts.

Let me add another gift: that of celibate priests and brothers who are gay, and chaste members of men’s and women’s religious orders who are gay or lesbian. There are several reasons why almost no gay and lesbian clergy and religious are public about their sexuality. Among them are the following: They are simply private people; their bishops or religious superiors ask them not to speak about it; they themselves are uncomfortable with their sexuality; or they fear reprisals from parishioners. But there are many holy and hardworking clergy and members of religious orders who are gay or lesbian, and who live out their promises of celibacy and vows of chastity and help to build up the church. They freely give their whole selves to the church. They themselves are the gift.
We must stop limiting God with our prejudices and hate. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work. That is what Father Martin is promoting.  Please read Father Martin's article linked above.  It is filled with beautiful advice about how to lift up one another and treat one another with true, Godly love.

Father Martin does not just talk about how the Church should relate to the LGBT community.  He also discusses ways in which LGBT people should relate to the Church.  Those, such as Michael Voris who condemn Father Martin, never discuss Father Martin's views in this regard:
Now let’s take a walk on the other lane on the bridge: the one leading from the L.G.B.T. community to the institutional church. What would it mean for the L.G.B.T. community to treat the institutional church with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”?
Now, in the church it is the hierarchy that possesses institutional power. They have the power to allow someone to receive the sacraments, to permit or prevent priests from celebrating the sacraments, to open or close diocesan or parish ministries, to allow people to retain their jobs in Catholic institutions and so on. But the L.G.B.T. community has power too. Increasingly, for instance, the Western media is more sympathetic to the L.G.B.T. community than to the hierarchy. That’s a kind of power. Still, in the institutional church, the hierarchy is in the position of power.
L.G.B.T. Catholics are called to treat those in power with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.” Why? Because, as I mentioned, it’s a two-way bridge. More importantly, because L.G.B.T. Catholics are Christians, and those virtues express Christian love. Those virtues also build up the entire community.
. . . 
Catholics believe that bishops, priests and deacons receive at their ordinations the grace for a special ministry of leadership in the church. We also believe bishops in particular have an authority that comes down to them from the apostles. That is what we mean, in part, when we profess our belief each Sunday at Mass that the church is “apostolic.” Also, we believe that the Holy Spirit inspires and guides the church. Certainly that happens through the people of God, who, as the Second Vatican Council says, are imbued with the Spirit; but it also happens through the pope, bishops and clergy by virtue of their ordination and their offices.

So the institutional church—popes and councils, archbishops and bishops—speaks with authority in their role as teachers. They don’t all speak with the same level of authority (more about that later), but all Catholics must prayerfully consider what they are teaching. To do that, we are called to listen. Their teaching deserves our respect.

So first of all, listen. On all matters, not just L.G.B.T. issues. The episcopacy speaks with authority and draws from a great well of tradition. When bishops speak on matters like, but not confined to, love, forgiveness, mercy and caring for the poor and marginalized, the unborn, the homeless, prisoners, refugees and so on, they are drawing not only from the Gospels, but from the spiritual treasury of the church’s tradition. Oftentimes, especially on social justice issues, you may find that they will challenge you with a wisdom that you will not hear anywhere else in the world.

And when they speak about L.G.B.T. matters in a way that you don’t agree with, or that angers or offends you, listen anyway. Ask: “What are they saying? Why are they saying it? What lies behind their words?” Listen, consider, pray and, of course, use your conscience.
Beyond what you might call ecclesial respect, the hierarchy deserves simple human respect. Often I'm disheartened by the things that I hear some L.G.B.T. Catholics and their allies saying about certain bishops. I hear these things privately, but also publicly. Recently one L.G.B.T. group, in response to a statement from bishops on same-sex marriage, said that the bishops should stop being “locked in their ivory towers.” I thought, “Really? You’re saying that to bishops in poor dioceses too? That they live in ‘ivory towers’? To bishops who personally minister to the poor, and who oversee parishes in inner-city neighborhoods, sponsor schools that educate the inner-city poor and manage Catholic Charities offices?” You may disagree with the bishops, but that kind of language is not only disrespectful, it’s inaccurate.

More seriously, L.G.B.T. Catholics and their allies sometimes mercilessly mock bishops for their promises of celibacy, their residences and, especially, the clothes they wear. The barely disguised implication of posting online photos of bishops wearing elaborate liturgical vestments is that they are effeminate, they are hypocrites or they are repressed gay men. Does the L.G.B.T. community really want to proceed in that way? Do gay men want to mock bishops as effeminate, when many gay men were probably teased about those precise things when they are young? Is that not simply perpetuating hatred? How can someone castigate a bishop for not respecting the L.G.B.T. community while not affording them respect? Do they want to critique people for their supposed un-Christian attitudes by themselves being un-Christian?

This may be hard to hear for people who feel beaten down by the church. But being respectful of people with whom you disagree is not only the Christian way. Even from a human point of view, it’s good strategy. If you sincerely want to influence the church’s perspective on L.G.B.T. matters, it helps to earn the trust of the hierarchy. And one way to do that is by respecting them. So both the Christian approach and simple wisdom would say: Respect them.
I dare say, Michael Voris and his "ilk" would do well to follow this advice as well.

Father Martin's article has much more in it, and unless and until you read it, you really have no right to stand in condemnation of him.  Father Martin is promoting the gospel.  He is all about bringing people to Jesus Christ.  In fact, the Vatican has endorsed his book, calling it “brave, prophetic, and inspiring” and a “much-needed book.”

We, as followers of Jesus Christ, have been called to a radical way of life, a life of love and acceptance, not judgment and condemnation.  As I have written before, it is not our job to judge, it is our job to love.  And as Don Bosco wrote, it is not enough to love, people have to feel they are loved.  Father Martin is doing an outstanding job of bringing that message to the Church.


10 comments:

  1. You are right on all counts. God bless you. Commonweal has a great review of Fr. Martin's book - he linked to it on his Facebook page. The area the author disagrees with Fr. Martin is respectfully expressed. Anyway - Fr.'s book has the approval of his superiors, he has not been charged with heresy and he remains an active priest in good standing. I don't think Michael Voris can make that claim for himself.

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    1. That sure doesn't match what you have written on your blog. Your words there would indicate you don't have much use for Father Martin, saying his message is just one of sentimentality with no substance.

      Delete
  2. Catholic in Brooklyn, have you been put off by Michael Voris's insistence that Judas is in Hell? Check out the following link:

    https://www.catholic.com/qa/did-judas-go-to-hell

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    1. We cannot know what happened in the last moments of Judas' life, or in the life of anyone else. That is why the Church has never officially declared anyone, including Judas, as being in hell. But Voris has no problem with judging and condemning people, which can only be done by God Himself. It is a sin for us to judge the fate of another person. By this constant judging, Voris is putting his own soul in great peril.

      Voris's actions are not Christian and he does not show Christian love.

      Delete
  3. Catholic in Brooklyn, do you think Michael Voris had a desire to go after Church hierarchy even before Obama's 2009 visit to Notre Dame?

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    1. I honestly don't know. I use to listen to his program before that time, and he often spoke about how the faith had been lost after Vatican II. So it would seem he was headed in that direction, and seeing Obama honored at Notre Dame gave him the push he was looking for.

      All I can say for sure is that he is most certainly on the wrong road now. And it is a dangerous one for his own soul and those who follow him.

      Delete
    2. Catholic in Brooklyn, when did you stop being a Michael Voris fan?

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    3. That's an interesting question. When I started this blog in December 2011, I was still very much a staunch traditionalist and very much a Michael Voris fan. I was contributing my $10 a month as a paid subscriber, and wrote glowingly of him. (I have since deleted those posts).

      I began to be disillusioned when he became hyper critical of Cardinal Dolan, completely mischaracterizing and misquoting His Excellency. Then I became aware that Voris did that with almost all of the Catholic hierarchy. It became quite obvious to me that Voris had his own agenda quite separate from that of the Catholic Church. The straw that broke the camel was when Voris and Father Z organized a lavish cruise right during the middle of Lent. Then I knew this was not a man I wanted to be associated with in any way. It also told me a whole lot about Father Z. When I wrote a blog post critical of this cruise, I then found out how vicious the catholic blogosphere can be.

      It has been quite a ride.

      Delete
    4. From your point of view, Catholic in Brooklyn, what's wrong with organizing a lavish cruise right during the middle of Lent? What red flags did such a cruise set off?

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    5. You can read my post here:

      http://catholicinbrooklyn.blogspot.com/2012/12/michael-voris-and-father-z-say-what.html

      Delete

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