CU sem­i­nary dis­in­vites priest who wrote of LGBT out­reach

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY SARAH PULLIAM BAI­LEY

The Rev. James Martin, a pop­u­lar priest who pub­lished a book ear­lier this year en­cour­ag­ing a bridge be­tween the LGBT com­mu­nity and the Catholic Church, has been dis­in­vited from giv­ing an ad­dress at Catholic Univer­sity’s sem­i­nary.

Martin, who was plan­ning to speak about Je­sus and not about LGBT-re­lated is­sues, has become the tar­get of at­tacks from rightwing sites since his book “Build­ing a Bridge” was pub­lished in June.

In a state­ment, the univer­sity’s sem­i­nary, The­o­log­i­cal Col­lege, said that it had re­ceived neg­a­tive feed­back on so­cial me­dia sites and that its rec­tor, the Rev. Ger­ald McBrear­ity, made the de­ci­sion to re­scind Martin’s in­vi­ta­tion to speak in Oc­to­ber. “In no way does this de­ci­sion sig­nal ap­proval or agree­ment with the com­ments or ac­cu­sa­tions that the var­i­ous so­cial me­dia sites have made over the re­cent weeks,” the


The sem­i­nary acted in­de­pen­dently from the univer­sity, which hosted Martin last year.

Ear­lier this year, Pope Fran­cis ap­pointed Martin, who is editor at large at the Je­suit mag­a­zine Amer­ica, as an ad­viser to the Vatican’s Sec­re­tar­iat for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. His book was en­dorsed by two car­di­nals and three bish­ops, the mark of more se­nior-level ap­proval in the hi­er­ar­chi­cal church. But he also came un­der reg­u­lar at­tacks from sites such as ChurchMil­i­ and, sites he be­lieves are mo­ti­vated by fear.

“Most of their cri­tique is ir­ra­tional and hate­ful and hys­ter­i­cal,” Martin said. “There’s noth­ing in [my book] that’s con­trary to church teach­ing, de­spite what ev­ery­one might think.”

The de­ci­sion ex­poses a rift among Catholics in the United States. Many have lauded the ap­proach of Pope Fran­cis, who has fo­cused more on ap­point­ing pas­toral bish­ops than en­forc­ing strict the­o­log­i­cal bound­aries, while many con­ser­va­tive U.S. bish­ops have re­sisted any ex­pan­sion of gay rights.

Caught in the mid­dle of this rift is Martin. His book did not ad­dress his own sex­u­al­ity, but some right-wing sites have la­beled him with deroga­tory terms such as “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ist.”

“My provin­cial asked me not to talk about my sex­u­al­ity, and I’m okay with that,” said Martin, re­fer­ring to his re­li­gious su­pe­rior in the Je­suit or­der.

Many Catholic uni­ver­si­ties, such as the Univer­sity of Notre Dame and Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, which are run by re­li­gious or­ders, reg­u­larly in­vite con­trostate­ment ver­sial speak­ers. But Catholic Univer­sity has a spe­cial place of sig­nif­i­cance in the church be­cause it is run di­rectly by the U.S. bish­ops.

A state­ment from Catholic Univer­sity said the sem­i­nary’s re­scind­ing of the in­vi­ta­tion does not re­flect ad­vice from the univer­sity’s lead­er­ship. “We re­gret the im­pli­ca­tion that Catholic Univer­sity sup­ported yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion,” the state­ment says.

“The cam­paigns by var­i­ous groups to paint Fr. Martin’s talk as con­tro­ver­sial re­flect the same pres­sure be­ing ap­plied by the left for uni­ver­si­ties to with­draw speaker in­vi­ta­tions,” said John Gar­vey, pres­i­dent of Catholic Univer­sity. “Uni­ver­si­ties and their re­lated en­ti­ties should be places for the free, civil ex­change of ideas. Our cul­ture is in­creas­ingly hos­tile to this idea. It is prob­lem­atic that in­di­vid­u­als and groups within our Church demon­strate this same in­abil­ity to make dis­tinc­tions and to ex­er­cise char­ity.”

Martin said this is the se­cond can­cel­la­tion of a talk due to the at­tacks. He said sem­i­nary lead­ers told him they re­ceived a storm of mes­sages and peo­ple scream­ing at re­cep­tion­ists over the phone. Martin is still plan­ning to give an ad­dress in Washington at Holy Trin­ity Church on Sept. 30.

The main cri­tique from con­ser­va­tive lead­ers has been that his book does not em­pha­size Catholic Church teach­ings that LGBT peo­ple are to re­main celi­bate. Martin has writ­ten pub­licly about his own celibacy in the past, but he said this book was fo­cused on treat­ing les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple with re­spect.

“If you’re giv­ing a talk to mar­ried cou­ples, you don’t talk about adul­tery. It’s only with the LGBT Catholic com­mu­nity that the is­sue of sex is com­monly raised,” he said. “I wanted to find com­mon ground.”

Martin wrote his book in re­sponse to the 2016 mass shoot­ing at Pulse, a night­club pop­u­lar among the gay com­mu­nity in Or­lando, that killed 49 peo­ple.

The au­thor of many books, Martin has gained pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years, be­com­ing one of the most pop­u­lar priests on so­cial me­dia. In his book, he wrote that he was con­cerned by the si­lence from many im­por­tant church lead­ers.

“The fact that only a few Catholic bish­ops ac­knowl­edged the LGBT com­mu­nity or even used the word gay at such a time showed that the LGBT com­mu­nity is still in­vis­i­ble in many quar­ters of the church,” Martin wrote in the book. “Even in tragedy its mem­bers are in­vis­i­ble.”

An­other book about LGBT is­sues, ti­tled “Why I Don’t Call My­self Gay: How I Re­claimed My Sex­ual Re­al­ity and Found Peace,” from an­other writer, came out about the same time as Martin’s book. The book also had en­dorse­ments from a dif­fer­ent set of car­di­nals, per­haps il­lus­trat­ing a dif­fer­ence in opin­ion among Catholic lead­er­ship on how to ap­proach LGBT mat­ters.

Sites like Church Mil­i­tant that have been crit­i­cal of Martin and his book were on the far fringes of the faith un­til af­ter the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump, said Martin, who be­lieves the elec­tion has en­er­gized these groups. The site’s founder, Michael Voris, has writ­ten about his his­tory of gay re­la­tion­ships, say­ing, “I was in a state of mor­tal sin, and had I died, I would have been damned.”

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