“Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity” by the Rev. James Martin. Images courtesy of Harper Collins

Religious cyber-vigilantism on the rise

Last Friday the National Catholic Reporter reported that Cardinal Blase Cupich had invited Fr. James Martin, S.J. to offer two nights of Lenten reflections at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral.

This is news?

It's news because, as many of you will know, a week earlier Martin was disinvited from speaking at Catholic University's Theological College and a couple of other places, thanks to a campaign by what we might call the Catholic Alt-Right -- specifically the websites Church Militant and Father Z.

"Homosexualist James Martin to Address DC Seminary Alumni," ran the headline on Church Militant's August 18 story. Martin ("known for his advocacy of same-sex genital acts and transgender ideology") put himself in the crosshairs by daring to publish a book that urges a nicer, more accepting relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.

The horror, the horror!

So Theological College decided to pull the plug on the lecture, not because it agreed with Martin's critics but because "increasing negative feedback from various social media sites" might mar the school's centennial celebration with "distraction and controversy." Score: Alt-Right Vigilantes 1, Catholic University 0.

Except maybe not exactly Catholic University 0.

In its account of the disinvitation, America, the venerable Jesuit magazine for which Martin has long worked, noted -- with a subtlety some might call Jesuitical -- that Theological College "originally said the decision was made 'after consulting with [Catholic] University and archdiocesan advisers.'"

It then proceeded to quote from a statement from the university throwing the seminary under the bus. After pointing out that Martin had spoken on campus the year before, the statement said, "We regret the implication that Catholic University supported yesterday’s decision."

There followed a quote from University president John Garvey that began by lamenting pressure on universities "from the left" to withdraw speaker invitations. "It is problematic," said Garvey, "that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity."

It could be asked why Garvey, as head of the whole Catholic U. operation, didn't simply arrange for the invitation to be reinstated. Likewise, the disappearance of any mention of an implied go-ahead from "archdiocesan advisers" fell well short of the Archdiocese of Washington or its cardinal archbishop weighing in directly. Perhaps this should be put down to the hallowed Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

In any event, a full-blown teapot tempest ensued, with news coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post, plus defenses of Martin from San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy on the left and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on the right. Cupich's pointed invitation was merely the icing on a cake of some fairly serious pushback.

But such religious vigilantism will not stop, neither in the Catholic Church nor elsewhere. And in every case, there's a family resemblance.

Take Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Commission, nearly lost his job for angering Trump enthusiasts in his denomination by presuming to criticize the Republican presidential nominee during last year's presidential campaign. His board stood up for him but, it appears, not without his agreeing never to criticize Trump again by name.

Then there's David Myers, a UCLA historian recently named president and CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York City, who's been attacked by alt-right Jewish vigilantes for being too left-wing on Israel. The pushback on behalf of a first-rate scholar has been substantial, but as my RNS colleague Jeffrey Salkin bitterly puts it, the war is only the most recent example of "McCarthyism with a smear of cream cheese" in the American Jewish community.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, a bunch of traditionalist Catholics, including no less than the head of the schismatic Saint Pius X Society, issued a "filial correction" of Pope Francis, charging him with seven counts of heresy relating to his readiness to permit divorced and remarried Catholics access to the Eucharist. Call it McCarthyism with a smear of holy oil.


  1. So we as lay catholics should stand by while heresy is being taught? Are we not told in the code of canon law and Christ to uphold truth? Should the church do as recommended by “father” Martin and change its infallible teaching?

  2. Nate, Father Martin recommends that we have respect and compassion-you know – that Catechism stuff. Hardly heresy. Have you read the book??? or heard him speak about the book???

  3. I think that those who are quick to label opinions as heresy need a few lessons in church history. A number of ideas condemned in the past as heretical or suspect are now widely accepted as orthodox. It is sad that we do not seem to welcome dialogue, and instead resort to name calling and what amounts to a form of bullying.

  4. Hey, RNS, you might have missed the part of the story in which these things happened:

    1. Fr. Martin teaches positive error regarding homosexuality.
    2. Fr. Martin refuses to acknowledge publicly that he personally embraces what the Church truly teaches on homosexuality.
    3. Fr. Martin refuses to encourage anyone else to personally embrace what the Church truly teaches on homosexuality.

    I say so with a civil tone and with no personal animosity. Nonetheless, these things still must be said, and said publicly.

  5. Martin is homosexual and he recommends respect and compassion for decadent, immoral and dangerous sexual activities, and he is protected by the hierarchy.

  6. So Mr Silk thinks its wrong to disinvite Martin because of negative backlash? Well you must have been in the desert because that is the way it works now as we have seen by many liberal groups too. We have become a society that now votes on issues through social media and when the negatives out weigh the positives and vice-versa things change. It all amounts to ones personal opinion as to whether it was justified or not. This is society now so either be part of the problem and keep the tempest swirling by weighing in, or be part of the solution and shun not only the addiction to have your self counted but social media in totality.

  7. Please point to something — anything — he has said that contradicts Church teaching.

  8. a. Shouldn’t the attack on Myers be called McCarthyism with a *shmear* of cream cheese?
    b. I feel like Pope Francis knows the word chutzpah and I hope he gets the chance to use it against the SSPX.

  9. Okay.

    1. He says that God *creates* people “gay”….

    **** [Martin:] “Yes. Science and psychology shows that, and most people are finally coming to see that this — for mysterious reasons — is the way they are made. That’s something that’s held by almost every reputable psychologist and biologist. And the “LGBT” people I speak to have always felt that way. Part of it is accepting oneself and accepting this is the way God made you.”*****

    He also says it in a 2013 video titled “Who Are We to Judge?”:

    ****[Martin:] “the idea that someone would come out and be honest and transparent and open about the way that God created them, I think is terrific, I think it’s something that the Catholic Church can support.”****

    2. He says that the objectively disordered homosexual inclination is the part of a person that “gives and receives love.”

    ****[Martin:] “Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person—the part that gives and receives love—is ‘disordered’ in itself is needlessly cruel”*****

    3. He says that the Church should *change* the meaning of its teaching by changing “objectively disordered” to “differently ordered”–which utterly undermines the truth of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

    4. He erroneously suggests that if a teaching is not “received” then it is not authoritative:

    *****[Martin:] “Briefly put, I mean and I’m no theologian, but, you know, for a teaching to be really, um, authoritative it is expected that it will be received by the people of God, by the faithful.”****

    5. He erroneously says the Church teaches that “LGBT people must be celibate their entire lives”.

    6. He says he does NOT view the pro-gay sex, pro-gay identity, pro-gay marriage group “New Ways Ministry” as a “dissident” group despite that group and its founders’ teachings being condemned by the US bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    ****[Martin:] “Some see it as a dissident group. Others see it as one of a few groups that has been doing outreach to the “LGBT” community for a while. You know, at their last meeting Bishop [John] Stowe of Lexington spoke to them, so I’m not the only one who doesn’t see them as “dissident.”****

  10. Homosexuality- the nitty-gritty:

    From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    “Most scientists who study human sexuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”


    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adultery or fornication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-sex unions not same-sex marriages.

  11. Heresy is a word that is really only one made up to attack the person not the argument for any disagreement with the status quo.

  12. Umm….”gay people are born that way”? Seriously?

    Gonna hafta do a lot better ‘n’ that debunked myth, folks. Way better.

  13. I’ve never seen the premise debunked, just some of the early studies cited in support of the premise. Those are very different things. There also have been better studies since, in support of orientation having a biological connection. Last I looked into it, the correlation and causation was still unexplored in studies, just assumed by interpreters.

    So on what grounds are you saying that “gay people are born that way” has been debunked?

  14. See also:

    1. The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in

    Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation,
    there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of
    parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a
    person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear
    that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex
    interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual
    orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] ”

    2.”Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, “The fe-tal brain develops
    during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct
    action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female
    direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our
    gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female
    gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain
    structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that
    social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or
    sexual orientation.”[8

    3. And from above:

    the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said
    review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality
    avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    “Most scientists who study human sexuality agree that gay people are born that way.
    But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with
    homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”


    And your references to the contrary are?

  15. First, let me thank you, Misti, and Jim Johnson for responding. I nearly missed your replies, (I forgot to check this thread) except that Disqus sent an alert, so I’m glad you replied.

    Chances are, however, that this thread or column may be gone by today, so I’m going to repeat my initial response to all three of you in a more recent thread. (Probably will choose a Roy Moore thread, since he doesn’t believe the false claim that people are born gay. )

    Here’s where science currently stands. This is an abstract from Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist-scholars Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh, Aug. 22, 2016.


    While some people are under the impression that sexual orientation is an innate, fixed, and biological trait of human beings — that, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, we are “born that way” — there is insufficient scientific evidence to support that claim.

    In fact, the concept of sexual orientation itself is highly ambiguous; it can refer to a set of behaviors, to feelings of attraction, or to a sense of identity. Epidemiological studies show a rather modest association between genetic factors and sexual attractions or behaviors, but do not provide significant evidence pointing to particular genes.

    There is also evidence for other hypothesized biological causes of homosexual behaviors, attractions, or identity — such as the influence of hormones on prenatal development — but that evidence, too, is limited.

    Studies of the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals have found some differences, but have not demonstrated that these differences are inborn rather than the result of environmental factors that influenced both psychological and neurobiological traits.

    One environmental factor that appears to be correlated with non-heterosexuality is childhood sexual abuse victimization, which may also contribute to the higher rates of poor mental health outcomes among non-heterosexual subpopulations, compared to the general population.

    Overall, the evidence suggests some measure of fluidity in patterns of sexual attraction and behavior — contrary to the “born that way” notion that oversimplifies the vast complexity of human sexuality.


    If you want to read the entire article, just click on here:


  16. The left started disinviting speakers a decade ago. Just ask Condoleeza Rice. Now we’re horrified that the right is doing the same thing.

  17. Thanks, but that article doesn’t debunk anything. It delves into available details and demonstrates how it’s inconclusive. As things stand, that “inconclusive” applies to both presuppositions about orientation (that it’s learned vs. innate).

  18. Deb, yes I have. Stating that people with same sex attraction are not called to chastity is in direct opposition of the catechism. He also calls for not only respect and compassion but also reverence of homosexual “marriage”. How can you love someone without telling them their actions are sinful and lead to destruction? What should be deeply respected by two people openly and unrepentantly sinning? What intrinsic good is in the nature of a homosexual marriage that should be reverenced?Furthermore, he has stated that church should change it’s infallible teaching from “intrinsically disordered” to “differently disordered”. The theological implication being that God made them gay and lending credence to a sinful lifestyle choice. So yes, I will stick with my first assertion, he is teaching heresy and we shouldn’t be voiceless or motionless in trying to stop the spread.

  19. Martin ,Roisica, Fagoli, Paglia, Radcliffe and many of the Jesuits including sadly Bergoglio Francis seem confused as to what the Jesuits and the actual rc faith and morals sexual ,stand in reality for… .. Martin’s apostasies on numerous issues of faith and morals are Long overdue for a public rebuke. Too bad the Spineless gutless, cowards like Cupich ,Farrel and Tobin of NJ plus the pathetic official cino press are instead the three monkies of hear ,spk. and see no evil or three blind mice and three stooges of liberals clerics will not or Cannot do . This what the filial correction and lepanto Inst. Cathl action LGE , church militant life site news has to sadly do for them. ……That is pointing out that sin is sin no matter what spin Martin , Roisica ,Fagoli ,Paglia, Radcliffe and the Luther statues and stamps boobs in the Vatican put on homosexual sex deviant behavior, perversion of sodomites etc.

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