The question Father Martin keeps dodging

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 13, 2017

In his book Building a Bridge, the popular Jesuit author, Father James Martin, argues for acceptance of homosexuals in the Catholic Church. Remarkably, in a book dedicated to that topic, he manages to avoid the obvious question.

So in a trenchant First Things review of the Martin book, Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, asks it:

Is sodomy a sin? Perplexed readers of Fr. James Martin, SJ’s latest book will want to put the question to him, if only to understand why he felt it important to write at all.

The National Catholic Register posed roughly the same question, and drew this reply from Father Martin:

The reason I didn’t talk about chastity in my book is because Church teaching is clear on that matter, and it’s well-known in the “LGBT” community. I don’t think there’s any “LGBT” Catholic alive who doesn’t understand that teaching.

Yes, yes. But what is that teaching—why won’t he even mention it— and more to the point—especially if everyone knows it already—why isn’t it to be found in the Martin book? Does Father Martin accept the teaching of the Church, or is he in league with the homosexual activists who want it changed? The slippery Jesuit addresses that question artfully, as well:

My advocacy of members of the LGBT community doesn’t mean I agree with everything they espouse, or everything they do,’ the author of Building Bridges tells the Register.

OK; Father Martin doesn’t support everything that is said and done by homosexual activists. Isn’t that reassuring! And when Catholics write critical reviews of his book he quickly takes to Twitter to thank them for continuing the “conversation”—even if he does not answer their questions, and even if he quickly follows up by mentioning how appalled he is by the “hatred” shown to homosexuals.

When questioned by the Register about his speaking appearances before groups that have been reprimanded by the Vatican and the US bishops’ conference, Father Martin explains that he had permission from his Jesuit superiors. “They assume, rightly, that I would never contradict Church teaching,” he says.

Right. He won’t actually come out and contradict Church teaching. He won’t cross that line. But he will dance along it, winking and nodding, earning the applause of those who crossed long ago.

Look: It’s not a tough question. Is sodomy a sin?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: grateful1 - Jul. 20, 2017 1:00 PM ET USA

    He won't answer the question because if he did so truthfully he'd have to answer another he'd prefer to avoid--namely, why not leave & found your own church? Leaving the Catholic Church, of course, would dry up the money & the plaudits that flow from subverting Her from within. On the outside, he'd be just another cult leader of just another political interest group for an already over-represented minority. He's also probably betting that he has a fan in Pope Francis. Sadly, that's a good bet.

  • Posted by: VICTORIA01 - Jul. 17, 2017 2:09 AM ET USA

    I wonder if Fr Martin has read read: Surviving Gay...Barely by Joseph Sciambra. WARNING Sexually graphic Mr Sciambra left the Castro District of San Francisco approximately 16 years ago leaving his “career” as a porn star behind. The article is a no holds barred account of the physiological and emotional consequences of anal sex.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jul. 14, 2017 7:53 PM ET USA

    Is sodomy a sin? I have the feeling that just like Pope Francis is not likely to answer the dubia, Fr. Martin is not likely to answer this question. I propose another question: why is it that they are not likely to answer? Hopefully, they will prove me wrong and eventually provide an answer to either of the three questions.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 14, 2017 1:52 PM ET USA

    Is this the current line in Jesuit formation and institutions? It has a familiar ring.

  • Posted by: iprayiam5731 - Jul. 13, 2017 4:44 PM ET USA

    We can see the problems with this dodging even without questioning Fr.'s belief. He is at best terrified of the power of doctrine clearly spoken and at worst actively thinks it does harm. Sowing confusion becomes away of "diffusing" this unbridled power that he is afraid cannot be wielded responsibly. It is the safety on a gun, that should never be used. I don't conclude that Fr. Martin wants to change, dissent from, or applaud disagreement with the Truth. He might just be too scared to use it.