It is not surprising that Pope Francis’s communication adviser, Jesuit priest James Martin, has decided to attack the Nashville Statement, an evangelical declaration that affirms “that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness” (Article 10). It is even less surprising that the hard-left Washington Post, a zealous propaganda outlet for the promotion of homosexualism and transgenderism, has published his tweets about it (“Seven simple ways to respond to the Nashville Statement on sexuality,” Aug. 30, 2017). What is surprising is that Fr. Martin still has his job as a Vatican communications consultant.
Martin’s tweets confirm the by-now widely held perception, reinforced repeatedly by Martin himself, that his raison d’etre involves undermining the Catholic Church’s upholding of Jesus’ teaching on a male-female foundation for sexual ethics, upon which Jesus’ teaching about the binary character of marriage (twoness) is based.
A consideration of Martin’s “seven ways” of responding to the Nashville Statement underscore the truncated gospel (or even anti-gospel) with which Martin operates. We’ll skip over the fact that the “seven ways” are repetitious, as (for instance) the overlap of one and seven (God the Father loves all LGBT people) and three and six (Jesus doesn’t want us to judge LGBT people).
Contrary to Martin’s repeated claims, the Nashville Statement does not deny God’s love for persons who gratify sinful same-sex desires or sinful denials of one’s birth sex. Rather, consistent with the witness of Jesus and Scripture generally, it manifests love by calling such persons away from intrinsically self-dishonoring and God-abhorring desires to an authentic self in keeping with their creation in God’s image.
Again contrary to Martin’s claims, Jesus’ statement about not judging (Matt 7:1) was never intended by Jesus to be a denial of all judgment, particularly since a third to a half of all of Jesus’ sayings are accompanied by some motif of warning about a coming judgment. Matthew 7 itself (the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount) closes with a triplicate of warnings about cataclysmic judgment for those who merely hear, but don’t do, what Jesus says (7:13-27). It also contains a warning not to “cast your pearls before swine” (7:6), surely a judgment of some as “swine.” Martin himself makes judgments about those who signed off on the Nashville Statement, though he appears to be unaware of the inconsistency. Presumably even Martin holds the line on some moral standards (Incest? Polyamory? Abortion? Racism?), which means that he himself doesn’t construe Jesus’ “don’t judge” statement absolutely.
Indeed, in the context of Jesus’ ministry the injunction “don’t judge” has to do with not majoring in minors, with not being introspective about one’s own sins, and not reaching out in love to reclaim the lost by leading them gently out of sin (Matt 7:2-5; Luke 15). According to both Luke 17:3-4 and Matt 18:15-20 Jesus urged rebuke of those engaged in egregious sin, with communal discipline of those who fail to repent. Matthew situates the warning about cutting off offending members that could get one thrown into hell (5:29-30) in the midst of warnings about the importance of sexual purity.
Jesus clearly based his view of marital monogamy and longevity on God’s creation of two and only two complementary sexes, “male and female,” as established in Gen 1:27; reiterated in Gen 2:24 as the foundation for marital joining of two halves into a single sexual whole (Mark 10:5-9; Matt 19:4-6). This is a “judgment” made by our own Lord: an inviolate standard that the Church must hold at all costs. Our Lord’s words on divorce and remarriage are predicated on the even more essential two-sexes foundation for all sexual ethics, where the creation of two (and only two) complementary sexes implies a limitation of two persons to a sexual union.
Like many who seek to promote homosexual unions and gender identity confusion, Martin wants to make the “don’t judge” statement a canon within the canon, falsely treating it as an absolute injunction while applying it selectively.
Contrary to Martin’s contention, Jesus did graciously challenge and warn persons who were engaged in egregious sin, not just in his group teachings but also in individual encounters. When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery he did tell her to “no longer be sinning” with the inference that otherwise something worse would happen to her, not merely a capital sentence in this life but loss of eternal life (compare John 8:11 with 5:14).
Yes, “all of us are in need of conversion” but Martin doesn’t want to convert people out of a homosexual or transgender life. He wants the Church to affirm the sin or at least to cease to take a stand against it.
Martin complains about the Nashville Statement singling out “LGBT people.” Yet the issue here is the attempt in the broader culture and in sectors of the church from people like Martin to single out homosexual and transgender behavior for exemption from the commands of God. Martin is not truly welcoming the sinner but rather affirming the sin. He wants the lost son to remain lost in the deepest sense, for one is “found” only when one returns in repentance (Luke 15:24).
Moreover, Scripture does treat homosexual practice as a particularly grave sexual offense precisely because of its intrinsically unnatural character and violation of God’s starting point for marriage as a union between “male and female” or “man” being “joined” to a “woman.” It is not the “chief” of sins but it is a grave sexual offense nonetheless (see “Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin?”).
Infant baptism does not inoculate an individual against the judgment of God for failing to lead a transformed life. There is no sin transfer to Christ without self-transfer; no living without dying to self and denying oneself (Mark 8:34-37). Paul’s warning regarding the Corinthian community’s tolerance of an adult-consensual union between a man and his stepmother is a case in point. “Is it not those inside the church that you are to judge?” (1 Cor 5:12), Paul asked rhetorically. The answer to that question is not “no” (as Martin seems to think) but “yes.”
The Nashville Statement does not claim that persons who engage in homosexual practice can never act in a holy manner. We all compartmentalize our lives. But the areas we are good in do not validate the areas we are bad in. From the standpoint of Jesus and the writers of Scripture, engaging in behavior abhorrent to God contests any claim to holiness.
The bottom line is this: Fr. Martin is using—or even abusing—his office to undermine what for Jesus was a foundational standard for sexual ethics.