Archbishop Chaput: Fr. Martin deserves respectful criticism, not trash-talking

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 21, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some of the verbal attacks on Father James Martin, S.J. have been “inexcusably ugly,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said in response to reactions to the controversial priest.

“Fr. Martin is a man of intellect and skill whose work I often admire. Like all of us as fellow Christians, he deserves to be treated with fraternal good will,” the archbishop said.

“It’s one thing to criticize respectfully an author’s ideas and their implications. It’s quite another to engage in ad hominem trashing.”

Writing in a Sept. 21 essay on the First Things website, the archbishop said that everyone who claims to be Christian has “the duty to speak the truth with love.”

“Culture warriors come in all shapes and shades of opinion,” the Archbishop of Philadelphia said. “The bitterness directed at the person of Fr. Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.”

Fr. Martin, media personality and editor-at-large of the Society of Jesus’ America Magazine, serves as a consultor to the Secretariat for Communication at the Vatican.

He has been the focus of controversy since the publication of his 2017 book “Building a Bridge,” which outlined how he thought the Catholic Church and the LGBT community should relate to each other. His book received the endorsements of several senior Catholic Church leaders, but also criticism from leaders like Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Some critics have faulted his book for avoiding discussion of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as LGBT and accept Church teaching on chastity and other issues.  Others have expressed concern that his public lectures about the book have repudiated Catholic teaching.

Several Catholic organizations had canceled speaking invitations they had extended to the priest. His most recent canceled appearance was at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America. The seminary cited “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites.”

Archbishop Chaput reflected on reaction to that controversy, saying professor and Catholic commentator Massimo Faggioli was right to worry about the vitriol that is “profoundly changing the Church,” Faggioli wrote in an essay in La Croix’s online international edition.

The professor had noted the archbishop’s own rebuke of groups like the Lepanto Institute and Church Militant ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

However, Archbishop Chaput questioned Faggioli’s claim that these “conservative cyber-militias” were fostered by a generation of bishops appointed under Popes John Paul II and Benedict, who in Faggioli’s words re-shaped “the U.S. episcopate in the image of the ‘culture warrior’.”

The archbishop, himself an appointee of Pope John Paul II, emphasized the Christian duty to speak truth with love.

He also added that Fr. Martin is not above criticism.

“The perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book. There’s nothing vindictive in respectfully but firmly challenging those inadequacies. Doing less would violate both justice and charity.”

“Clear judgment, tempered by mercy but faithful to Scripture and constant Church teaching, is an obligation of Catholic discipleship – especially on moral issues, and especially in Catholic scholarship,” he added.

The archbishop compared contemporary contentiousness to the widespread unrest ahead of the Protestant Reformation.

“The details of our moral and ecclesial disputes are very different from those of five centuries ago – none of the Reformers, Protestant or Catholic, could have imagined what they would loose or where it would lead – but the gravity of our arguments is just as real, and the results will be just as far-reaching.”

“If we’ve learned anything over the past five hundred years, we might at least stop demonizing each other,” he said. “On matters of substance, bad-mouthing the other guy only makes things worse.”

18 Comments

    • Perhaps the same way that Christ respected the Pharisees and priests of his day when He called the whited sepulchers, children of father of lies, congregation of the devil…. (and they weren’t even attempting to justify the that sin of which this whole issue is about)

      • Re: “the same way that Christ respected the Pharisees . . . ”

        It seems to me that perhaps one would need the discernment of Christ to feel secure in making a call like that w/r/t our contemporaries. I think Abp. Chaput makes a good point – – address the ideas, leave the personal vitriol aside (hey, one could even offer the lack of vitriol as a sacrifice).

      • With all due respect to the archbishop, he has demonstrated that he is a culture warrior in his own right in hi attempt to justify and defend Fr. Martin’s obvious undermining of Catholic teachings on homosexuality – where he does not overtly defy it.

        I have yet to see any examples of the vitriol which Chaput and Bishop McElroy refer (the latter is himself guilty of the very claim he makes about others). No quotes have been offered.

        Both Church Militant – not always my favorite – and Lepanto Institute use language which once was quite the norm for ecclesial leaders when calling out renegades like Fr. Martin, who serves better as an apologist for homosexuality in general and a shill for its normalization in the Church.

        Today, the Church lacks shepherds with spine. It is disappointing to see Archbishop Chaput join the Amen chorus in the left corner condemning those who are doing his job. The appropriate behavior for Fr. Martin’s bishop is to silence him, but all he has dene is to order him to not reveal his own sexuality. This act, of course, has outed Fr. Martin completely, when before there was only uncertainty.

        If by your self-serving reference to our human difficulties in attaining the discernment of Christ you mean we should eschew tough language, I’m afraid you are contradicted not only by several saints but also by loads of scripture.

        Our bishops today are faint of heart and weak-minded. Study the Church Fathers and their saintly contemporaries who blistered both straying clergy and laity alike with the truth, and would turn their wrath upon those like you for your failure to stand for that truth.

        The caterwauling we are hearing (and it is a revelation about Chaput) is the reaction of timid bishops to seeing what saintliness in action against those who would pour drops of poison into the waters of the Church.

  1. Quote: “Father Martin is a man of intellect and skill”

    One wonders really when he says things like the teaching of the Church not being received hence not binding.

    Does that display intellect and skill? Or the devil’s own craftiness.

    • I love the way faithful Catholics will not avoid the reality of life, and will not back down from a religious fight, no matter the title of the person they are addressing. For myself, I like to maintain the intellectual purity of the argument, so that people arguing with me cannot say, “But you said…” I prefer merely presenting relevant Church documents having the greatest theological authority as my “argument.” That way, the argument is not “mine”, but belongs to the Church’s tradition and the Church’s own authority.

  2. With all due respect, pretending that the enemy’s motives are pure is always the best thing to do. Pretending that Fr. Martin (or Pope Francis) isn’t trying to move the church away from it’s mission might make one feel good about oneself, but doesn’t help.

  3. “The perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book”. There are errors, dangerous errors to the faith that contribute to the loss of souls. Not simply ambiguities in Fr Martin’s book. What is far more deadly to the salvation of all souls is not the “vitriol”. It’s the amelioration of heresy and unwillingness of our prelates to voice the truth.

    • Exactly. I have great respect for Archbishop Chaput, but I disagree with the position, as stated in the article, he might be taking on the Fr. Martin debacle.

      The Church and its ministers must be faithful to the Gospel. We take that solemn oath at ordination. Fr. Martin’s positions and the deceptiveness of his arguments must be called to correction and possible punitive action should he not be properly responsive…that is the duty of the shepherds. The faithful see no evidence of that happening. On the contrary they see his advancement! Failure to address the false teaching clearly leaves the faithful feeling powerless as misdirection and error is not corrected. Psychologically speaking, why would we not expect some amount of vitriol?

      Fr. Martin needs correction. Failure on the part of the shepherds to not address the errors is to the detriment of the Church and the Gospel.

  4. Difficult this.

    Given his obvious intelligence, what are the options? He really and truly does not support Catholic teaching in his heart, he begrudgingly does so but also works to mute it as much as possible, or his take on the Catholic moral code is so different I find it unrecognizable. None of these options lend themselves to mad respect.

    Not to mention Martin’s embrace of spin tactics worthy of political parties versus churchmen.

    Especially for those who believe homosexuality, while not a malicious orientation or sin, interesects with matters of grave sin …

    Fr. Martin stubbornly providing confusing moral guidance. That is nothing to respect.

  5. Look, people. This ain’t hard. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. It’s that simple directive that makes us different than pagans. Pagans would jump on a heretic and beat him to death. Christians don’t do that sort of thing. Chaput has it right. Everyone deserves his due, and God demands that we respect what is good in each man, even if we disagree with him. Now, we can have some self discipline, and be real Christians, and be respectful of someone like Father James Martin even when he is in the wrong. He has written some books previous to this that have brought people to Christ. Now, he is making huge mistakes now and he is saying some very stupid things. But he can be respectfully taken apart rhetorically, and put in his place, and it can be done in a nice civilized manner. The thing he wants most right now is for putative Christians to descend on him like a pack of dogs, so that he can whine and play the victim. The more respect and civility we show him, the easier it becomes to deal with him. He basically is destroying himself at this point, and the only thing that can save him is stupid moves that enable him to become a gay martyr. He has started panicking, and saying stupid thing after stupid thing. It seems that self destruction is built into him. Every move he has made in this controversy has made things worse for his cause. Don’t help him out by being unnecessarily unkind to the man. Even he can be redeemed, and who knows, in a year or two, he may see the error of his ways and turn around

    • Samton909, how do you know Martin is being disrespect. No quotes are offered – I suppose they must be so egregious they can’t reproduce them?

      I don’t believe that without evidence.

      Let’s not conflate disrespect with confrontation, with pushback. There’s nothing mealy-mouthed about this pushback, nor should there be.

      To treat the responses he has legitimately brought upon himself as disrespect is a trick as old as the hills. It changes the subject. Please note the ecclesial claim of vitriol and disrespect comes on the heels of a host of cancellations of public appearances by Fr. Martin at Catholic venues.

    • Wow…LOL a lot of supposition as to motives, intention, etc.

      I agree with you and grieve that one like Fr. Martin might be on the road to self-destruction professionally and personally with regard to reputation and, more importantly, salvation. I deeply hope for his repentant return and that of any other misleading teachers.

      Basic human respect is a given to all human persons including enemies. At the same time, one cannot respect what is disrespectful. Fr. Martin has earned a certain disrespect due to his failure to teach authentically. No condemnation here, but a clear call to change-conversion.

    • We are still called upon by the Gospel to correct our brothers and sisters when they are in error. There is a formula for that in the New Testament. I am a purist about definitions, and I have my own definitions. For instance, “love” is to will and, when prudent, to work for the good of the other. “Good” is whatever God says is good. If I see something written by a person, I know that others will read it. If the other person’s writing contains something I think is in error, I must point that out so that others with not be led astray. However, I am subject to possible error, so as I wrote elsewhere, I prefer to use only authoritative Church statements as my argument. Hopefully people who read both the errant writing and my [hopefully] correct argument will recognize the validity of the Church’s teaching, and dissociate that from anyone’s opinion. When we wish to be wise, we should seek God’s will, since His will is perfect wisdom. I still respect the fact that faithful Catholics will support the Church’s consistent teaching, no matter who is presenting possibly contrary opinions.

  6. There’s a YouTube video, referred to on The Catholic Thing. Fr. Martin is given an award by a lgbt activist group. In the Q&A, he is asked about the health risks in homoerotic sex. He literally takes the Obama pass: it’s above my pay grade, I don’t really know about that. I lived in New York in the 80s and 90s, by the end, everyone knew about the risks, they knew what was going on, including the Gay Mens Health Collective. Fr. Martin by his professed ignorance, puts gay men at risk. He also said that he does not preach Catholic sexual morality from the pulpit, only on an individual basis. Does his excellency Archbishop Chaput know these things? Are they not lies and refutation of Catholic moral teachings?

  7. James Martin want respect but he does not show it to those who have been in the trench’s of the gay life style and have come out alive only by the grace of God. Just ask Joseph Sciambra.

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