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Letter from Pope Francis expresses support for Fr. James Martin’s controversial ministry

Fr. James Martin, SJ. Credit: Kerry Weber via Wikipedia cc 4.0 | Pope Francis. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 27, 2021 / 10:57 am (CNA).

In a personal letter sent to Fr. James Martin SJ dated June 21, Pope Francis expressed support for his controversial ministry and encouraged him to “continue this way.”

The letter, handwritten in Spanish, was a note of thanks for pictures Fr. Martin had sent to the pope, and was first reported in Italian by Vatican News before being shared by Fr. Martin on his Twitter account; Fr. Martin included an unofficial translation of the letter into English.

According to Fr. Martin’s Twitter account, “the photos that he [Pope Francis] mentions are of my nephew’s Confirmation Mass last weekend.  He [Fr. Martin’s nephew] also wore socks with Francis’s image on them.”

The Pope thanked Fr. Martin for the letter, and said that the picture of the socks “made me laugh.”

However, Pope Francis dedicated most of his letter to Fr. Martin’s postscript. In his Twitter account, the author of “Building a Bridge” explained that “the ‘PS’ (PD in Spanish) that the Pope refers to was a reminder about the LGBTQ Catholic Ministry conference,” which took place on Saturday, June 26th.

“I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your ability to be close to people, with the closeness that Jesus had, and which reflects the closeness of God,” Pope Francis wrote in his personal letter. “God’s ‘style’ has three elements: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is how he comes closer to each one of us,” the Pope also said.

The pontiff added: “Thinking about your pastoral work, I see that you are continually seeking to imitate this style of God. You are a priest for all, just as God is a Father for all.”  In place of the word “all,” Pope Francis used the unusual “todos y todas,” male and female pronouns that are repetitive in Spanish language, unless he meant to make a gender-inclusive point.

Fr. Martin translated the phrase as “men and women” in his English version of the letter, which he claims “was prepared by several people, including an Argentine friend.”

In his letter, Pope Francis continued: “I pray for you to continue this way, being close, compassionate and with great tenderness.”

“And I pray for your faithful, your ‘flock’ and all those whom the Lord places in your care, so that you protect them, and make them grow in the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

“…[M]ay the Holy Father’s warm message encourage and inspire all those in the church who minister to LGBTQ Catholics and, moreover, remind LGBTQ people everywhere in the world of God’s ‘closeness, compassion and tenderness,’” Fr. Martin stated in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Fr. Martin’s ministry has become increasingly controversial because of his incremental departure from Catholic doctrine.

In 2017, after he published  “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” Fr. Martin claimed in a Washington Post article that “as I was writing the book, I knew that it would be a somewhat controversial topic, even though I was careful to stay well within the bounds of Church teaching.”

“My reflections, which can be summarized as a call for respect on both sides, were based on the gospel, and on the Catechism’s call for the Church to treat ‘homosexual persons’ with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity’,” he wrote.

However, on May 30 of this year, commenting on the Catholic wedding of British prime minister Boris Johnson, Fr. Martin lamented that same-sex couples could not have access to the sacrament of marriage. Regarding the marriage in the Church of the twice-divorced Johnson to his girlfriend who was pregnant with their child, Martin wished “that the same mercy and compassion that was offered” to Johnson and his bride, “recognizing their complex lives, could also be extended to same-sex couples who are lifelong Catholics.”

The LGBTQ Outreach conference Fr. Martin mentioned to Pope Francis was organized by New Ways Ministries, which has been explicitly declared as a non-Catholic ministry by the U.S. bishops.

The event featured New Ways Ministries co-founder Sr. Jeannine Gramick as the keynote speaker, and featured the documentary “Building a Bridge” which portrays Fr. Martin as a groundbreaking pastoral hero. The documentary was presented at the Tribeca Film Festival (June 9-20.) Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese is listed as an executive producer of the documentary.

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  1. SSM “closeness” is sterile fornication and represents a thumb in the eye to the strivings to be chaste of the truly married husband and wife.

  2. Have we reached at last the point of where we are no longer required to give the benefit of the doubt to Francis? The evidence that has piled up over the last eight plus years is overwhelming. Perhaps even CNA will stop pretending otherwise.

  3. Ihe Pontiff Francis (who orchestrated idolatry in Rome in 2019) and “Rev.” Martin want the world to know that they share the new pagan ethos that fornication and sodomy are, shall we say, “admissable.”

    They are (to use a favorite “progressive-katholik” phrase) “culturally-bound” to the 1970s sex revolution.

    St. Paul declared that Christians “have the mind of Christ.”

    The Pontiff Francis and “Rev.” Martin have “the mind of McCarrick.”

  4. What else is to be said about the “Black Pope?” He continues on his claim to fame of Globalist Social Justice Warrior completely ignoring as to the purpose of the white clothing bestowed to him. He continues to condone behavior opposite from the Doctrines and Dogmas of the Church solely for his personal self- assumption. The Bark of Peter is not in good hands.

  5. We read from exploitative Martin his wish: “that the same mercy and compassion that was offered” to Johnson and his bride, “recognizing their complex lives, could also be extended to same-sex couples who are lifelong Catholics.”

    Too bad Pope Francis lent himself, again, to truncated messaging. In a footnote, at least, he might also have recalled Cardinal Erdo’s opening message to the second session of the Synod of Families (2015). Or, in the “mind” of pampered wonder-boy Martin, is it that all synods are equal, but that some synods are more equal than others?

    Cardinal Erdo: “In every case the Church teaches that ‘There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity.’ Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4, Instrumentum Laboris 130).

  6. We are all called to compassion and love for every God-created person. That is Catholic Church teaching; however, James Martin denies Church teaching when he promotes same-sex “marriages.” There isn’t even an implied approval of this in the pope’s note to Martin, and Pope Francis has said that the Church cannot bless sin. Martin is using the pope to promote his ministry, which goes beyond the compassion and love for every God-created person to approval of sinful actions. The pope’s note doesn’t express approval, but Martin will continue to imply that it does. Be compassionate by loving the sinner, but don’t love the sin.

    • Yes, the Pontiff is very crafty. As is his mind, he makes short statements, such as “the Church cannot bless sin”, then he turns the other way and acts differently to those whose stance he favors. This Pontiff is incorrigible.

      Roosevelt had a PLAN and so the present Pontiff.
      I found a quote in Merriam/Webster that exactly describes his mind:

      At the heart of Roosevelt’s style in foreign affairs was a certain incorrigible amateurism. His off-the-cuff improvisations, his airy tendency to throw out half-baked ideas, caused others to underrate his continuity of purpose …
      — Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., American Heritage, May/June 1994

      • The Pope is not being crafty. He had expressly rejected the catholic blessing of same sex marriage. However we must love the sinner, but abhor the sin. That is the teaching of Christ,”those that are healthy have no need of physicians”. Pope Francis is a missionary priest who understand the sacrifice, and pains to witness Christ in the life of non, and non-true believers. First missionaries that came to Africa saw Practices by locals that should qualify them for he’ll fire following the doctrine. Practices that included killing of twins because of superstition, which in itself is worse than same-sex marriage going by doctrine. But they did not condemn them, but showed love, compassion, understanding, which brought them closer and enabled witnessing Christ to them. This was what activated their spiritual conscience that opened their hearts to embrace Christ. It wasn’t through proselytizing which is what Pope Francis preaches against, but which non missionaries are advocating. As the Pope has said, the communion should not become a political weapon,otherwise the religious, and professional theologians, will shed it of its transubstantiation, which will be spiritually devastating.

  7. Also The Voluntary Assisted Dying bill before the Queensland Parliament, which is certain to become law, will force church-run aged care homes to allow euthanasia on their premises.
    The Catholic Church Then may be on the verge of providing mortal sin as part of its social services business model.
    How will the Church respond?
    Still blabbering about LGBT continues to be a good distraction

    • This happened to a private Catholic hospice center in Canada recently. Because of the country’s euthenasia laws, the government eventually came in and took the place over in order to force the institution to provide assisted suicide services, despite the founder’s moral and spiritual objections. Quite scary, but like you said, LGBT issues are a convenient distraction from truly weighty matters of conscience.

  8. Its a pity that Pope Francis who supports ministry to LGBT does not show the ‘same closeness, tenderness and compassion’ to those whom he considers ‘dissidents’. His harsh words to those who are orthodox, those whom he considers rigid, and those who may have a love for the Latin Mass are summarily dismissed as people to be avoided.Tragically for the world Pope Francis causes more and more confusion by the day.

    • —-‘same closeness, tenderness and compassion’ the words he likes to use to make himself seem “pastoral”. These words now have lost the original meaning, as he uses them selectively for, as you write, ‘dissidents’.

      —-and gay used to mean happily excited, cheerful.

  9. As was noted elsewhere the pontiff’s attitude, we might say if not policy is more embrace of homosexuality that intent to reform in accord with Apostolic tradition. That Francis assumes is rigid, not empathetic to concrete situations in life. That frequent demeaning of rigid observance of Catholic moral doctrine didn’t help in his encounter with Signor Sassoli European Parliament Pres when abortion was declared by Sassoli and co a medical right. Barely a word the rest of the conversation initiated by the Pope related to temporal issues poverty, migration. It certainly, that is the world’s spiritual leader’s ‘attitude’ has worldwide influence including our US government Biden as Pres promoting abortion extending it beyond prev limits. American Justice based on the rights of Man Constitutionally protected is under increasing transformation into an oppressive form of neo Marxism in which all opposition, criticism is considered treasonous liable to sanction. “WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A panel of judges suspended the state law license of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, citing his work representing former President Donald Trump’s contesting of the 2020 presidential election results”. Power play is influenced by world opinion, the Pontiff known for his distaste for former Pres Trump never once commending him for protecting religious rights, his anti abortion stance. That silence bordering on contempt speaks quite loudly to the malevolent in American politics and our justice system.

  10. God is the creator of the human race. Does it follow that He is the Father of all? Is it not true that to be able to call God –“Our Father” — we must love Him? And to “love Him” means to do His Will, that is keep His Commandments. And keep all of what Jesus has taught since He and the Father are One. No one, be he Pope, or bishop or priest can change or water down any of His teachings. They have the grave obligation to teach what Jesus taught — “Repent and change your way of living.”

  11. Would that James Martin’s outreach to the homosexual community be focused on the avoidance of sin, cultivated the abandonment of vice, acquiring virtue and fostered devotion to our Lord, Jesus Christ, one could regard Pope Francis’ letter as edifying. But we know that James Martin’s outreach does not run in that current, but simply supports the secular materialist rationale which regards sexual intimacy between individuals of the same sex as well as same-sex marriage as a good, contradicting Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the perennial Magisterium.
    James Martin promotes mortal sin. What in Pope Francis’ note allows me to regard him as not sharing in James Martin’s enterprise?
    Last week I read at “Aleteia” that Pope Francis deceived his mother early in his academic career letting her believe he was studying for a career in medicine rather than pursuing one in the Church. He justified this deception by regarding himself as preparing to be a “doctor of souls.” I’ve always retained the memory of Archbishop Forte recalling how Pope Francis told him to be vague regarding communion for the divorced and remarried in “Amoris Laetitia” – “…not too directly or it will make a mess. We’ll clarify it later…”
    Even were I to concur with Father Martin and Pope Francis, why ever would I trust them on any level, let alone for spiritual counsel?
    Smooth operators?

  12. Is Pope Francis naive or just ill-informed?
    Does he not yet realize how his every word will be manipulated to ends that may not be his?

  13. Francis the Merciful, with his antics, routinely spits in the face of people with homosexual inclinations who struggle to live chastely, abandoned spouses (along with their children) who try to save their marriages, and Christians and others who suffer under repressive and terroristic Communist and Islamic regimes. Francis’ mercy is counterfeit.

  14. “Is Pope Francis naive or just ill-informed?” It’s neither, unfortunately, and I think it might even be reasonable to infer a certain degree of malevolence in his “letter.” Truth, spoken with a deep, God-honoring integrity, is always clear and precise rather than vague and ambiguous. It calls people to repentance and faith. Francis’ consistent, unapologetic support of “Fr.” James Martin’s “ministry” is deeply problematic and disturbing, given that the Pope’s primary responsibility involves calling people to faithful obedience to God. Minimizing or ignoring human sinfulness under the pretense of compassion is not even remotely consistent with that calling.

  15. About 5 years ago I was criticising a Priest, in very strong terms, suddenly an authoritative audible voice spoke and said to me “Do not criticise the Priests, that is my job” I was stopped in my tracks. Stunned. Believe me or not, it happened.

    • Dear Kate,

      I had a similar experience, perhaps now as dramatic as yours, wherein I felt told, “Let ME worry about MY Church.” I still have my unsettling reservations, but try to keep them to myself.

    • As the great spiritual doctors of the Church indicate when speaking of extraordinary spiritual phenomena, that was not necessarily God. Fr. James Martin is a dangerous priest, and is undermining the faith and salvation of many. Everyone ought to be warned about him. It is even more urgent given that authorities are obstinately refusing to do so. I think the fallen spirits have a vested interest in keeping you quiet about this pressing danger. More souls are kept in the dark this way. There is absolutely zero harm in criticizing Fr. James Martin for his adulteration of the morals of the Church. You will gain merit for heaven.

      How different we will see things on the other side of the grave.

  16. More and more it is becoming very hard to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt regarding his support for Catholic orthodoxy. Doesn’t he realize that, as the successor of St. Peter, he is giving grave scandal to the faithful? It is very hard to believe that he is not aware of what he is doing.

  17. ‘ The men set out from Mamre , with Abraham accompanying them to show them the way ‘- The three angelic messengers , to Sodom that is about to be destroyed – above ironically in the Genesis account in today’s Holy Mass readings . Abraham very likely may not have discerned the full intent of their visit . Would he have known what was going on in the land that his nephew had chosen to settle in or was he too caught up in own grief of being childless as well as in the silent deep grief about the unknown fate of Ishmael and Hagar ..
    Fr. Marin’s desire /intent for Catholic couples to have the same blessings given through The Church to the British Prime minister may be no less noble ; after all
    The Church helped them / accompanied them , to undo what had to be undone , to have a true marriage that is in accordance with God’s Will and plan for marriage and family .

    The Holy Father , praying and blessing Fr.Martin to carry his mission with Godly wisdom , to convey the message that Love as the grace and willingness to lead holy lives is not beyond the reach of any ..The Church is ever there to help and accompany persons to be set free from the depravities and the alienations , to be led to the richness and depth of loving and praising God, with all – all of creation , all His children , all holy angels and saints – as in a true marriage of the human will serving the Divine Will .. that could even lead to the shedding of blood as The Lord had foretold St.Peter ..

    6/29 – Feasts of martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul – and the Holy Father too , a sort of martyr in more ways than one , even being ? misunderstood as the 266th Pope ; likely too that he was already aware of the possibility of the baggage of that # , even before being chosen .

    Yet , looking at the ( confusing ) list of Popes , could he even be the 270 th !-

    In Thy Will, with Thy Love , we are sorrowful and ask pardon for every form of evil sinful thought and bestial pleasures ..
    We trust that the prayers of Jesus – for His children to live in purity and holiness are to be fulfilled in many lives as intended by our good Fathers too .

  18. Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit to take Peter’s place on earth leading Christ’s Church. There are many views that I don’t agree with but in the end I feel safer following Pope Francis, the Spirit’s chosen leader of our Church then those who attack him. God didn’t put me or anyone else, other than Francis in charge so I will listen and be respectful to all Francis statements, positions and sermons, even if sometimes it surprises me and yes often makes me rethink things. God protect Pope Francis and Holy Mother Church from all those who attack her from outside and inside the Church.

    • I’m not sure that such unquestioned loyalty honors Christ, although I can appreciate the sentiment. We have a responsibility to exercise a certain level of discernment when it comes to spiritual leadership and spiritual matters. While we should not be critical for the sake of simply being critical, we do have a responsibility to judge matters of faith, leadership, and morality carefully. It could be fairly said that people have given the church’s leadership the benefit of the doubt for far too long, resulting in terrible consequences for the Church’s global testimony and credibility. Holding leaders accountable for their words, deeds, and positions is a necessary task.

    • The Hoy Spirit did not “pick” Francis as Pope. Schemers and complacent ignoramuses put him on the Papal throne. May God protect the Church from Francis and his gang.

    • Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit to take Peter’s place on earth leading Christ’s Church.

      A myth perpetuated by the ignorant.

    • You bring to mind Pope Benedict’s comment regarding the working of the Holy Spirit in regard to papal conclaves. I believe it went “…the Holy Spirit always inspires but men don’t always listen.”
      For fifty years we have faithfully followed the “safer path” but given where we find ourselves at this point we have to ask ourselves if the “safer path” was not simply the easier path. No one, not even a pope, can contradict the perennial Magisterium. James Martin’s enterprise boldly encourages sinful behavior and undermines consistent teaching of the Church regarding sexual morality. That Pope Francis’ letter to James Martin does not call him to order reveals the character of the man and the pontificate. There is nothing faithful, nothing safe, about that.

    • Ms. McDonald:

      The Church does not teach that.

      The Church knows and teaches that there have been bad Popes. There have been Popes who murdered other Popes to become Pope. Take Alexander VI.

      The Popes of the tenth century are collectively called “the pornocracy.”

      As Pope Benedict CVI quipped: “The Holy Spirit is always talking to the Church, but the Church is not always listening.”

      There seem to be “other spirits” inspiring the Pontiff Francis. What spirit was it that inspired the Pontiff Francis to take a criminally negligent sex coverup artist, Cardinal Daneels of Belgium, and after he was retired in disgrace in 2010, restored him to power and influence in 2013? Daneels was exposed by the Belgian press for protecting the notorious sex predator Bishop Vangelhuwe, who raped his own little nephew, and tried to deny justice to the Vangelhuwe family, who were pleading with the Church to bring their own uncle to justice.

      This after the former Cardinal Bergoglio spent millions of dollars defending the notorious sex abuser Rev. Grassi of Argentina, now serving 15 years in prison for sexually abusing children.

      • Some Pope are sent by God, others He tolerates, and others still He inflicts as punishment for our sins.

  19. I am getting impatient with the Cardinals and Bishops. They have the power to dethrone Francis, the Modernist heretic. Are they such cowards that they will not do what is necessary to defend Christ’s Church?

  20. Compassion is not the same thing as approval. That would apply to many sins which people attempt to justify or explain but that doesnt change the reality. The Pope would be wise to be clearer in this.

  21. “Sins of impurity especially clergy and consecrated…You see this is a torture greater than my death.” (Saint Faustina diary 445) The words of Jesus Christ himself!!
    Who is still defending this Antichrist Pope, who is defending our Lord Jesus Christ, make your choice.

  22. When politics was previously about the domestic economy, patriotism, foreign policy, etc., today all politics has degenerated to identity politics – feminism, LGBT++++, environmentalism and transgenderism. Social discourse has become toxic due to the Cultural Marxists ‘Long March through the Institutions’. So sad to see the Church, at the highest levels, now further polarizing people of faith by reducing itself to identity issues. Truths that we knew to be certain up to yesterday are now questioned and undermined by Church figures who aught to know better if they have a brain or just ordinary common sense. ONly God can save us from the present madness.

  23. The repentant fornicator, St. Augustine, I am told, said active Homosexual Relations is an abuse that should not be permitted. I think I will stay with teaching and not a teaching that “tickles the ear”.

  24. Pope Francis is Wrong About Fr. James Martin, by Austin Ruse.
    July 1, 2021

    The article begins:

    Pope Francis hears grumbling about Fr. James Martin, SJ. So, he turns to his key advisors.

    He starts with the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, he of 2+2=5 theological fame, who tells Francis there is no problem with Martin who is doing God’s own work in building bridges to a marginalized community.

  25. Pope Francis Needs to Say “No”, by Christopher Ruddy.
    July 1, 2021


    For the pope to speak solely of openness and compassion in such contexts almost inevitably will be perceived—rightly or wrongly—as a tacit approval of those seeking to change Church doctrine. And, when coupled with the September 2019 private audience that he granted to Fr. Martin, such approval might well seem to be more than tacit. This is a problem, to put it mildly.

    • These people are very careful.—Christopher Ruddy mentions ‘doctrinal silence’:

      “One might respond that neither the pope nor Fr. Martin has denied any Church teaching.”

      That’s the strategy —-when thought expressions are kept in flux mobility in any direction is easily achieve or a hovering mode can be maintained.

      Catholics are entitled definition in expression of Church Doctrine.

  26. Austin Ruse has an article on this letter in Crisis Magazine. Among other comments, he points out that the LGBT “community”, far from being marginalized, is one of the most influential [and wealthiest] “communities” in the world.
    I do not rely on Ruse’s favoured sources of information but I think he is spot on on this hugely-overlooked point.

  27. There is no “closeness, tenderness and compassion” in encouraging people to live a lifestyle that will lead them to eternal damnation. It is no coincidence that the demonstrations aimed at affirming the goodness of homosexual relationships are named after “pride”. Pride is Lucifer’s sin.
    Father Martin and Pope Francis would do well to carefully consider the Four Last Things, for the people who look at them as to their leaders and for themselves.

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