Fr. James Martin plays rhetorical games with the truth about transgenderism

That Fr. Martin ignores Pope Francis’s concerns regarding transgenderism and gender theory reveals how Fr. Martin instrumentalizes and selectively curates the words and thinking of the Holy Father.

Jesuit Father James Martin is seen in the documentary "Building a Bridge," a film about his LGBT ministry. (CNS photo/courtesy PR Collaborative)

“What accounts for the Catholic Church’s recent focus on transgender people?” asks Father James Martin, S.J., in a May 17th essay at the new LGBTQ website,, promoted by Martin and managed by America Magazine. He poses this question as a result of recent diocesan statements regarding the transgender phenomenon, which include the Dioceses of Arlington, VA.; Springfield, Il; Milwaukee, WI; Fairbanks, AL; Lansing, MI; Salina, KS; Little Rock, ARIndianapolis, IN; Denver, CO; Marquette, MI; and the Bishops of Minnesota.

Fr. Martin refuses to consider the most obvious answer to his question: the reason the Church is confronting the issue of transgenderism now is because contemporary society is fixated on the topic. More revealingly, he ignores the fact that Pope Francis himself directed American bishops to address the problem, as Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis made clear in his statement on the topic:

The bishops of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas traveled to Rome in January of 2020 to meet with the Holy Father, Pope Francis. While we were with him he affirmed that abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our time. But he added that another problem today is transgender theory/gender ideology, and he asked us to address it.

Thus, it is out of obedience to the Holy Father that these bishops have released their teachings on the topic.

That Fr. Martin ignores Pope Francis’s concerns regarding transgenderism and gender theory reveals how Fr. Martin instrumentalizes and selectively curates the words and thinking of the Holy Father in order to affirm whatever it is that Fr. Martin believes Pope Francis should affirm. But this should come as no surprise, since Fr. Martin is a skilled rhetorician who knows well how to use sophistry to argue his case. This latest essay is no exception.

For example, consider Fr. Martin’s discussion of the meaning of “gender theory/ideology,” which Martin rightly observes has appeared more and more frequently in church documents. Yet Fr. Martin argues that it “is a vague term that can mean many things to many people,” implying that the criticisms of “gender theory” have no value, since no one apparently knows what it means. This is blatant obfuscation. Church documents that use the term always define the term, or else the context makes clear what it means. Gender theory/ideology is any thinking or belief that undermines the sexual design of God in creating humanity as immutably male and female, with an inherent complementary sexual orientation that is ordered toward procreation.

Fr. Martin further argues that no one he knows who identifies as “transgender” actually denies that humanity is divided between male and female. He quotes a friend he calls a “transgender man,” who told him that “Most transgender people, though not all, consider ourselves male or female and rejoice in that identity. I know no one who is transgendered because they believe that gender should be eliminated or sexual differences do not exist.”

However, this is said by a person who was created by God as a female, but who believes—sincerely, I’m sure—that God somehow made a mistake in creating “him” with a female body. She believes in God’s division of humanity into male and female just so long as she has the right to determine for herself that she is a man. Further, her comment ignores those identities included LGBTQIA+ such as nonbinary, genderfluid, genderqueer, etc., which can all also fall under the “transgender” label.

Martin continues his critique of “gender theory” by quoting a transgender “woman” who argues, “I had never heard of ‘gender ideology’ until the church began using it,” arguing that “the transgender people with whom I’ve spoken do not see themselves as promoting, embodying or assenting to a ‘system of ideas.’” But Martin is putting the cart before the horse and engaging in a straw man argument. No one argues that the reason a person born male believes himself to be a woman is due to the Church’s coining of the phrase “gender ideology.” And yet the reasons why a man may believe himself to be a woman is due to what the Church, in Her Wisdom, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, has described as “gender theory/ideology.” The Church is rooted in the Logos, and has, from the dawn of her creation, brought an orderly and coherent understanding to the confusions of each age, and through its God ordained authority, given those confusions a name in order to more effectively counter heretical beliefs. This is no exception.

Beyond these sorts of rhetorical games, Fr. Martin frequently argues from an appeal to emotion, for example when he tells his readers that a “transgender teen was distraught over being denied confirmation at his local parish.” But confirmation isn’t a right; it’s a sacrament, and attendant with it is a commitment to all that the Church teaches and believes. If a teenager doesn’t believe what Scripture and the Church teaches about human nature, that teenager shouldn’t be confirmed. This isn’t cruel—it’s the same reason why a teenager who doesn’t believe in God, or in the Real Presence, or any of the other dogmas of the Church can’t be confirmed.

Appeals to emotion are the stock-in-trade of Fr. James Martin. His pastoral guide to transgender people is replete with all sorts of sad and sorry statistics about how horrible the life is of the transgender person is, including how they are more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts who accept their sexuality as a given. In much of his writing, Martin relies on catastrophism in the form of the “but they might commit suicide” argument to convince his readers that the Church is cruel and must change her teachings on human sexuality.

Saner men than he would see higher rates of suicide in the transgender population as resulting from the irrational belief that the answer to confusion about one’s sexual identity is to mangle the body, permanently. If civilization truly wants to lower the rates of suicide in those who call themselves transgender, society would compassionately help them to see and accept reality. Yet on this front, Martin falls into scientism, relying more on the behavioral sciences to determine human nature than on the wisdom of the Church.

When it comes to all things LGBTQ, Fr. Martin holds the scientific establishment in a seemingly magisterial light. He apparently views the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association as authoritative regarding transgenderism. He quotes one such organization as having established that “gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth and is backed by decades of research.” The source for this statement? A 2015 survey by an organization called the National Center for Transgender Equality—hardly an unbiased think tank.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Martin completely ignores scientific findings which counter these arguments, such as the bombshell correction in the American Journal of Psychology of a highly heralded 2019 study claiming that “Sex-change operations yield long-term medical mental health benefits for transgender people.” As a result of peer-sexual reviewed studies, the journal was forced to issue a correction, stating that no evidence of benefit from sex-change surgery could be concluded from the study.

Martin shows his conviction that science—at least when it comes to the transgender person—should influence the Church’s teaching of what is sinful or not, when he poses the question “why [have] so many Catholic leaders [begun] using the language of sin and repentance so quickly for a phenomenon that, at least publicly, is still so new, so little understood and still the source of so much scientific debate?” Implicit in this question is that if we “follow the science,” the Church will discover something about the nature of human sexuality and sin which the church didn’t know before. And yet, the Church is expert in humanity, as Pope Paul VI told the United Nations in 1965. In the area of confusion about sexual identity, the Church wisely taught in the 1986 Letter on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person that

the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.

Here too the wisdom of St. Pope John Paul II offers a powerful rebuke to Fr. Martin’s reliance on the scientific findings of organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality, when he spoke in Veritatis Splendor of “theories which misuse scientific research about the human person. Arguing from the great variety of customs, behaviour [sic] patterns and institutions present in humanity, these theories end up, if not with an outright denial of universal human values, at least with a relativistic conception of morality.”

John Paul II acknowledged the value of the behavioral sciences, but clarified that though moral theology may “make use of the behavioural and natural sciences, [it] does not rely on the results of formal empirical observation or phenomenological understanding alone. Indeed, the relevance of the behavioural sciences for moral theology must always be measured against the primordial question: What is good or evil? What must be done to have eternal life?

This provides one answer to the question Martin poses: why are Catholic leaders starting to speak about transgenderism? Precisely because souls and their eternal salvation are at stake.

Not surprisingly, all of the people Fr. Martin refers to in his essay have adopted the world’s view that transgender people actually exist within the Logos of God’s creative wisdom. This reveals yet another of Martin’s favorite rhetorical devices: reliance on “lived experience” to make his case. But he is not the first priest in the Church to appeal to lived experience to normalize perversions of human sexuality. In a criticism of Fr. Andre Guindon’s book The Sexual Creators: An Ethical Proposal for Concerned Christians, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith censured his book in part because of Fr. Guindon’s reliance on “lived experience” in an attempt to influence moral theology:

[W]hat is affirmed is the primacy of the “lived”, which becomes the true criterion for making moral judgments. The “lived” is mainly conceived in terms of qualities of subjective experience like sensuality and tenderness. The result is a morality based on a kind of blind faith in human spontaneity. Little or nothing is said of the basic dichotomy in the human heart (cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 10), of the consequences of this dichotomy in the sexual realm, or of the role of grace and human perseverance in dealing with this conflict. As a result, the notion of experience is presented in a very selective way.

The words above certainly apply to Fr. Martin, as well as to every other heterodox ministry in the Church, such as New Ways Ministry and Dignity, who urge the Church to look to the lived experience of the LGBTQ person as a reason to change the Church’s teaching. Naturally, absent in any of his discussions of transgenderism is the lived experience of people who repented from their confused times when they lived as another sex, such as Walt Heyer, Erin Brewer, Laura Perry, Jeffrey McCall, Blair Logsdon, or any other of the growing number of those who have repented from their sin of transgenderism. Their lived experiences don’t fit into the narrative of Fr. Martin’s arguments.

Thus, one primary reason why Church leaders have started speaking about transgenderism is because of the advocacy of priests such as Fr. Martin who actually believe that transgenderism is real. Let us pray and hope that more bishops and other Catholics follow the heroic example of all those bishops whose statements Fr. Martin questions, and that the Church’s perennial teaching about the human person, sexuality, and the body will open eyes, touch hearts, and transform lives.

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About David Laidlaw 2 Articles
David Laidlaw lives near Chicago and writes about Catholic moral teaching.


  1. Fr. Martin has been leading the Jesuiticals in opposition to Church teachings for decades. He is one of the leading heresiarchs of our times.

    And so I am here to suggest that we honor this accomplished and remarkable sower of discord, of confusion, of lies, by assigning the term “Martinsanity” to his entire body of work.

    Then will his contribution to human suffering and disorder be clear to subsequent generations. Martinsanity will stand where it belongs, with Pelagianism, Arianism, Donatism and Docetism.

    And so his followers — apparently the majority of the Jesuitical (dis)order, plus a significant portion of the “devout Catholics” who advocate for his various heresies, would be called “Martiniacs.”

    There’s just one thing I wonder.

    The only Church position that I don’t seem to have seen Fr. Martin dispute through the years is the one prohibiting the burning of heretics at the stake.

    Let’s hope he gets around to that one soon.

    • Anyone who attends Mass frequently and prays fo moral guidance knows that the essence of Christ’s teaching is love for God and love for neighbor. Jesus directed his followers to accept the leper and went so far as say “whatever you do to the least you do to me. He was very clear about that. Pope Francis always adheres to the Word of God so when he directs his bishops to address transgender people. I have no doubt he wants love, compassion and protection for these people. He wants them to know that they too are children of God. And that’s what Fr. Martin is trying to do.

      • You are incredibly naive if you think that the pied piper of sodomy, James Martin LGBTQWXYZSJ, is truly concerned for the souls of sexual deviants including his own.

  2. Why does anyone still use the title “Father” when referring to James Martin who so adamantly opposes the teaching of the Catholic Church? He denies Church teaching through his public statements and editing of “America” magazine. He is not a shepherd who leads the flock to eternal life. He is a heretic who craves public attention for misguiding Catholics on a daily basis. Gender dysphoria has one place to go for assistance; that is, mental health professionals who understand the immutability of gender.

  3. Thanks to Fr. Martin and his ilk.

    I just saw a story that states that the Biden administration will cease funding school lunches for poor children unless the schools they attend allow misidentifying boys to use girls’ bathrooms.

    By all means, Catholics. Keep voting Democratic.

    • I really don’t understand why Martin continues to call himself a CATHOLIC priest!
      His rhetorical hogwash which is blatantly used to convolute the gender issue is right out of Satan’s handbook.
      Heretics shouldn’t be given a pass to continue spouting his delusional message.

  4. Fr. Martin is not entirely to blame. Pope Francis and many high ranking Bishops and Cardinals have sent many mixed messages regarding Catholic teachings. Heck, Pope Francis has even rewarded Fr. Martin with personal meetings, hand written letters and a Vatican communications appointment. It seems what Fr. Martin does has the full approval of the Pope. So, who’s really playing rhetorical games? Fr. Martin or Pope Francis? Of course, that leaves us with some even deeper questions about this papacy.

    • Thank you for pointing out that Pope Francis is Fr. Martin’s enabler.
      Yes, very unfortunately, deeper questions about this Papacy.

  5. We read of “another of Martin’s favorite rhetorical devices: reliance on ‘lived experience’ to make his case.”

    The Utilitarian James Mill, father of Utilitarian John Stuart Mill, had this to say about that: “If one proceeds from pure experience, one arrives at polytheism.”

  6. Is it any wonder that the Order to which James Martin belongs graced the English language with the neologism “Jesuitry” as a synonym for “casuistry”?

    • Yes, and the related term “Jesuitical.” But my question is why is this person still being discussed at all? What if we all took a vow of silence regarding him, said nary a word in criticism or at all. It’s all been said before anyway. In a sense are we not enablers of this man? He probably relishes the attention he gets from the orthodox sector of the Church. For a child, even negative attention is better than being completely ignored. It probably fuels his ego. Why should we continue to participate in that project?

  7. Father Martin spouts errant nonsense about transgenderism because he is allowed to do so by his local Bishop and the Pope, neither of whom are standing up for the moral teachings of the church. He should be disciplined. In recent decades,possibly since V2, the church has been all about being “nice” and making people feel “happy” and “not hurting feelings”, even if people are doing moral wrong or in obvious sin. “Nice” trumps reality and it trumps being direct for the good of someone’s soul. ( Much like the price of “no mean tweets” has been the absolute wreckage of the nation for the last two years. But then, hey, no mean tweets, right? Funny, that does not seem to have been a good trade. ) The church should be focused on eternal truths, speaking the reality of them to people today, and preserving them for the next generation of christians. This involves declaring absolutely some things to be sins and moral wrongs.And then acting on it, like barring Nancy Pelosi from communion for giving scandal. This is frankly not done enough. More needs to be said, bluntly, from the pulpits. Will some people be offended or hurt? Yes. And that is the price of truth. Jesus spoke about sin quite a lot, which seems to be something our current crop of clergy on all levels has forgotten. Maybe the church needs to be less concerned with people’s “happiness” and being “nice” as the be-all and end-all, and return to teaching them the truths they need to save their souls and lead a true Christian life.

  8. I saw a report tonight about the UK health system banning the word woman from a booklet dealing with uniquely female cancers. Unless the church moves quickly to reiterate Christian teaching regarding gender, then it will bleed members and be remembered for fleeing in the face of toxic wolves

  9. The woke lawn billboards are all rather unconvincing as to the credibility of the advertisers.

    In a nutshell, they deserve a re-write to more faithfully convey the ideology of the advertisers, which might be more akin to this: “We believe that Science is Surreal, and Bruce Jenner is a woman.”

    “Rev.” Martin ought to march as Chair-Person of the Pride Parade in New York City this year, rather than just merely participating, as he seems to do, at least on the occasions I have been “graced” to observe around Columbus Circle.

  10. I can’t believe I’d ever say this, but the Comedian Bill Maher makes more sense than our leaders in the church. Maher is smart enough to do the Math and come to the conclusion things aren’t adding up. He put a graph up with statistics on those who identify as LGBTQ. With each successive generation the number of people who identify as LGBTQ is doubling. Maher states at this rate by 2050 everyone will be identifying as LGBTQ. So how is that? It use be said they are born that way. But that is impossible with these stats. (Just watch how now these stats will start to change to prevent the word getting out.) It proves LGBTQ is a created perversion. That’s why the push to “educate” little kids. Martin and those who support him are like the snake in the Garden of Eden. They are tempting man to violate Gods clear Word. They start questioning what has God has very clearly stated. They are temptors who are not of God. All they want to do is first create a little doubt in your mind. That’s all they need to slither in.

    • Well said, Taad. However, your fixation on “T’s” is tantamount to an obsession. Excerpt: “society is fixated on the topic”. In my humble opinion, after reading these articles, the fixation is in the Church.
      I wonder why Transgender folks “come out of the closet?

      God help our separated brethern.

    • How horridly true that statement is. They are “celebrities innfull communion” with “the-contemporary-cult-for-katholik-mediocrity,” the very spawn of “the mind of McCarrick,” the founder, “who-is-the-very-model-of-a-modern-US-Cardinal.” 🎶

    • Don’ t forget another James – Gaffigan. He and his family all dressed in multi-colored outfits one Gay Pride Parade. There is a movie about the Divine Mercy, and he was featured. He indeed needs Divine Mercy.

  11. “Thus, it is out of obedience to the Holy Father that these bishops have released their teachings on the topic.” Francis and Matin are on the same team as Francis will just go and write a personal letter to him. Need to recognize the rhetoric.

    • Absolutely true, Pontiff Francis is “the beard” for the army of “Rev. Martins” in our contemporary “Church-of-the-Emasculate-Conception.”

      For the true men who forsake marriage to answer the call of God to the priesthood, they are heroic in self-sacrifice.

      For “Rev.” Martin et al, they are what The Good Shepherd called “false shepherds…robbers and thieves.”

  12. Regardless of how one feels about Fr. Martin, his priesthood and his humanity should still be respected. When I was in the army I was told “you salute the rank not the man”. Look to the example of St. Francis. Yes, challenge bad behaviour/teaching BUT do it with humility, compassion and respect.

    From the early chronicles of St. Francis written in the 1300’s:

    “If I were to meet at the same time some saint coming down from heaven and any poor little priest, I would first pay my respects to the priest and proceed to kiss his hands first. I would say, ‘Ah, just a moment St. Lawrence, because this person’s hands handle the Word of Life and possess something that is more than human. These hands have touched my Lord, and no matter what they be like, they could not soil Him or lessen His virtue . . . To honor the Lord, honor His minister . . . He can be bad for himself, but for me he is good.”

    • Your point is well taken, Carth. And under normal circumstances I would agree with you.

      But keep in mind that we’re not talking about a poor little priest. We’re talking about a heretical celebrity, a faux Catholic faux priest, who publicly opposes the Church’s teachings at every turn.

      I wonder what good St. Francis would say about him. And about Arius or Pelagius as well.

  13. Agenda 2030: Trans-Species fluidity. “Man who thinks she is a sheep receives dolly genes.” Rev James Bun Vendor of over-reach inc. is levering NWO money to ensure papal advocacy for Surgery and hormones and the Vatican endorsement of Trans-species 2030 : guaranteeing that all 6 year olds groomed for sheep change ops are refused psychological help and begin wool growth treatments while results are optimal.

  14. Fr. Martin has been talking against Church teachings before Francis became pope.I am surprised that he is still a priest.

  15. As I have said before, what can we expect from this ‘priest’ who has gone over to the enemy’s camp?

    The mind is darkened not accidentally but by sheer will.

  16. 2 questions.

    1) Is there anyone out there who would choose this man as a confessor?

    2) CWR – WHY do you keep running stories about this clown? Is it not obvious by now that he is desperate for attention?

    • Terence: This is, as far as I can remember, the first CWR piece about Martin since 2019; there have been some news briefs from CNA about Martin, who continually makes news, usually for the wrong reasons. He is, unfortunately, prominent and he makes many assertions that do demand, in our estimation, a response. And the new site he has helped launch is certainly going to require some responses on occasion, as it is deeply skewed and flawed in many ways.

      • Mr. Olson: I appreciate your response. My question was somewhat rhetorical, but not completely. I was not aware of the new site he has launched, but I do understand and appreciate that someone has to keep an eye on him.

        I graduated from a Jesuit High School many years ago, and what has happened to the Jesuits saddens me.

  17. You can’t pretend to not know Paris once you’ve been there — and Martin appears to be totally Parisian.
    Martin is at once astonishing and scandalous.
    That any man can be immersed in the Roman Catholic tradition to the extent that he should have been to achieve profession in the Jesuits and to be ordained and then reject that in its purity to adopt an ideology of the groin — and that is what he has chosen — says far more about the Jesuits and the post-conciliar Church than what I care to know. But then, I can’t pretend not to…

    • ‘Ideology of the groin’ – that phrase has a nice ring to it.

      If the occasion should arise – might I borrow it?

  18. Jimbo is a relativist. He feels that immutable features like X and Y chromosomes are in fact immaterial, that the feelings of individuals are what actually serve to define reality.

    In other words, Jimbo feels that, if God exists at all, He (She?) (It?) is not the author and arbiter of existence.

    That job is already taken, you see. By Jimbo and most of the rest of the worldly and resplendent Jesuitical (dis)order that is such a cancer on the suffering Mystical Body of Christ.

    May God have mercy on their souls.

  19. It is absolutely the height and pinnacle of arrogance for Jimbo to place himself above the Bible, above 2,000 years of Church history, above the apostles, the Early Church Fathers, the Catechism…

    Above Jesus Christ Himself.

    It is hubris on a diabolical scale. Unbelievable.

  20. Hmh. I have an idea.

    Why don’t we stop beating around the bush?

    Why don’t we just abolish this outdated hodgepodge of arcane rituals and antiquated moralizing that is the Catholic Church.

    I mean, who would miss it, right? Not even its own leaders believe all that Catholic stuff. And half of the orders of priests and sisters are obviously intent on destroying it anyway! (I’m looking at you, Jesuiticals!)

    Sure, the bishops and cardinals could still wear their funny outfits and hats — nobody would care if they did.

    But all this other nonsense could be dispensed with in favor of the modern, more sensible attitudes and practices advocated by the one organization that truly does embody the fullness of truth — the Democratic Party.

    Half of American Catholics already vote that way already, you know? So it would really be not that big a deal.

  21. I’m waiting for Jimbo to come up with just one more anti-Catholic crusade:


    This one would involve him transitioning out of the Church entirely.

    To, say, Neo-Bhakti Yoga?

    I know he would be happier, and I suspect I would be too to see him go.

  22. Christ is the head of the church. He spoke of morality and honouring God according to His unchanging word. He demonstrated kindness to those oppressed by sin, yet He spoke of fidelity to the word of His Heavenly Father.

    Grace has been given to sinner through faith. Our faith is no vain thing, for God is the author and finisher of our faith. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins as we confess.

    If a man disdains the free gift of salvation and leads others into areas that God does not condone, of what value is that to himself or others he is trying to persuade?

    The soul is eternal and must be guarded through obedience or repentance.

  23. Bishop James Martin. Get used to it. It’s going to happen. All the LGBTQ crowd is getting promoted by Bergoglio.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Fr. James Martin plays rhetorical games with the truth about transgenderism – Via Nova Media
  2. James Martin bends Pope Francis words - California Catholic Daily

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