In his new book, Building a bridge: how the Catholic Church and the LGBT community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity (HarperCollins), Jesuit Father James Martin wrote a critique of the Catholic Church’s relationship with what he calls the “LGBT community.”
What is the “LGBT community”? This acronym describes three groups of people: those who engage in or feel attracted to homosexual activity (lesbians and gays); those who engage in or feel drawn to both heterosexual and homosexual (bisexual) activity; and people who reject their gender identity and believe they are actually the opposite sex (transsexuals/transgender people).
Is it in fact a community? Not really.
It is an amalgamation of those who reject the natural order of human sexuality in different ways, and thus share a common interest in seeing the laws and societal norms and customs that uphold that natural order outlawed.
Father Martin’s book says virtually nothing about bisexuals and transsexuals/transgenders. His book is about homosexual people, and more specifically about Catholic homosexuals. Yet even this category of people is not fully addressed. Father Martin writes about Catholic homosexuals embracing “gay identity”. It completely ignores Catholics who experience same-sex attraction and do not positively accept it as their identity.
He never once mentions Couragea Catholic apostolate founded in 1980 by Cardinal Terence Cooke and entrusted to the direction of the late Father John Harvey.
In a book that purports to analyze and critique the Catholic Church‘s outreach to gay Catholics, this omission cannot be accidental.
It is not the purpose of this book to suggest ways in which the Church, faithful to the teaching of Christ, can improve its dealings with those who feel drawn to commit the sin of sodomy in the hope that ‘they will reject this evil tendency and embrace chastity. If so, then Courage’s highly successful experiment, which has spread across the United States and internationally, would have been at least mentioned, if not highlighted.
The real purpose of this book is to argue for a relaxation of the Church’s teaching that sodomy is gravely immoral and that any attraction to commit acts of sodomy is an objective personality disorder.
Father Martin rejects the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the “inclination” to “homosexual tendencies” is “objectively disordered” (2358). He writes:
“The phrase is about the orientation, not the person, but it’s still unnecessarily hurtful. To say that one of the deepest parts of a person — the part that gives and receives love — is ‘messy’ in self is unnecessarily cruel” (pp. 46-47).
In a recent interview, he called for the use of the replacement phrase “ordered differently”. It would be a change in the teaching of the Church. This would mean that God has created two different orders of sexual behavior that are both good and right according to his will: Some people are homosexual by the express design of God and some are heterosexual by the express design of God.
If this were the case, then homosexual acts themselves could no longer be described, as they are in the Catechism at paragraph 2357, as “intrinsically disordered”. If the inclination is simply differentand not messy, then acting on that inclination is simply different, and not disorderly. Homosexual activity would simply be a natural behavior for people “differently classified”.
For Father Martin, a disordered inclination or tendency is “one of the deepest parts of a person”. It refers to “the part that gives and receives love”. It is our heart and our soul that constitute our deepest being, the center of love.
An inclination towards unnatural sexual activity is not a person’s heart and soul. True love is expressed in virtuous acts. Evil inclinations or sinful tendencies must be seen by the Christian for what they are and must be resisted.
How can Father Martin say that homosexual inclination is the center of a person’s love?
He can only say this if he considers that the trend is not disorderly. Thus he finds cruelty in the Catechism. Yet, is it hurtful and cruel to tell someone the truth about human sexuality as taught by the Church throughout its history? Rather the opposite; Our Lord told us, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Father Martin’s book is a long meditation on a point he takes for granted, without ever attempting to reconcile his thesis with the constant teaching of the Church, because that is impossible. It assumes that God created certain people intentionally being homosexual, and therefore any disapproval of homosexuality and even homosexual activity is actually an attack on God’s plan.
This, of course, cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching – it is the rejection of that teaching.
Everyone is heterosexual by nature. Some heterosexuals have a problem with homosexual attraction. Father Martin does not see it that way.
He writes that “understanding one’s identity as an LGBT person is easier than a few decades ago” (p. 9). “Jesus saw beyond categories: He met people where they were and accompanied them” (p. 43).
He talks about “sexual orientation” and his “sexuality” (p. 88). He tells ‘LGBT’ Catholics to think about this question: “God, who only creates good things, created your ‘inner parts’. How does that make you feel? (p.114).
He then asks the “families, friends and allies” of “LGBT” people to think about this question: “You are wonderfully made yourself! And your family member or friend is done in a different, but no less wonderful way. What does this tell you about the ‘works’ and ‘thoughts’ of God? (page 114). He asks “LGBT” people: “What allows you to accept yourself as you are? (p. 123).
The end of this book contains “A prayer for when I feel rejected”, “composed for all those who feel excluded, rejected, marginalized, ashamed or persecuted”, in which we confess to God: “Jesus understands me and love with a love, because of the way you made me” (p.146).
This is the danger represented by this book: Father Martin advances the idea that the Church has misunderstood God’s plan for human sexuality for all of its history and that it must now move on to a new teaching, namely that the union of man and woman in marital love is not the only way to the true and right expression of human sexuality.
The thesis of this book is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual/transgender people were created to be such by God, and therefore should joyfully live and express their God-given and differently ordained sexuality. in a differently ordered way.
The truth is very different.
God in his goodness helps us all to face our problems and temptations, whatever they may be. One of his first mercies is to reveal to us the truth about our common human nature, including the truth about human sexuality, which is differentiated between male and female and is only rightly expressed by a husband and wife. in the conjugal embrace which is in itself procreative and unitive.
Inclinations or tendencies toward sexual acts that are neither procreative nor unitive, and therefore inherently immoral, do not represent who we are or how we were created by God. These are deficits, ultimately attributable to original sin, that must be dealt with by the grace of God and our willingness to firmly believe that God’s law is good and will produce the greatest happiness in our lives.
Father Gerald Murray is the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York.