Sorry to all who made comments as those I could not re paste!
I have to agree with Archbishop Chaput's concern about the ugly rhetoric of neo-Catholic, neo-orthodox, neo cons who have undermined the hard work of authentic Catholics who believe what the Church teaches about mortal sins against charity and the 8th Commandment. Who would be drawn to Christ and His Church when encountering such uncharitabeness! Your thoughts:
The scariest Catholic in America
BY FRANK BRUNI
The Rev. James Martin is a Roman Catholic rock star. His books, including one on Jesus Christ and another on the saints, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Director Martin Scorsese has twice hired him to consult on movies with religious themes. Television producers love him: Back when Stephen Colbert had his Comedy Central show, Martin popped up frequently as its “official chaplain.”
So the reaction when he agreed to speak this month to a group of parishes in central New Jersey was unalloyed elation, right?
Check out the websites and Twitter accounts of far-right Catholic groups and you’ll see why. To them Martin is “sick,” “wicked,” “a filthy liar,” “the smoke of Satan” and a “heretic” on a fast track to “eternal damnation.” They obsessively stalk him and passionately exhort churchgoers to protest his public appearances or prevent them from happening altogether.
And they succeed. After the New Jersey parish in which his remarks were supposed to be delivered was inundated with angry phone calls, the event was moved off church grounds. Martin will give his spectacularly uncontroversial talk – “Jesus Christ: Fully Human, Fully Divine” – at a secular conference center in a nearby town.
Why all this drama? What’s Martin’s unconscionable sin? In his most recent book, “Building a Bridge,” which was published in June, he calls on Catholics to show LGBT people more respect and compassion than many of them have demonstrated in the past.
That’s all. That’s it. He doesn’t say that the church should bless gay marriage or gay adoption. He doesn’t explicitly reject church teaching, which prescribes chastity for gay men and lesbians, though he questions the language – “intrinsically disordered” – with which it describes homosexuality.
But that hasn’t stopped his detractors from casting him as a terrifying enemy of the faith – Regan in “The Exorcist” and Damien in “The Omen” rolled together and grown up into a balding and bespectacled Jesuit – and silencing him whenever they can. A talk about Jesus that he was supposed to give in London last fall was canceled. So was a similar talk at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America.
And the vitriol to which he has been subjected is breathtaking, a reminder not just of how much homophobia is still out there but also of how presumptuous, overwrought, cruel and destructive discourse in this digital age can be.
“Inexcusably ugly” was how the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, described the attacks on Martin in an essay for the Catholic journal First Things in September. Chaput is no progressive, but still he was moved to write that “the bitterness directed at the person of Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.” He cited a recent article in a French publication with the headline “Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship,” observing, “We live at a time when civility is universally longed for and just as universally (and too often gleefully) violated.”
After Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published a similar defense of Martin in the Jesuit magazine America, one of Martin’s devoted inquisitors tweeted: “If you think the anti-sodomite bigotry in the church is bad, you should see hell.”
I spoke with McElroy recently, and he said that while there are calm-voiced critics of Martin with earnest concerns about what they see as the church’s drift from traditional sexual morality, there are also out-and-out bigots whose methods are “incompatible with what we hope to be as a church.”
“We have to face the fact that there is a group of people across all religious views that are particularly antagonistic to LGBT people,” he told me. “That comes from deep within the human soul, and it’s really corrosive and repugnant.”
I have known Martin for many years and have long been struck by the painstakingly careful balance that he maintains. Is he telling his fellow Catholics to judge LGBT people less harshly, whether they’re chaste or not? Absolutely. When he and I talked a few days ago, he repeated a recommendation in “Building a Bridge” that Catholic institutions stop firing gay people, which has happened repeatedly.
“Straight couples do not have their sexual lives put under a microscope like that, nor are they targeted,” he told me. “A couple living together before they’re married aren’t fired from a Catholic school.” But that arrangement runs as afoul of church teaching as a sexually active gay or lesbian couple’s does.
From listening to Martin, it’s certainly possible to conclude that, or at least wonder if, he has qualms with church teaching about homosexuality. But he’s so restrained and respectful that the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States officially approved “Building a Bridge,” which has also been endorsed by an array of prominent cardinals and bishops.
And he trails behind-many members of his faith in his publicly stated views. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center last June, 67 percent of Americans who identify as Catholic support the legalization of same-sex marriage, in contrast to 62 percent of Americans across the board.
But the far right isn’t quietly ceding the fight. That’s clear not only in the response to Martin but also in a federal education bill, drafted by Republicans, that would protect colleges that ban openly gay relationships or bar gays from certain religious organizations on campus.
And in the church as in the government, the scorched-earth tactics of ultraconservatives often gives them a sway disproportionate to their actual numbers. “These online hate groups are now more powerful than local churches,” Martin said, referring specifically to Church Militant and to the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, which started a petition demanding that the New Jersey parishes cancel his appearance. It gathered 12,000 signatures.
Lyle Garcia, 72, one of the parishioners involved in the decision to invite Martin, admitted to me that he was “very concerned” that in changing the location of the event, they’d rewarded and emboldened the haters. But at least, he said, the talk would proceed.
As will Martin. An expanded edition of “Building a Bridge” will be published in March, and it includes material about LGBT Catholics who told him, as he promoted the book, that it had given them desperately needed comfort.
“I’m at total peace,” he told me. “I really am. An ocean of hate online is really wiped out by just a few tears from an LGBT person.” Only one thing to say to that: Amen.
Frank Bruni writes for The New York Times.