I really don’t know much about Bishop Schlert other than he’s got a problem with abuse cover-up accusations. Honestly, I’m not sure where the truth lies, but I’m sure some readers will chime in. Regardless, his allowing Fr. Martin to speak in his diocese – all the wishy-washy claims of not endorsing Fr. Martin notwithstanding – seem to bolster the idea that he likes to play middle of the road and not deal with the hard issues.
With permission, I am re-posting a letter from a reader to Bishop Schlert regarding allowing Fr. Martin to speak in his diocese, followed by the bishop’s response. Bishop Schlert is quite right that other bishops around the country have chosen to protect their flock when it comes to Fr. Martin. Unfortunately, he is choosing the wimpy path. The diocese will know who my reader is, and he’s willing to accept the consequences should people find out, but I’m going to blot out his name. If the diocese is going to throw him under the bus, that’s on them, but I would hope that others in the Diocese of Allentown will vigorously support this reader and send their own letters of protest. In fact, I’d love to see a presence at the diocese until the invitation is rescinded. That diocese has enough problems without encouraging the very ambiguous “welcoming spirit” of Fr. Martin that’s advocated by his favorite groups like “Out as St. Paul.”
So here is the text of the letter our friend sent to Bishop Schlert (emphasis and interjections mine):
Dear Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert, Bishop of Allentown,
As member of the diocese, who has been deeply troubled by the abuse allegations that have occurred and continues to attend mass, entrust my child to the diocesan school system, and provide financial support for many initiatives. I am extremely troubled by your recent decision to allow Father James Martin, SJ to speak at Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth on April 27, 2019.
This decision is wrong on many levels. The first being the Diocese has gone to great lengths to protect our youth and has instituted many programs to protect them from physical harm as well as mental harm in the form of bullying. To this I ask if you are sincere in your will to protect God’s Children? I ask this question due to the events that unfolded in January of this year at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the massive media bullying of the youths of Covington Catholic High School. Social media condemned these youths well before the facts were known. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was part of the lynch mob. Father James Martin was one of the first within the church to take to social media to condemn the teens.
Oh, yes, he was, and he refused to ever apologize to them. The good old “I apologize if I was wrong but…” doesn’t do it.
The same person who preaches tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQ community, isn’t it ironic? To make matters worse, Father Martin issued a “so-called” apology on social media. I would ask you to read his apology to see if this is a person who is truly remorseful or has any regret for the danger in which he put the youths and their families. I thank the Lord these kids had great teachers along their development. While I am disappointed in Father Martin for his wrongful hate-filled actions, I am disappointed in the Diocese. I called the diocese to ask if the diocese would be issuing any type of statement of support and spoke with the communication director who said the diocese had no interest in supporting these youth, even after the facts were clear that the Covington Kids were the victims. I was saddened that we have a chance with the next generation of Catholics to stop the culture of abortion and now infanticide, yet the diocese takes no action. I understand that the diocese sent representatives and transported individuals to the event, but I will remind you of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King as it relates to this incident. Dr King woke our social conscience when he stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The diocese lost an opportunity to be bold in our faith and convictions.
The rush to judgment and failing to protect the Covington kids AND the incredible “I’m sorry but…” should be reason enough to disqualify Fr. Martin, but there are soooooo many more reasons.
The second reason that Father Martin should not be provided a podium to speak within the diocese is very simple. Father Martin does not provide clarity on the Church’s position regarding homosexuality but rather seeks to confuse. I am sure you are aware that Father Martin has openly stated that Pope Frances supports the “homosexual agenda” with his remarks made at Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice in 2018. I would have hoped that Father Martin would have provided substance to this statement. Church doctrine is clear “homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity and intrinsically disordered, and under no circumstance can they be approved.” Father Martin is recorded as saying the church will learn from the youth regarding transsexual and nonbinary genders! This is a direct conflict with our doctrine. He also implies that the church does not welcome those members of same sex attraction, which is falsehood.
Exactly! Why is it that Bishop Schlert feels the need to “allow” Fr. Martin any time at all to speak in his diocese? Does Fr. Martin somehow fill a need in the Church? Does the Church not already welcome all sinners (myself included) no matter what the sin? Does the Church need completely dissenting groups like “Out at St. Paul” to be seen as welcoming? Remember, Fr. Martin has said that this is one of his favorite groups. Thankfully they don’t try to hide their agenda in the least and don’t play the ambiguous card Fr. Martin does.
And if you doubt the veracity of my claims that Out at St. Paul is one of Martin’s darling groups…
This is a time of great challenge for the church, especially here in Pennsylvania. I am partaking in the “Healing our Church” program which you have instituted. I am doing so because I am disappointed with the leadership of the church. The Church has been a large part of my life, even at times when I was not a regular practicing member. My parents where devout Catholics, I attended 12 years of Catholic School, with 2.5 year of high school at St. Joseph’s Preparatory Seminary in Princeton NJ, as well as 2 years at Alvernia College. The program is helpful in uniting with other parishioners passionate on moving the church forward. One thing that stands out is the materials you have chosen for use on this topic. You seem to have a bias towards the positions of Father James Martin and Cardinal Tobin, both whom are well known as pro-gay clergy, who are cited in the materials and by the course leaders.
I question if we are to toss aside the gift of reason for a politically correct message regarding this church crisis The John Jay report indicates that over 80% of the victims were males, and post pubescent males (post age 14), we do not need confusion. The church’s stain was largely caused by homosexual or bisexual priests, this is fact. We may choose to engage in theoretical positional studies, but the facts are clear and one cannot ignore them or spin them. Doing so would be unjust to the victims and does not allow healing. Sexual abuse is not unique to the Catholic Church, it happens in all religions. What is uniquely Catholic is the amount of same sex abuse.
Again, I don’t know Bishop Schlert’s position, but I can say that, at best, he’s just trying to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. Again, wimpy.
I hope you reconsider your position regarding allowing Father Martin a platform in our diocese. I understand from discussion with my pastor that you have barred Father Martin from advertising in the AD Times. One wonders if this is such a worthy event and Father Martin is the right priest to shepherd this event, then why not be bold? What is there to hide? Surely you know that Father Martin used his large social media platform to announce that the event was “being held with the written approval of the Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert, Bishop of Allentown.” I was informed that you communicated that Father Martin is told not to deviate from church doctrine. Given Father Martin’s past statements of deceit on church doctrine, his seeds of confusion, and his affinity for the limelight of being the celebrity pro- gay Jesuit, one must wonder how has this trust been earned?
Bingo! Bishop Schlert is allowing a person he says he does not endorse and won’t even let advertise in his diocese to speak in his diocese. Really? This is, again, fence-sitting at best.
“When I was a high school student at St. Joseph’s former Cardinal McCarrick was Bishop of Metuchen and would visit the school. Pope Benedict in his wisdom placed sanctions on McCarrick’s pastoral duties, only to have Pope Francis remove those sanctions, to the embarrassment of the faithful. Should we not learn from this lesson? The Catholic Church is a wonderful institution which performs many good works. In this time of crisis, we need clarity from our leaders to call out those who led us astray and distort the teachings of Church. Our church is a compassionate church but its teaching on homosexuality is clear, from the old testament, through the new testament to the words and writings of the saints, including Saint Paul the first convert.
If Bishop Schlert wants to truly be welcoming AND compassionate (one without the other isn’t really either), then he should order all of his priests to reach out with love and compassion and make those struggling with same-sex attraction feel welcome and supported in their daily struggles against sin like the rest of us. Throwing an ambiguous bone isn’t love. It’s checking off a box so you don’t have to hear about it anymore.
I plea with you to stop this madness. I am far from the perfect catholic. However, I refuse to stay silent. I am reminded of Elie Wiesel who said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” The Church is at a crossroads. We can act with clarity and compassion or be cowards.
I hope you consider my plea. I can promise you, I will not relent, nor will I forget, I will not be silent. The Bishops Annual Appeal is underway. I would find it unfortunate that I would have to pass on articipating this year, due to your cowardice on protecting the faith.
And here is the bishop’s response (recipient’s name withheld at my discretion).
2 April 2019
Thank you for your 27 March 2019 correspondence regarding the presence of Reverend James J. Martin, S.J. at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville on 27 April 2019, where he will present a public lecture entitled A Good Measure: Showing Welcome and Respect for LGBT People and Their Families.
I am profoundly grateful for your genuine concern for the Church and her teachings. I have made it very clear that his message is to be one of ‘welcoming.’ My desire that all be welcome in our parishes does not imply that I am ‘soft’ on the moral teachings of the Church. Welcoming does not suggest that all may approach the Sacraments, or that someone will not hear a challenging message in a homily. Welcoming that does not lead to the truth is a false accompaniment.
Well, of course nobody wants to be considered soft. So don’t allow Fr. Martin to speak, Bishop Schlert! Your whole action on this issue is just a Pontius Pilate move. Just what is Fr. Martin welcoming? You know quite well he is ever so ambiguous on that point. I agree with your assessment on what welcoming should be, but every time Fr. Martin whines about somebody being fired, barred from sacraments until confession, etc., he is most certainly engaging in false accompaniment.
Permit me to provide some additional background on the specific matter that you reference in your letter. In the Fall, the Jesuit Center scheduled New Ways Ministry and Reverend Tony Flannery to be present for a similar weekend. I directed to rescind his invitation since Father Flannery was a suspended Irish Priest and New Ways Ministry has been banned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. At my request, they withdraw his invitation.
Let me just stop and give complete kudos to you for withdrawing the invitation for New Ways Ministry. I’m going to give you a lot more credit than some bishops in the U.S. would get from me. However, that is a separate incident, and you’re now erasing all the good you did by allowing someone who gives accolades to New Ways Ministry and who has received awards from them to speak. https://www.newwaysministry.org/2016/09/06/fr-james-martin-to-receive-new-ways-ministrys-bridge-building-award-old/ Can’t you see a wee bit of a problem with this? Maybe you didn’t know? Well, now you do.
They informed me at that time that they invited Reverend James J. Martin, S.J. for a Spring 2019 conference. Regarding Father James J. Martin, S.J., please know that I have given clear direction to Father Martin, his Regional Provincial, and the Rector of the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth that Father Martin is not permitted to create confusion or obfuscation among the faithful concerning the constant teachings of the Church regarding moral and sacramental theology. His presence presumes that Father Martin will present a message of welcome and accompaniment to those with Same Sex Attraction in accord with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Schlert! Confusion and obfuscation are Fr. James Martin, SJ’s middle names! Are you trying to tell us that not one priest in your diocese can fulfill the job of accompaniment that you’ve defined???
My permission for him to be present at Wernersville does not infer my endorsement of Father Martin. I will be closely following the content of Father Martin’s presentation. It is my hope that the Conference assists people in how the Church can be more welcoming in line with the authentic teachings of the Church. Should his content create division, confusion, or obfuscation, please know that I will respond accordingly.
Fr. Martin causes division wherever he goes just by his mere presence. Refer back to the Covington issue the member of your flock wrote you about. And, really, how many times in the last few weeks has he dissented against the diocese that had to fire employees whose scandalous relationships have come to light? As I’ve said, confusion and obfuscation is his normal method of operation and you know it, so allowing him to speak really can’t NOT be seen as an endorsement. It’s just an endorsement while you try to wash your hands of it.
I have enclosed a letter for your information that I sent to all the priests and deacons of the Diocese that provides a greater context of the event.
With appreciation for your kind letter and with the assurance of my prayers for a blessed Season of Lent, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown
So let’s look at this information he enclosed.
14 March 2019
My dear Brother Priests and Deacons,
As some of you may be aware, Reverend James J. Martin, S.J. will be present at the Jesuit Center, Wernersville, on Saturday, 27 April 2019 to offer a conference on welcoming and respect for those with same sex attraction and their families. Father Martin has presented a letter of good standing from his Religious Superior, serves as a Consultant, Dicastery for Communications, and was invited by His Holiness, Pope Francis to speak at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland.
Actually, Bishop Schlert, the Jesuits are exactly what you get when you hang your hat on a false sense of welcoming. They’ll take anyone as long as they don’t embrace an authentic version of Catholicism. They bounce the good ones unless they can somehow keep their heads down. Again, just what is being welcomed?
I realize that some Bishops in the country have not allowed Father Martin to speak in their Diocese, and I too have prayerfully considered this decision. I would like you to know that I have made it very clear to Father Martin and his Superiors that the permission I give is for him to speak only on welcoming all of our Catholic brothers and sisters into the life of the parish. This permission does not extend to his obfuscating or confusing the authentic moral and sacramental teachings of the Church. Please be assured that should his content create division, confusion, or obfuscation, please know that I will respond accordingly.
Honestly, Bishop Schlert might just be naïve, but has he bothered ever to watch Fr. Martin in action? He knows how to say much without really saying anything at all. Let me tell you what most of his talks end up like. He pretty much never mentions sin. He starts out with how those suffering from same-sex attraction have been marginalized and treated badly by the big ol’ mean meanies in the Catholic Church and that they’re children made in the image and likeness of God. Yeah, no sowing of division there. Come on. He creates martyrs and then tells them what most in the Church have said time and again but with nothing said about lifestyle, celibacy and chastity. He focuses on celibacy for a very good reason but leaves chastity in the dust. He never tells people to struggle against sin, so people get the idea that sodomy and masturbation are on par with lying about your weight on your driver’s license. Seriously! Find me a link where he doesn’t do just that.
Since my permission is not at the same time an endorsement, The A.D. Times is not accepting advertisement for this event in our diocesan newspaper. However, the Jesuit Center may reach out to you with a proposed bulletin announcement regarding this Conference. I leave it your pastoral judgment as to its inclusion in your local parish bulletin.
Insane. Your permission is your permission. You can’t see a problem with this? What if I, say, permitted my kids already struggling with the faith to hang out with the atheists? What am I to say when they follow them? “Well, I didn’t endorse them becoming atheists!” And, of course, you have given your permission to put in in their Church bulletins. No endorsement of authentic Catholicism there. Clearly authentic Catholicism isn’t required.
Please know of my prayers for your pastoral work and for your personal priestly life as together we seek to do God’s Will of feeding the flock of Christ entrusted to us.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert Bishop of Allentown
Pastoral? You’re not even be pastoral in this Martin debacle. Like I said, the Pontius Pilate move isn’t going to get you very far.
Dear bishops inclined to take the same tactics, it’s up to you but you’re simply throwing the sheep to the wolves to avoid bad press and many of us know it.
Please drop Bishop Schlert a note, tweet, or make a call. I’d give you an email address but he, apparently, doesn’t want to make it too easy on people to get a hold of him. I encourage all of you in the Allentown Diocese to take a stand. Your diocese has been hit particularly hard in so many areas. It’s not going to stop until you demand it.
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
4029 W. Tilghman St.
P.O. Box F
Allentown, PA 18105-1538
Phone: (610) 437-0755
Fax: (610) 433-7822