Father James Martin: Lessons for all Catholics from six L.G.B.T. parables
James Martin, S.J.
March 05, 2018
Since the first edition of my book Building a Bridge, about L.G.B.T. Catholics, was published last June, I have been privileged to speak at many parishes, colleges, retreat houses and conferences. At each venue, L.G.B.T. people and their families and friends have shared their experiences with me. Some were so powerful that they have become almost like parables for me. In the revised and expanded edition of the book, published this month, I share six of these stories.
We all knew it but, once again, Fr. Martin shows us that the god-complex is strong with him. If these are parables (which by definition don’t even come close) then who is he again? Oh yeah, Christ. I keep forgetting. Did you ever notice that people who keep trying to draw parallels between themselves and Christ or the true martyrs are usually the ones who are legends in their own minds? Sorry. He is neither Christ nor a martyr except in his own little story. I always feel a little bad for Fr. Martin. I get the impression that he gets up every morning and thinks “How can I be perceived as Christ-like?” rather than “How can I BE Christ-like?”
In his now-famous definition, the biblical scholar C. H. Dodd said that a parable was a story designed to “tease the mind into active thought.” Stories have the capacity to open our minds in a way definitions cannot. This is one reason Jesus used parables extensively in his public ministry, as a way of inviting his listeners to see life from a new perspective.
Isn’t it fitting the Fr. Martin chooses a Protestant theologian? Heck, I don’t have a problem with Dodd’s comment but Fr. Martin’s twist on why the parables? Meh. Honestly, wouldn’t you think it just the opposite of what Fr. Martin was saying? Christ wasn’t trying to propose that his disciples see things from a new perspective but he used something they were very familiar with to get his point across.
Christ actually explains it quite well in Matthew 13.
18 The parable of the sower, then, is for your hearing. 19 Wherever a man hears the word by which the kingdom is preached, but does not grasp it, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart; his was the wayside sowing. 20 The man who took in the seed in rocky ground is the man who hears the word and at once entertains it gladly; 21 but there is no root in him, and he does not last long; no sooner does tribulation or persecution arise over the word, than his faith is shaken. 22 And the man who took in the seed in the midst of briers is the man who hears the word, but allows the cares of this world and the false charms of riches to stifle it, so that it remains fruitless. 23 Whereas the man who took in the seed in good soil is the man who both hears and grasps it; such men are fruitful, one grain yielding a hundredfold, one sixtyfold, one thirtyfold.
Fr. Martin seems to be the one who encourages seed planting on the path, on rocky ground and in the midst of briers of, say, New Ways Ministry or America Magazine instead of the fertile ground of the Church. Noooo! The Church, well, that’s where are the meanies are unless he can convert her to his methodologies. Gag! At this point, let me take the time to point out a few newish things that came to my attention in the past couple of weeks. If you have a chance, do yourself a favor and get Fr. Michael “Amazingly Nice Guy” Schmitz’s book “Made for Love” https://www.ignatius.com/Made-for-Love-P1693.aspx and Avera Maria Santo’s blog https://couragegulfcoast.wixsite.com/blog More of this please Catholic writers and bloggers! Let’s put Fr. Martin out of the business. He wants the Church to address this issue? DO IT!
I hope these few stories about L.G.B.T. Catholics tease your mind into active thought.”
Stories have the capacity to open our minds in a way definitions cannot.
Oh, your use of these stories, Fr. Martin, certainly has “teased my mind into active though!” Not what you were going for?!
1. One of my oldest friends is a gay man named Mark, who was once a member of a Catholic religious order. About 20 years ago, after Mark left the order, he came out as a gay man and began living with his partner, with whom he is now legally married. His partner has a serious, long-term illness, and Mark has cared for him for many years with great devotion and loving-kindness.
What can we learn from Mark about love?
Well, we can learn from Mark that after 20+ years you have failed to lead one of your oldest friends and his “partner/husband” away from a sinful and dangerous lifestyle. So, all that love and acceptance you’ve thrown his way has done what to bring him about to the chaste lifestyle and the teachings of the Church?!?!?! Unless, of course, that was never your plan in the first place. Geez, Fr. Martin. In all your haughtiness, you just missed that you’ve proven my point and the point of thousands of others. Bravo!
2. An elderly man told me that his grandson recently came out to him as a gay man. I asked what he had said in response. He said that he had suspected for some time that his grandson was gay, and so when his grandson sat down to tell him, before a word was even on the young man’s lips, the grandfather said, “I love you no matter what you’re about to say.”
What can we learn from this grandfather about compassion?
I would think this what would come out of the mouths of most Catholics despite what YOU tell people. What I want to know is what did Grandpa say AFTER his grandson came out? Did he tell him to lean on the Church to carry that burden or did he say “Hopefully the Church will one day get with the program?”
3. After a talk I gave at a Catholic college in Philadelphia, a young man told me that the first person to whom he came out as a gay man was a Catholic priest. During a high school retreat, he decided to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, but he was so nervous that he was “literally shaking.” The first thing the priest said to him was “Jesus loves you. And your church accepts you.” The young man told me, “It saved my life.”
What can we learn from this priest about acceptance?
And here’s where Fr. Martin uses his usual ambiguity. Did the priest say “The Church accepts you and wants to help you to live a chaste life and to help you get to heaven!” or did the priest say “The Church loves you and give the gay lifestyle the thumbs up because you have to do what your conscience tells you formed or not!” as you ambiguously intimate all the time? See, there’s a bit of a difference. I don’t know a priest who would tell someone suffering from SSA (same-sex attraction) that they are not loved and accepted. Are the loving ones going to leave it up in the air as to whether or not the gay lifestyle is conducive to gaining everlasting life? No, the good ones are going to lovingly explain what the Church has explained a million times. While he can’t wait to point out the word “disordered” you cannot seem to ever bring himself to quote this:
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
4. A woman in her 80s, with snowy white hair and apple cheeks, came to my book-signing table after a talk I had given in Connecticut and said, “Father, I have something to tell you.” The focus of the talk had been on Jesus, not on L.G.B.T. issues specifically. I thought she might share an insight about Jesus or tell me that she had been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Instead she said, “Father, I have a grandchild who is transgender, and I love her so much. All I want is for her to feel welcome in the church.”
What can we learn from this grandmother about faith?
I think I’ve learned Grandma might have forgotten the teachings of the Church. Really? That’s ALL she wants for her granddaughter?!?!?!?! How about everlasting life?!?!?! That could have been the moment when a grandmother was encouraged to make many sacrifices on her granddaughter’s behalf with the time she had left. There really, really could have been a beautiful story there but feeling welcome always seems to be the be all and end all with Fr. Martin. In case he missed it, quite a few saints died never once praying that they felt happy and welcome. Sigh.
5. At a parish in Boston, a gay man and a lesbian woman were invited to respond to my lecture on L.G.B.T. Catholics, in the spirit of fostering a real conversation. In her response, the lesbian woman, named Maggie, chose to discuss a reflection question that appears at the end of my book: “When you think about your sexual orientation or gender identity, what word do you use?” My intention was to invite readers to reflect on biblical passages about names and naming and encourage them to “name” their sexuality.
So I had expected words like “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual.” But that night in the parish, Maggie said that when she read that question and thought of her sexuality, she thought of the word “joy.” It was such a surprise!
What can we learn from Maggie about sexuality?
What in the what?! First of all, what was the REAL intention, Fr. Martin? Having read a lot of Fr. Martin, I’m reasonably sure he was going with his skewed version of the story of Bartimaeus. It’s such a beautiful story in its non-paraphrased form but Fr. Martin cannot see the difference in desiring a healing and desiring something sinful and he seems to lead people to believe they are one and the same. https://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin/photos/a.139618381495.120357.46899546495/10153096616691496/?type=3&theater
What can we learn from these stories? What does God want to teach us?
There you go again. You does not = God.
6. And perhaps the biggest surprise: On that same evening in Boston, a couple stayed afterward to have their book signed. One was a transgender woman—that is, a woman who had begun her life as a man. The other was a cisgender woman—that is, someone born a woman who is still a woman. (I have tried to be mindful of contemporary terminology, though I recognize that these terms get dated quickly.)
The cisgender woman told me that the two had been married for many years, which confused me, since same-sex marriage had not been legal for that long in Massachusetts. She sensed my confusion, smiled and said, “I married her when she was still a man.”
I was reduced to stunned silence. Here was an apparently straight woman who had married a straight man who was now a woman. How had she done it? “Love is love,” she said.
Here is a marriage that almost every church official would probably consider “irregular,” to use the official ecclesiastical term. Yet it was a model of faithfulness. Even after one partner had “transitioned,” the marriage was still intact.
What can we learn from them about fidelity?
Faithfulness/fidelity to what?!?! Disorder all the way around?
Overall, what can we learn from these stories? Where are we invited to see life in a new way? What does God want to teach us?
I’ve learned there are many souls out there that need more of Fr. Schmitz and Avera Maria Santo and far, far less of Fr. James Martin, SJ.