For a minute I seriously considered reading Father James Martin's controversial book, Building a Bridge.
As a Catholic man who has struggled with same-sex attraction and runs a website about the subject, the topic obviously has great importance to me.
I have read numerous reviews of the book and engaged in discussions with folks all over the theological spectrum, particularly among those who find themselves primarily attracted to their own sex. Some think the book is great; others think it's awful and still others every shade in between.
Although I am somewhat familiar with Father Martin's work and quite honestly find much of what he has to say irrelevant at best, I figured I would give this book a look, since I usually don't criticize something I haven't actually read.
Then, fortunately somebody sent me this link from America magazine entitled "Father James Martin Answers 5 Common Questions About 'Building a Bridge'".
I am so grateful because this gentleman saved me from wasting a lot of valuable time. Just from reading these five questions about Building a Bridge and Martin's responses, it is clear that he has precious little new to offer committed Catholics who are passionately in love with Jesus Christ and also strive for chastity while experiencing same-sex attraction. No need to read the book. Martin has summarized his message for us in this article. He is just re-presenting the same tired arguments we've heard before.
Although I read all five of his answers and found them all equally lacking, question #2 is the most egregiously offensive to me and I felt compelled to respond.
Martin's original words are in bold-faced italics while my observations are written in normal font.
2. Why are you so intent on using words like “gay” and “L.G.B.T.”?
Another common critique concerns the invitation to move away from terms like “same-sex attraction” in favor of terms the L.G.B.T. community uses. The critique is that terms like “gay” and “L.G.B.T.” identify people solely by their orientations. And Catholics are, as one reviewer said, “greater than their inclinations.” I believe that, too. So do many L.G.B.T. people, who are more than their orientations or identities.
What Father Martin so glibly calls an "invitation" is actually a pastoral teaching of the Catholic Church. Over the years in her teaching on sexuality, the Church has consistently warned against using these self-imposed labels to describe people. Of particular note is the admonition in the 1986 CDF Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.
If Martin really believes that we are "greater" than our inclinations, then the rest of his answer really doesn't make much sense.
But we do have to settle on terminology for people who have felt excluded based on their sexual orientation or identity. Why not use the words that the group uses to describe itself?
Umm...OK...so we should then do what the Church teaches we shouldn't do because some members of a demographic that feels marginalized think we should? If we do need to "settle on terminology", it should not be terminology that implicitly denies Church teaching on the meaning of human sexuality and identity. Father Martin ought to check out Pope Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body. and enlighten himself.
To do otherwise is to arrogate to oneself the right to name someone else.
Martin obviously doesn't see the logical fallacy in his statement. I have found myself, at times, sexually attracted to men. At one point in my life, I was predominantly sexually attracted to men but I didn't call myself "gay" then and I don't now. If I let Martin (or anyone else) call me "gay," I am guilty of the very thing he warns against, namely, letting someone else (him, in this case) label me.
But groups have a right to name themselves.
They certainly do. Few people would dispute that, but groups DO NOT have the right to expect or (in some cases) demand that the Catholic Church agree to follow suit, especially when the Church has already taught against it.
It is true that we sometimes may need to use people's self-imposed labels for clarity when dialoguing with others, but that is a far cry from actually advocating that the global Church adopt language which is misleading at best and reductionistic at worst.
Now, some folks who are completely committed to their faith and leading a chaste lifestyle regardless of their inclinations, do choose to identify as "gay". Many do it for convenience or because it is how they have always viewed themselves. I get it. That's up to them; I have no problem with that and I am certainly not criticizing their choice.
That is still no reason for the Universal Church to adopt such language, especially when it doesn't apply to everyone. For me (and others like me), the adoption of such terms would be destructive. I explore that theme more here.
There is an irony here: The most common alternative is “same-sex attraction.” But this antiquated term does the same thing that “L.G.B.T.” and “gay” are critiqued for doing—identifying a person only by their sexual urges.
The only irony here is that Father Martin is apparently blind to his own illogicality.
In fact, for good measure, “same-sex attraction” includes the word “sex.” By that yardstick, it is hardly an improvement.
I hope Martin doesn't use that same yardstick to measure for his bridge. If he does, I would not recommend that anyone walk (or drive) on it. This line alone betrays Martin's own lack of vision in dealing with people with same-sex attraction.
Experiencing same-sex attraction is one thing, choosing to identify as "gay" is taking it to the next level where many of us choose not to go. Same-sex attraction is a neutral term that does not preclude self-identification as "gay" but also does not force anyone to accept that label if they don't want to.
I don't want to.
Yes, Father, I am a man who has experienced same-sex attraction, not a "gay" man.
Stop trying to impose your labels on me and on the Church.
You're hurting me.
You are hurting others like me.
You are confusing the faithful.
In my opinion and those of many others who strive to live within the moral teaching of the Gospel and profess living faith in the power of Jesus Christ, the proper definition of terms makes all the difference in the world.
I always wonder if the resistance to “gay” and “L.G.B.T.” is because these are the terms preferred by L.G.B.T. people, so using them is a form of “caving.”
No. The resistance is because using the term is unrepresentative, inaccurate, unfair and reductionistic and for some of us, demoralizing.
Did I mention that it also violates past Church teaching?
Nonetheless, if one persists in using a term that a group finds outdated or offensive it is going to be hard to dialogue at all.
Not true. Dialogue comes through relationships. If the self-proclaimed LGBT community is really interested in dialogue, it is a two-way street. They can also take the time to learn why the Church teaches what she teaches and why she uses the language she uses. Maybe that would be a much more worthy "bridge' to build and one that would actually last. Who knows? Father Martin might even be able to exercise his God-given priestly ministry and save a few souls along the way instead of being caught up in ecclesial politics.
Besides, if Pope Francis can say “gay” so can the rest of us.
Oh, there it is! We knew that was coming! The (in)famous (and very tired) "Who am I to judge?" comment.
Martin is referring to an incident which occurred early on in the Francis papacy, going back nearly four years now (yawn). During an in-air press conference, the pope was asked about gay, celibate priests.
His reply was, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Although he spoke in Italian, he used the English word “gay.”
It is interesting to note that to my knowledge, the pope never publicly made that error again, not even in magazine interviews or published, non-magisterial books. In fact, in the now infamous Amoris Laetitia, guess which word the pope uses?
Yup. You guessed it.
Despite the reported shenanigans that occurred in the Synod on the Family, nowhere in the entire document does Pope Francis ever call anyone "gay".
Not even once.
Perhaps Father Martin should follow the pope's good example and stop trying to remake the Church into his own image.
Quite frankly, why the pope would ever appoint someone as his communications adviser who so openly misrepresents both him and the the constant teaching of the Catholic Church is beyond me. But, I guess that's the pope's prerogative.
Father James Martin may attempt to speak for the pope, but he certainly doesn't speak for me, nor for many others out there like me.
So, Father Martin, stop calling me "gay". Please.