Review: Fr. James Martin, Building a Bridge
Fr. Martin's book title is:
Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity
Fr. Martin has become popular under Pope Francis, and is on the Catholic conference circuit. It appears he wants the Church to:
- Stop considering sex with someone of the same gender a sin
- Celebrate and welcome gender expressions and identities outside the norm
- Work together with the LBGT community so the Church and the LBGT community can "help" each other. (i.e. The Church can model faith to the LBGT community and the LBGT community can model openness and inclusion to the Church).
- Tell people with same sex attraction they can be active in the LBGT community and the Church simultaneously, that there is no incompatiblility between the two.
A comparison between Svend Robinson and Fr. James Martin
In some ways, Fr. James Martin is to the Catholic Church, what Svend Robinson was to Canadian politics. Svend was youthful, intelligent, charismatic, attractive, and articulate. He was an MP who advocated for people with same sex attraction, while guarding an open secret about his own sexual orientation. When he later announced he was an active gay man, it was an earthquake in Canadian politics.
My experience with coming out
I (Hugh) was a letter writing, pride marching advocate for “LGBT rights" and Svend was my hero. My family was secular. I had come out to them and to all my friends. Everyone was generally supportive. I felt empowered, affirmed and emboldened.
But deep down I knew there was something wrong. Actually, my life was unravelling. I went to Montreal to meet a yoga guru but got lost, literally. I wandered into St. Joseph’s Oratory and had a deep conversion experience with Jesus. My life and interests changed dramatically after that. I was still part of the LGBT community but noticed many things with which I could no longer agree. I hadn't discussed my thoughts with anyone around Church or in the LBGT community and wasn't influenced by any individuals in this shift. It was just an internal knowing. Soon after, I knelt in front of a cross at a church and I clearly heard the Lord asking me to leave the LBGT community. He did not want me to be any part of it. I immediately felt a huge weight come off my back, much more so than the weight that was lifted when I first came out. I eventually became a Catholic. I was interviewed on the BBC (2 minute audio).
Today, many years later, I’m happily married to the woman I love, and have a young daughter. I have a good career. I’m not on medication, and am generally healthy, functional, well adjusted with friends and community. Jesus is amazing, I love him so much. I do not think all people who have had same sex attraction are called to natural marriage, but some are. Chastity, however, is for everyone. Unfortunately, Svend Robinson's story did not turn out as well as it started. I pray for him.
What are some problems with Fr. James Martin's message?
Fr. James Martin's has some good things to say, but his overall message is fundamentally flawed, and infused with false compassion.
- He says the Church has been harsh and needs to welcome people with same sex attraction, which is true, but he thinks that welcoming someone means turning a blind eye to the timeless message of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality.
- He's right that acknowledging one’s same sex attractions and sharing that with supportive people is critical to spiritual progress. However, Fr. Martin sees the LBGT community as a supportive environment whereas it is actually an “enabling” environment.
- The LBGT community and the Catholic Church are irreconcilable and incompatible. It is like the Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Someone cannot be an active Freemason and be an active Catholic, even though Freemasons may engage in some "good works". There are fundamental differences in purpose and philosophy. In many ways, the LBGT community operates like a religious organization with its own set of tenets that every member must adhere to in order to be accepted. We have a separate article that discusses the LGBT community.
- Same sex activity is fundamentally flawed on every level, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Fr. Martin has never acknowledged that it is unhealthy to those he is trying to help. This is inauthentic love.
- Conspicuously absent in Fr. Martin’s message is any discussion about the Catholic organization “Courage”, which is dedicated to providing fellowship and support for Catholics with same sex attraction who want to remain chaste and stay true to the teachings of the Church.
- I personally experienced the Lord calling me out of the LBGT community, and have seen the good fruit of that decision. I cannot reconcile this with Fr. Martin’s message that we should encourage people with same sex attraction to remain active members of that community.
Our website “CatholicBridge.com, Building Bridges, Healing Division” has been online since 2002. However, a Google search for us now brings up Fr. James Martin’s book “building bridges with the LBGT community”. We don't want to give undue attention to Fr. James Martin, but we feel a need to disambiguate these two Catholic “bridges” and provide a critique of the primary thesis of his book for those who may be confused. Finally, we leave you with a classic Fulton Sheen talk about a normal and abnormal mind. It starts about 11:32 and should start there on play.