Overcoming Fr. Martin’s dissent through genuine, transforming love

Overcoming Fr. Martin’s dissent through genuine, transforming love

True welcoming means we make it clear we want everyone to join us in following Jesus.

[Prof. Smith says “We cannot and must not be content simply to rant and rave and wail because of Father Martin’s slick dissent and its pernicious influence” but laments “I find myself, as an aging Catholic warrior, experiencing déjà vu all over again. The faithful of my generation spent a lot of our lives countering the equally specious (though more sophisticated) arguments of Father Charles Curran and his ilk—those who dissented from Humanae Vitae and for decades dominated virtually every Catholic institution. We fought a fight that has enjoyed a lot of success. Because of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Saint John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, the appointment of good bishops, the reform of seminaries and many Catholic colleges and universities, the proliferation of the “movements,” and the development of nearly countless good resources and programs, it seemed dissent was almost a thing of the past. … But it is back and, to be sure, I am despondent to some extent.” Thirty-five years of (what was trumpted early in JP2’s pontificate as) the “Catholic restoration” of the JP2 and B16 pontificates, much of which has been (or is being) undone in less than four years of this F pontificate.]

September 29, 2017 Janet E. Smith

Some Catholics are very disturbed at the reemergence of dissent in the Church. One of the most aggravating instances is the work of Father James Martin, SJ, whose book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity is full of ambiguity. Calls for clarification have not been heeded but the subtext makes his position clear, as do many statements made in his public presentations. For instance, at a recent presentation at Villanova University, he told to a young man, “I hope in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner [in church] or, you know, soon to be your husband.” Anyone reading his book or listening to his talks can reasonably conclude that Father Martin believes the Church does not present correctly God’s plan for sexuality; that he thinks the culture knows better.

For Catholics who have some background in theology and philosophy it is deeply disappointing when a highly educated priest uses specious arguments to advance his cause; for those whose every fiber of their Catholic being leads them to want to trust priests, bishops, and religious superiors, such instances of untrustworthiness are scandalous; for those of us who have been fighting dissent for nearly 40 years, seeing a dissenter get ecclesial support and public acclaim is demoralizing. But, mostly, it is sad in the extreme that souls could well be lost.

I find myself, as an aging Catholic warrior, experiencing déjà vu all over again. The faithful of my generation spent a lot of our lives countering the equally specious (though more sophisticated) arguments of Father Charles Curran and his ilk—those who dissented from Humanae Vitae and for decades dominated virtually every Catholic institution. We fought a fight that has enjoyed a lot of success. Because of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Saint John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, the appointment of good bishops, the reform of seminaries and many Catholic colleges and universities, the proliferation of the “movements,” and the development of nearly countless good resources and programs, it seemed dissent was almost a thing of the past. Indeed, the younger generation, in general, is unaware of it. Thus they are even more scandalized by dissent when it does emerge.

But it is back and, to be sure, I am despondent to some extent. Though undoubtedly the damage will still be great, it helps that we are much better equipped to respond to it this time. We must not let this crisis go to waste.

Much of the growth of strong orthodoxy has been the result of faithful Catholics trying to refute the arguments of dissenters, minimize the effects of dissent, and to fortify themselves and others against the confusion and corruption of faith that result from dissent. Many good things came from the push-back to dissent on sexual issues: the growth of wonderful organizations promoting Natural Family Planning methods, chastity education programs, marriage prep programs, etc.

While I am profoundly frustrated that the views Father Martin espouses are again in the spotlight, I am gratified, inspired, and consoled by the immediate and responsible refutations of his thinking. We should commit ourselves to distributing copies of these refutations to others whenever his name comes up (articles by Archbishop Chaput, Eduardo Echeverria, Father Roger Landry, and myself, among others, come to mind). It is manifestly providential that Daniel Mattson’s superb book Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay was published at the same time as Father Martin’s book; those looking for an alternative to Martin’s will find a strong and bracing corrective in Mattson’s book.

One element that makes Father Martin’s work so appealing is that he sensibly asks for a respectful, sensitive, and compassionate response within the Church to those who experience same-sex attraction. But it is scandalous and unintelligible that he does not acknowledge the existence of Courage and Encourage, since those are apostolates that have been providing a respectful, sensitive, and compassionate response for decades and are now building the following they deserved all along.

I haven’t seen anything in Martin’s work indicating he has much to contribute to the “welcoming” effort, since his approach seems largely condescending. Instead of challenging people to embrace the fullness of the faith, he tries to hide or downplay, or even reject, the teachings of the Church in order to appear welcoming. True welcoming means we make it clear we want everyone to join us in following Jesus; we want to share with others the truth and beauty we know, and we will do our best to explain beliefs and teachings that might be hard to understand or accept. We do so not thinking we are any better than anyone else but wanting to be faithful to our beloved Jesus, who commissioned all Christians to stand up for challenging truths.

It is also providential that Father Martin’s work has appeared just as many New Evangelization outreaches are coming to the fore. We are definitely getting better at “welcoming,” but we are also discovering that many new pastoral services are needed to do the job well. Those working in the vineyard are finding there is a serious deficiency in most Catholic parishes of the means to welcome newcomers and inquirers into our midst, not to mention other groups with distinct needs.

I am among those who think parishes can and should be much more welcoming to those who experience same-sex attraction, as well as to a myriad of other groups (the handicapped, the mentally ill, the married, the widowed, the divorced, the unmarried, single parents, the jobless, caretakers, etc.), and I hope that will happen.

Father Harvey, who founded Courage, learned a lot from Alcoholics Anonymous. Indeed, all of us could benefit from the techniques of Alcoholics Anonymous: the practice of acknowledging our besetting flaws and sinfulness and asking for forgiveness, the need for being accountable to others, the encouragement and mentorship of those who are swimming closer to the shore than we are, the radical reliance on our heavenly Father (and the sublime help of the sacraments). All Catholics—and all newcomers and seekers—should be able to find within their parishes a welcoming support group with whom they can pray and associate, and who will accompany them on their journey of faith—and we hope they will accompany us on ours. Heterosexuals can learn enormous amounts from chaste homosexuals; for instance Andy Comiskey’s books (such as The Naked Surrender) provide guidance for anyone who loves the Lord and is confident the Lord will make us “whole enough” to live our sexuality as He intended.

Those of us who want to be welcoming and compassionate to those who experience same-sex attraction need to learn a lot, certainly about the phenomenon itself: its causes and treatment, and the justifications for Church teaching. But we also must learn how to listen to those who experience same-sex attraction (for a good primer, see Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction), to learn their struggles and fears, to learn how to be good friends and fellow Christians to them. These days I am recommending the book Out of a Far Country (Waterbrook, 2011), a book co-written by a mother and her son about their journey into Christianity through dealing with his homosexuality. It is a beautiful, modern story of God’s constant presence in our lives and the power of prayer and patience.

We cannot and must not be content simply to rant and rave and wail because of Father Martin’s slick dissent and its pernicious influence. We must be the ones reaching out with genuine love, a love that strongly believes in the transforming and fortifying power of grace to enable us to embrace God’s plan for sexuality, whatever challenges it presents.

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23 comments on “Overcoming Fr. Martin’s dissent through genuine, transforming love

  1. Because of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Saint John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, the appointment of good bishops, the reform of seminaries and many Catholic colleges and universities, the proliferation of the “movements,” and the development of nearly countless good resources and programs, it seemed dissent was almost a thing of the past.

    What can you say? Janet ‘NFP’ Smith is delusional.

    Here’s a short list of Wojtyla-created cardinals:
    de Lubac
    von Balthasar (elect, died)

  2. Which version of the CCC does Janet have? Mine says that queers are born that way, i.e., they don’t choose their condition. Does she have the infallible version?

    • Presumably the 1997 version with “corrections and amendments” mandated by JP2 to conform the original 1994 English translation from the French version (which was the “working” language for the CCC as Itlian was for the Tridentine or Roman Catechism) to the official Latin version. CCC paragraph 2258 on homosexuality dropped “They do not choose their homosexual condition …” for “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.”

  3. Whatever sophistication may be involved in the dissent, they are not supposed to be ordained, so the modernist author is not a priest and critics should not indulge that fantasy. Lots of people want to be priests who lack the necessary qualities or matter to be ordained. Women, lunatics, non-Catholics, perverts. Anyone advocating against church teachings is a heretic and ceases to be a Catholic. You have to be Catholic in order to be a priest. This isn’t rocket science.

    • Perhaps I understand you incorrectly, but if so, others might also, and so the distinction between validity and liceity of the sacraments should be made.
      Valid = effective. A valid sacrament is one that has actually been conferred, because done with at least the minumum requirements.
      Licit = morally correct; approved by the Church; done according to proper norms.

      For validity in the sacrament of orders, there is only required a baptized male person, and if that person has reached the age of reason, the intention on his part to receive the sacrament of orders.
      (A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae, V.III, p. 735. This same opinion will be found in any other pre-Vat II manual, and is solidified by the Code of Canon Law, 1917, c. 968,1: “A baptized man alone validly receives holy ordination; but [also] licitly he who according to the norm of the sacred canons is endowed, in the judgment of the proper Ordinary, with the required qualitities, and is not restricted by any irregularity or other impediment.” The New Code substantially reiterates this: cc. 1024 & 1025)

      1) Women can never be ordained under any circumstances, because the female sex is invalid matter for the sacrament.
      2) Lunatics can never be ordained as long as they are lunatics, because they cannot form right intention to receive the sacrament.
      3) Non-Catholics *can* be validly ordained if they are baptized males and have the intention to receive the priesthood. (E.g., as all recognize, priests of the Orthodox churches are real priests, even though their ordination to and practice of the priesthood is objectively mortally sinful.)
      4) Homosexuals (unfortunately) can be validly ordained, for the same reason given in #3. According to the mind of the Church — and I don’t mean the Modernist “mind” of the Church (for there is no such thing) — it is a crime to do so, but that does not affect validity.

  4. The matter and substance have to be present, as well as the necessary condition of actually being a believing Catholic, to have a priest. Even apart from the irregularity and mental defect issues which are impediments, someone who advocates against church teachings is promoting heresy. Heresy incurs a latae sententiae penalty in which case the dissenter is not a Catholic and cannot be ordained. A lunatic could attend a seminary and walk through an ordination ceremony. That does not make him a Catholic priest. Denying the Catholic teaching on marriage, that Holy Matrimony (or natural lawful conjugal relations) is between one man and one woman. would indicate mental defect, absence of reason and Common Sense, which are also necessary conditions for being ordained. An individual with such a mental defect could, in practical terms, complete seminary courses or novitiate training in a religious order and walk through an ordination ceremony under modernist control but it would be fraudulent. Someone who is both a heretical non-Catholic and suffering from a mental defect cannot be a Catholic priest.

    Is Jorge Bergoglio a Catholic priest?

    • Howl, where does the Church teach that, in order that an ordination be valid, the subject must be a believing Catholic? The Orthodox are not believing Catholics, but the Church has taught for ages that their ordinations are valid, assuming they are baptized males having the intention to receive ordination.

      “A lunatic could attend a seminary and walk through an ordination ceremony. That does not make him a Catholic priest.”
      Agreed. But we have to have evidence that he truly is insane, and then an official decision that therefore he was not validly ordained.

      “Is Jorge Bergoglio a Catholic priest?”
      I am not competent to decide that, since I wasn’t present at his baptism (if he had one), nor his ordination, so as to say if the minimum necessary forms were used, and re/ the ordination, also ask him if he truly intended to receive ordination, and/or seemed to be crazy. And in that latter regard, a distinction must be made between true lunacy and mere spiritual or intellectual corruption. Every Liberal is “insane”, in a sense, so far as they think that their mere opinions, wants and needs create reality, but this spiritual/intellectual corruption is not insanity in the required clinical sense of the term. The Liberal mind actually works at the physical level; it has merely been perverted with the vice of self-love. And we are all perverted in that way to some degree. Where do we draw the line between that and bona fide insanity?
      And neither is anyone else, except the Church, competent to say if Bergoglio is a real priest. We are not allowed to make conclusions based on negative doubts, i.e. doubts that arise from mere what-ifs that we have no way of verifying.
      Even if we had the verification that he was clinically insane when ordained, we don’t have the jurisdiction to declare that Bergoglio is therefore not a priest.

      Sometimes I wish it were otherwise…then I remember the disorder I’ve seen among those, like the sedes, who take upon themselves decisions that only the Church can make.

  5. If a group of progressive modernists dressed up a Canadian goose or an orangutan in an alb and marched it through an ordination ceremony, presided over by a modernist bishop, would the goose or the orangutan become a Catholic priest? Why not? It’s the same principle. The ontological structure, conditions, and substance have to be present.

    A non-Catholic, a heretic, an atheist Communist, or an individual suffering from a loss of reason CANNOT become a Catholic priest. Just as the duck or the orangutan does not magically become a priest by being positioned at a modernist ordination ceremony, the lunatic or the unbeliever does NOT become a priest. They may have been physically present at the ceremony, but nothing magical happened to transform their nature into becoming a Catholic, yet alone a priest.

  6. A diplomatic issue of ecumenism. Far from certain. Even if the cleric in question were free from mental defect, an Orthodox clergyman cannot just show up and say Catholic Mass or hear confessions in a Catholic diocese. If he denied that marriage is between one man and one woman he could not be a Catholic priest, if he converted to modernism in name only. If a former Anglican, Episcopalian, or Orthodox convert were persisting in heresy and denying Catholic teachings on marriage, he could not be ordained and could not be a Catholic priest. You have to be a Catholic and with a functioning power of reason capable of understanding and explaining Catholic theology and teachings, including the sacrament of marriage, in order to be a Catholic priest. Someone who denies Catholic moral teachings on marriage and sexual sins could not be allowed to hear Confessions and, therefore, could not be ordained as a priest.

    • With respect, Howl — and I mean that very seriously, as you are a very valuable asset to this board — so far I’ve only heard your opinion. Trading opinions is not the way Catholic theology works. I’ve quoted a very respected old school theologian (as representing the common opinion of all theologians), Canon Law, and an irrefutable historical fact — which is NOT a matter of ecumenism, because it goes back at least to St. Thomas’ time): Summa, Suppl. Q.38, a2, resp.: Whether Heretics And Those Cut Off From The Church Can Confer Orders
      “Some say that they confer true sacraments, but with them they do not give [sanctifying] grace, not on account of the inefficacy of the sacraments, but on account of the sins of those receiving sacraments from them, against the prohibition of the Church. And this is the third opinion, which is true.”
      Just as it does here, the treatment of Orders in the Summa (Q. 35 & 36 especially) constantly makes the distinction between valid ordination and licit ordination and licit use of ordination, condemning those who receive and use Orders unworthily, but recognizing that moral unworthiness of the recipient does not make ineffective the reception.

  7. It’s not magic. Words of ordination could be pronounced by a modernist bishop over a penguin or a giraffe that would not make either a Catholic priest. A non-Catholic heretic or a lunatic incapable of reason cannot be ordained and made a priest. Such a fraud might be considered nominally a Catholic priest juridically, as a procedural issue, but he did not become a Catholic priest ontologically or metaphysically because the necessary conditions, qualities, and mental powers are not there. The notion that any kook can just show up at a seminary and become a priest through magic is absurd. That is a reductionist and legalistic idea of what a priest is. If he doesn’t have a vocation, is devoid of reason, is mentally-deranged lunatic, or wants to teach some other non-Catholic doctrine about marriage, there is no priestly candidate there with the necessary graces and natural virtue to be ordained. Period. No one can magically transform a non-Catholic heretic or a lunatic into a Catholic priest through reciting words. It’s a blasphemous parody of an ordination ceremony if this is done knowingly by the modernist bishop. It doesn’t work anymore than God would consent to ordaining a penguin.

    • I’m still hearing just your opinion. My opinion doesn’t count. Your opinion doesn’t count.
      And you are trying to give an argumentum ad absurdum, but the only absurdities you propose are things that my position does not in the least suggest. You’ve created a straw man.
      Once again, I’m saying, and have cited serious authorities to the effect, that a valid ordination occurs when the proper words and actions of the form of the sacrament are conferred upon:
      1) A male human being
      2) That has been baptized
      3) And is not insane

      So let’s please just leave the menagerie aside. Obviously an animal is not a human being, nor does it have the use of reason — even potentially.
      As to whether believing in gay marriage means you are devoid of reason…not necessarily. As a zillion examples could show, human reason, even when it works, is subject to error, even totally ridiculous error, caused ultimately by original sin, and proximately by any number of things, e.g. constant influence by one’s environment; peers, the mass media, a false religion, false science, a corrupt education system, etc. To be in grave error is not in itself evidence of insanity.

  8. So if Saul Alinsky or Bertrand Russell showed up at St. Joseph’s in Yonkers and the Cardinal of New York allowed him to proceed to ordination, he becomes a Catholic priest, as long as the words are pronounced correctly, even though he neither professes, believes, or intends to teach orthodox Catholic doctrines? That contradicts reason.

    • According to the authorities cited:
      #1? Alinsky and Russel are male human beings. Check.
      #2? It must be verified that they received a valid baptism. Unknown.
      #3? Although in grave error about a number of things, both seem to have had a working reason otherwise. Check.
      #4? Assuming they actually intended to become priests…Check. Except, unless they converted beforehand, they would be just priests, not Catholic priests.
      Of course, in all this, the attempt would be a most heinous mortal sin on the part of the ordaining bishop as well as the ordinands. And of course, it would never be done, since no one would take them seriously, and they wouldn’t be able to do any effective work, either for or against the Church.
      The commies and the homos that *secretly* infiltrated the Church, however, have been most notably effective.
      And maybe that is why all this seems so hard to swallow; seems that it contradicts reason. Moral uprightness is just not required for validity. But there *is* at least one good reason why it’s not. If it were, since no one would know for sure which priests were in a state of grace when they were ordained, no one would know for sure if any given priest were a real priest.

  9. The position held by St. Thomas is an opinion, the result of a reasoning process. There were various theological opinions about such things in the history of theology, like ensoulment, for instance.

    The issue of a defect of reason resulting in irregularity, as an impediment, is quite distinct from whether Orthodox clergymen have valid orders.

    It is not an article of faith that anyone can be ordained. Jesus never revealed that as a dogma.
    The issue is one of deduction and reason. Someone who cannot reason sufficiently to grasp that marriage is between a man and a woman, something which can be known by reason and observation, obviously cannot be ordained since their mind is not functioning. Let’s get beyond the idea that an ordination ceremony is a magical act. The absence of functioning reason would render it null and fraudulent in the same way as a blasphemous parody of ordaining a penguin or a chimpanzee.

    We have both made sufficient points on this to conclude the debate. It is well known that modernist bishops believe that perverts with mental and emotional defects can be ordained and can only be defrocked by laborious canonical efforts through the masonic bureaucracy of the modernist Vatican. Those absurd notions got the Church into a lot of trouble and cost all of us billions of dollars.

    • I agree it’s an opinion, not a dogma. On the other hand, some opinions are of more value than others. The common opinion of the Church’s approved theologians is the opinion of the Church, and cannot be rejected without serious reason, and after major study of the matter.

      Again, you are saying that grave error in a person is certain evidence of insanity. If it were, more than half the world is certifiably nuts — every single Muslim and every radical Liberal, for instance. Rather, we should say that these people hold *positions* that are insane. Due to original sin, usually showing up in the form of pride, although they can think and study, they simply refuse to do so.

      Just to clarify for anyone reading, defrocking is not in itself hard to do; it is not a ‘de-ordination’. The priesthood confers an indelible character on the soul, which can be erased no more than baptism can. Defrocking just forbids you to exercise your priesthood. The Modernist’s absurd notions have nothing to do with any supposed difficulty in defrocking. They have to do with an absurd laxism, implicit denial of original sin (excessive niceness), and of course in some cases, a desire to destroy the Church by leaving perverts in place.

  10. The point is that it is a legalistic argument. In a purely legal sense, such an individual could be considered a Catholic priest nominally in that that particular person appeared at an ordination ceremony and has paperwork certifying that, therefore, being entitled to some stipend from the Church for livelihood until the fraud were discovered. However, because they did not have functioning powers of reason, they did not become a Catholic priest in an ontological sense. They didn’t even become a Catholic.

    If Saul Alinsky or Bertrand Russell showed up at St. Bridget’s for the grade school confirmation ceremony and walked through up to the bishop, would either of them become a confirmed Catholic? No.

    Someone intending to use the office of the priesthood as a liberal political activist for anti-Catholic activism would be violating the conditions of intent. That would also apply to a lapsed Catholic, who although baptized, was under latae sententiae penalties for opposing church teachings on marriage, abortion, fornication, etc., and who, hence, was an active heretic and no longer a Catholic.

  11. It is a good debate that brings forth some important topics on the priesthood, sacraments, the Church, and theology. We need more debate in Catholicism, not less. St. Thomas, as you cite, was quite adept at debate and disputation.

  12. Yet another reason why popes have recognized validity of Orthodox orders arises from a tradition that gives the benefit of the doubt to validity. The Church has weathered manifold heresies, Arianism, Nestorianism, Jansenism, and so on. If holding a heresy invalidated the sacrament of orders, then we could imagine a condition where valid ordination could become doubtful in a majority of cases. Even elections of popes could be called into question if not all the electors could demonstrate their pedigree to be free of any taint. (BTW, this is the position that the sedes are in, and they’re running out of untainted priests and bishops to reconstitute the Church, whenever they so decide to reconstitute the papacy.)

    • Case-in-point: NewChurch. Would you agree that most bishops today hold some type of heresy, from universalism to the new theology of de Lubac, Rahner, etc. Likewise candidates in the seminaries. Hence, most every Novus Ordo priest would not be validly ordained. How could the Church recover from that?

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