Who’s really responsible for Fr. James Martin’s revolution?


With every new tweet to his 125,000 followers on Twitter, or every pro-LGBT article shared to his half a million Facebook followers, Fr. James Martin, S.J. ups the ante. The rogue Jesuit (which might be redundant), described by some as a wolf in sheeps clothing (or Roman collar), has apparently made it his personal mission to change the faith of our fathers.
As I’ve written about before, Fr. Martin’s latest effort is Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (Harper Collins, 2017). The book is interesting enough for the simple fact that it largely comes from an address Fr. Martin gave to New Ways Ministry in October of last year.
Now much of this might sound familiar to you. And this is where we start to realize just who is really responsible for Fr. Martin’s revolution.
In 1992, the founders of the pro-LGBT New Ways Ministry, Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, wrote Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church. The book was released four years after the Holy See had established a commission to review the work and writings of New Ways.
By 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (under prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) was handling the investigation into the ministry of Fr. Nugent and Sr. Gramick. In May 1997, the CDF issued a statement regarding their findings. The similarity to the current confusion caused by Fr. James Martin’s “bridge building” is quite remarkable:
… the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area. Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have often stated that they seek, in keeping with the Church’s teaching, to treat homosexual persons “with respect, compassion and sensitivity”.
This is interesting, of course, since it is the very co-opting, and proof-texting, of the Catechism (CCC 2358) that Fr. Martin employs in his ministry; even incorporating it into the subtitle of his new book. The CDF continued in their statement:
However, the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church.
If this doesn’t capture the strategy employed by Fr. Martin today, then nothing does. However, that’s only the tip of the revolutionary iceberg.
As a result of their investigation, the CDF announced in that very same statement from May 1997 that Fr. Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons … ”
Writing 13 years later, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (then)-president Francis Cardinal George said:
I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.
And yet, what do we find on the back of Fr. James Martin’s new book, but an endorsement from Sr. Jeannine Gramick:
Father Martin shows how the Rosary and the rainbow flag can peacefully meet each other. A must-read.
But this is nothing new. All this proves is that this current battle is decades old, even down to the very language employed by the revolutionaries (“respect, compassion, and sensitivity”). In the age of Laudato si and eco-Catholicism, it’s understandable that the Catholic left would recycle their heterodoxy.
What is different now from the past, however, is Rome itself. Leading the defense of orthodoxy and doctrinal clarity back then was Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. While Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick could spread their errors and ambiguities, they did so with the condemnation of the Holy See. That is not the case with Pope Francis.
To understand who is really responsible for today’s revolutionary spirit, one that seeks to make the LGBT’s agenda the Church’s own, go back to the back … of Fr. Martin’s book that is.
Who else do we find endorsing Fr. Martin’s 2017 repackaging of the New Ways message of the 1990’s? None other than three of Pope Francis’ most recent episcopal appointments: Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life; and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California.
All three of these prelates, much like Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, are viewed as Francis bishops: big on “mercy,” light on doctrinal clarity.  Personnel is policy.
But it’s worse than that. For Pope Francis has withheld the red hat from traditional episcopal seats like Philadelphia (Archbishop Charles Chaput) and Los Angeles (Archbishop Jose Gomez); both men viewed as far more conservative and consistent regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The elevation of Joseph Tobin to the College of Cardinals speaks volumes, as the Archdiocese of Newark had never had a Cardinal archbishop before.
So what does Cardinal Tobin, very much a Francis bishop, say about Fr. James Martin’s book:
In too many parts of our church LGBT people have been made to feel unwelcome, excluded, and even shamed. Father Martin’s brave, prophetic, and inspiring new book marks an essential step in inviting church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our church as any other Catholic.
Bishop Robert McElroy, appointed by Pope Francis to head the Diocese of San Diego last year, has immediately demonstrated his willingness to embrace the New Ways agenda of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and (now) Fr. Martin. He writes:
The Gospel demands that LGBT Catholics must be genuinely loved and treasured in the life of the church. They are not. [Fr. Martin] provides us with the language, perspective, and sense of urgency to replace a culture of alienation with a culture of merciful inclusion.
As we have seen, the only thing Fr. Martin has provided us is the tired old errors and confusion of New Ways Ministries. What has changed, of course, is that while St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger) are gone, Sr. Jeannine Gramick remains. But now Rome is on her side it would seem.
Three recent Francis appointments. All singing the praise of a priest who (nearly) daily sows confusion and dissent through ambiguity and error via social media and the internet. But he is only one man. One bad Jesuitical apple. His words carry much more weight because of those two Cardinals and one bishop who endorse his work. They are favored sons of Rome. Each of them. And everyone knows it. Most of all their brother bishops.
While we are right to condemn the “LGBT ministry” of men such as Fr. James Martin, it is also important to understand who is really responsible for this revolution. Otherwise, we are simply wasting our breath.