Intra-Thread Trackbacks: pg 118 / pg 118
On the CNA/Martin Affair [In-Depth, Opinion]
The standard to which many on the Catholic right hold Fr. Martin is astounding. It’s difficult to believe that he would receive the same kind of suspicion and heightened scrutiny if his apostolate was perceived to be lacking on almost any other social or moral issue facing the Church. It’s next to impossible to imagine somebody like George Weigel or another conservative or libertarian Catholic in the “mater si, magistra no” tradition coming in for this kind of treatment from a purportedly orthodox, mainstream Catholic outlet like CNA. It would be one thing if Father Martin were perceived to be shaky on abortion or euthanasia; there is precedent in the teachings of recent Popes for holding Catholic public figures to a higher standard for orthodoxy on those issues. But the pastoral care of LGBT people — the only subject on which Father Martin claims expertise; he has explicitly denied that he is seeking to challenge actual Catholic doctrine — is not the same kind of non-negotiable. Father Martin (like Weigel) is a Catholic public figure in good standing whose work has been endorsed by multiple bishops and cardinals. He is also (unlike Weigel) a priest who has been appointed to a position in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications.
It’s certainly possible that Father Martin from time to time speaks and acts imprudently in a way that leads other Catholics to have “difficulties” with his message. If this is the case, others might legitimately draw attention to such issues. Personally speaking, I don’t pore over every word Martin says or writes, so I couldn’t say for sure. But he’s been extremely clear that he does not intend to speak or write in a way that challenges Church doctrine. Distrusting and disbelieving his assertions of this rises to a level of suspicion and subjective interpretation that ought itself to be held to a higher standard.
To [JD] Flynn’s credit, his First Things article does cite Martin’s assertion that he does not challenge doctrine on homosexuality, and Flynn says that he is willing to take Martin at his word on this. But this is a sleight of hand; the article immediately pivots to claiming that Martin is undermining Church teaching on a far more fundamental issue, i.e. what it means to be a human person. Unfortunately, Flynn produces absolutely no hard evidence that Martin is undermining anything other than a series of narratives and talking points that people on the Catholic right frequently claim are Church teaching when talking about homosexuality. These are theological and psychosociological fanfictions and increasingly shopworn old chestnuts that purport to dictate — in unapologetically prescriptive terms — how LGBT people must and must not be spoken to or about. For example, Flynn provides no specific, dispositive rationale for his belief that “lavender graduations” affirm “the world’s lies about who [the participants] are.” He, and other partisans of the “appetities aren’t identity” perspective on homosexuality, seem completely unaware of even the possibility that a gay person might find that being gay affects his or her sense of self in ways ranging beyond his or her sexual proclivities. If there is any actual evidence that Church teaching mandates this lack of awareness, Flynn doesn’t provide it.
Even if Martin was not a priest in good standing with the backing of powerful figures within the Church (most of us are not so lucky, and many of us are better people and better Catholics than many who are so lucky) he is owed the basic respect of not being repeatedly slandered like this. The relentless public attacks on his orthodoxy and faithfulness to the Church are gravely unjust and violate the Eighth Commandment. Nobody deserves to have their reputation run over like this. This is a form of Catholic McCarthyism, in which merely the perception of disagreement with Church teaching justifies almost any personal attack in the name of heresy-hunting.