“Gay” Priests? An Open Letter to Fr. James Martin

For decades, homosexualist Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin has sought to normalize the existence of the “gay” priest. Just a few weeks ago, in a July 20 Facebook post, he claimed he knows “scores,” if not “hundreds,” of “gay” priests who are among the “millions of emotionally healthy and psychologically mature LGBT people who have never abused anyone—and never will abuse anyone.” Martin claims these men are “healthy, faithful, and dedicated,” and that “to say that being gay means being an abuser is the worst kind of stereotyping and should be avoided.”

Martin’s comment is itself the “worst kind” of admixture of truth and fiction I’ve seen put forth recently regarding the massive and destructive homosexual priest scandal faced now by the Church in the United States, and elsewhere.

What follows is an open letter to Fr. Martin, in hopes that he will stop the harm he has inflicted upon the Church by unequivocally supporting a “gay” priesthood and teaching falsely about the nature of homosexuality as something “healthy” and normal, even something “created” by God.

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Dear Fr. Martin:

Of course, you know I’ve written about you before, seeking to defend authentic Church teaching against the falsehoods you have spread in your priestly ministry regarding homosexuality. My kind of writing is what earns from you the label “homophobia.” To borrow your phrase, I find this to be the “worst kind of stereotyping and should be avoided.”

After all, it’s not like I haven’t tried—albeit unsuccessfully—to reach out and interview you regarding your homosexualist views, especially as expressed in your Building a Bridge book, now in its second edition. Your publisher, on your behalf, politely declined my request for an interview when your book first came out, telling me you had no time for me.

Regardless, it is your defense of “gay” priests and a “gay” priesthood even in the face of the latest and most grievous scandal that I find appalling in every sense of the word. And it’s not because I’m a “homophobe.” It’s because I’ve lived through a couple experiences I want to tell you about. After I do, maybe you’ll understand more clearly just why I and many other faithful Catholics want you to stop defending homosexuality and “gay” priests as something intrinsically healthy or good, despite the Church’s teaching that tells us otherwise.

You want the Church to call the homosexual inclination “differently ordered” rather than “intrinsically disordered.” You want to change the truth. Why do I say this? Because you’re on record as accepting the cultural conclusion of “reputable” psychologists who claim homosexuality is “normal” and rejecting your own Church’s anthropology, which clearly claims it is not. You say God created people that way.

You want us to distinguish between “normal,” “healthy” homosexuality and abnormal sexual abuse in exactly the same way that the Catholic bishops and so many others sought to avoid the obvious and now-clear connection between the homosexual inclination and the Church’s abuse scandal. While it’s true that not every homosexual male abuses other males (on that we agree, of course), it’s decidedly false to claim that homosexuality itself has nothing to do with the clergy subculture that perpetuated the abuse against so many victims for too many years. We both know that the majority of abuse cases involving Catholic clergy have been same-sex abuse.

For almost two decades, you and others among the clergy have glossed over this reality as though it shouldn’t be addressed. But haven’t you ever considered the fact that, if the Church’s prohibition against allowing “gay” men into the seminaries had actually been enforced, the vast majority of abuse cases involving the clergy never would have happened?

Think about it. If same-sex attraction is so “healthy” and normal and created by God as something just “differently ordered,” then why, oh, why, is the great majority of clergy abuse cases homosexual?

You know, I don’t really care whether you consider yourself “gay” or not, because you’ve already spent decades as a homosexualist cleric, and that’s where you’ve done the most damage. Homosexualism has harmed so many people I know. It is your attitude and the attitude of so, so many other clerics in the Church, as well as religious and lay people in positions of authority, that has enabled the hurt and abuse so many of us have experienced in recent decades.

I say “many of us” above because I’m about to tell you how the homosexualist agenda and “gay” subculture in seminaries and chanceries everywhere brought horror—yes, horror—into the lives of unsuspecting Catholics of all ages in the Church.

I was one. Though I, mercifully, escaped the horror many others couldn’t.

I will never know just how close I came to being directly sexually abused by a priest in sixth grade, while attending Catholic grade school. But it was, frankly, damn close.

Ironically, it was a different form of abuse—bullying by other sixth-grade boys, which kept me from the “in” group in my class—that most likely protected me from getting sexually abused by one of the most notorious priest-abusers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Fr. Michael McGrath. And yes, I’m naming names.

McGrath taught us religion, of course. He was bombastic, humorous, and got along great with the boys in my class. He was wildly popular. His idea of religion class was to interpret rock music and its lyrics in a way that, he believed, expressed Christian, even Catholic, themes.

It turns out, his modus operandi was classic grooming. I was even a bit envious of the attention he was lavishing on a small group of other male classmates, almost all of whom had little to do with me, the “runt” of the class who had long been ostracized.

Even so, Fr. Martin, here is what I remember: I remember the boys talking about how “cool” it was that Fr. McGrath let so many of them pile into his car and, if you were lucky, you got to sit on his lap while he drove around the church parking lot—and he would let you “drive”!

Until one day, Fr. McGrath and the other boys included me in this activity. It felt pretty good to be included, I remember that. I also remember my disappointment that as it turned out I never ended up on his lap behind the steering wheel.

Later that year, something else happened. As I recall, I was among a group of boys who got invited to listen to some music in his private room in the rectory. I can remember sitting on the floor with others, and at some point McGrath was absent from the larger group for some time. I honestly don’t recall much more than this about that gathering, except the feeling that I had “missed” some aspect of this gathering that had involved one or more of the others.

Did I come “that close” to being an abuse victim at the hands of one of the most notorious abusers ever ordained in St. Louis? I think it likely that I was extremely vulnerable.

The audacity of clergy abuse is something I did indeed directly encounter later on. While McGrath clearly preyed on boys during the time I knew him and long afterward, I was in my very late teens at the time that another Catholic priest committed a bold and spontaneous act of abuse against me directly.

I’ve told almost no one this next story, Fr. Martin, but I’m telling you (and now the world) because it shouldn’t be so easy for you and others to continue fomenting the pretense that “gay” priests should simply be assumed to be “healthy”… well, until they show themselves not to be so. Haven’t we Catholics had enough of this pretense of “assume the best” when all it has done is further enable deep corruption, scandal, and harm to the faithful?

So, Fr. Martin, here I was, a young liturgical musician in my parish, called upon to play a few songs during a presentation evening hosted by our parish, featuring a very charismatic and widely known priest who had quite a following after having written a very hip and cool autobiography titled From Playboy to Priest. This was Fr. Kenneth Roberts.

What was so audacious about Fr. Roberts is that his abuse of me was accomplished almost in passing during this one-time event—the only time our paths ever really crossed. Here is what happened.

I went into the small church sacristy to touch base with him about how the music would be integrated into his talk. One or maybe two other people were in the sacristy with us at first. But they left.

I was alone briefly with Fr. Roberts, who also had a quite expressive and jovial public persona. Literally out of nowhere, and in the split second after we two were left alone in the sacristy, Fr. Roberts put both hands one on each side of my head, trapping it between them. He looked intently into my eyes, and he said quite clearly to me, “I love you,” and he kissed me, full on the lips.

I don’t recall saying anything in response. I’d never ever met the man before, and this happens? I just know that the moment ended as quickly as it had begun, with others now milling about the sacristy as the event was about to begin.

I literally had no context for understanding what had happened in that moment. I’d not been “groomed” or anything, and I never saw him again, as far as I recall.

It was only later, after I’d learned that he’d had longstanding sexual abuse allegations against him and had been shuffled around despite his popularity, that I realized that I had been a victim of a truly bold single act of abuse—thank God, mild and not nearly as traumatizing as so many others have experienced.

Fr. Martin, please reflect deeply on the kind of culture that leads to such audacious behavior. This priest was accustomed to having unfettered opportunities to indulge himself with young men. Young men. Not just boys. This wasn’t pedophilia, but it most certainly was abuse. Homosexual abuse, in fact. He got away with kissing me on the lips because he wanted to, not because I consented to it, obviously.

I was among the luckiest of victims—barely a victim at all. Yet I was exposed to being gravely harmed by the very subculture—the “gay” subculture—that you claim is not harmful, is healthy, and is normal.

You are wrong, Fr. Martin. If you truly wanted what was best for real people in the Church, you would affirm and uphold Church teaching regarding homosexuality. You would also insist that the Church’s wisdom on prohibiting the ordination of “gay” priests is both prudent and necessary.

Indeed, Fr. Martin, if you want to help fix the clergy abuse scandal, you would stop protecting “gay” priests and the homosexual subculture that exists among the “hundreds” of such priests that you claim to know. Yes, thankfully, it’s true that not every such “gay” priest is guilty of nonconsensual sexual abuse of either minors or adults. Thank God for that small mercy.

But it is equally true—and now abundantly evident—that the cost of your seeking to “protect” the non-offending “gay” priests has come at the expense of the victims of the “gay” priests who have done just that—i.e., committed grave acts of abuse against the innocent.

Do the right thing—tell your “hundreds” of “gay” priest friends that, if they truly want to serve the Church, they need to do so by virtue of their absence from priestly ministry, not by their presence. Both you and they need to hear and understand the truth that it is the Church that calls men to Holy Orders, or not. And the truth is that the Church does not intentionally call “gay” men to join the ranks of the clergy, and rightly so. Men with deep-seated homosexual inclinations are NOT healthy despite your claims to the contrary. They need healing, not priestly ordination.

Be a real man, Fr. Martin. Hold yourself and your “gay” priest friends truly accountable. They should be strictly held to account for having participated in the deception that enabled them to be ordained in the first place. Do you know what a real man—a real Christian man—does in such a situation?

A real Christian man owns his faith. A real Christian man would do what Jesus and his Church call him to do. Every “gay” priest who truly understands what it means to imitate Christ would do the hard thing, right now, and without hesitation. He would end his falsely obtained priestly ministry. He would immediately step aside, take a leave of absence—regardless of whether he is guilty of actual sex abuse or unchastity, or not. He would fall prostrate at the feet of Jesus, acknowledge his unsuitability for priestly ordination despite having been ordained, and seek healing that would address his homosexual inclination.

Such a real Christian man would have my deep admiration and gratitude as a true servant of the Church, a truly holy example of integrity and fidelity.

Are you a real Christian man, Fr. Martin?

If so, please start doing your part.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is Fr. James Martin, S.J., speaking at the Sheen Center with curators of the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibit, the largest exhibition in the history of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Sheen Center)


  • Jim Russell

    Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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