What Fr. James Martin Should Have Said in Ireland

Somehow, almost overnight, our culture decided that an “LGBT” identity is something that one is born with. There is no research proving this. As a matter of fact, the American Psychological Association website states that, although much research has been done, scientists have not reached a consensus on the causes. However, our culture speaks of people being born “gay or lesbian” as if it is common knowledge.

During an interview for his book, Fr. James Martin, SJ, was asked what he would say to one who identifies as “LGBT” and is struggling with this. Martin stated, “God made you this way. You are wonderfully made just like Psalm 139 says you were knit together in your mother’s womb … this way. This is a part of your identity.”

I am disappointed that the Vatican invited Fr. James Martin, SJ to speak at the World Meeting of Families instead of a leader who could discuss with clarity the beauty of the Church’s teachings on authentic love and chastity. My fears became a reality this morning after reading about Father Martin’s talk in press reports.

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According to America the Jesuit Review, Fr. Martin had been invited to speak at the World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin, Ireland, to “help bridge” the gap of many Irish citizens, who are unhappy with the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially on the topic of homosexuality.

In his talk Thursday morning, he discussed ways to respond to the Catechism’s call to show “respect, compassion and sensitivity” to those who experience same-sex attractions. Fr. Martin suggested that it’s not right to focus on whether those identifying as LGBT are fully conforming to the Church’s teachings on sexual morality if we aren’t going to expect the same of the rest of the Church community. I agree. We are all called to chastity. The answer, however, isn’t to ignore this call or avoid it all together. The answer is to discuss it, and teach this to all members of the Church.

Along the same lines, he stated, “Don’t reduce gays and lesbians to the call to chastity we all share as Christians.”

We are all human beings. Men, women, married, single, widowed, those in priestly or religious vocations, those with same-sex attractions, and those with opposite-sex attractions are called to live chaste lives. No one escapes this call, because it comes from our Heavenly Father, the creator of the Universe who made us in his image and likeness. Christ himself is chaste, pure and filled with authentic love for each of us.

Today’s culture equates chastity with “no sex” and “no fun,” and believes that those who pursue this virtue are doomed to live a miserable life of loneliness. Many in our culture believe that this call to chastity is outdated and an infringement on one’s human rights. Some even believe that striving for chastity is harmful. Throughout my journey, many have assumed I was unhappy, miserable and lonely. And they assumed this because I didn’t have a partner or an outlet for sex. The truth is, I am far from being miserable or lonely and this is because I stopped living the “gay” life.

The culture’s idea of chastity is not accurate. Chastity isn’t about loneliness. It’s quite the opposite. Chastity is a virtue and in pursuing this we are pursuing holiness and growing in our relationship with the creator of the universe.

We need to hear about the joy found in striving to live out our chastity. All of us in the Church need to hear this, We won’t hear it from the culture. Unfortunately, some shepherds of the Church, such as Fr. Martin, are embracing the teachings of today’s culture rather than the beautiful teachings of our Church.

Shepherds of the Church, we need you to step up to the plate and teach us the truth. Show us the joy we all can obtain in pursuing holiness and growing closer to Christ. Don’t be afraid to tell us the truth. Our souls thirst for the truth.

I believe Fr. Martin’s intentions are sincere, and his ideas may seem logical and nice. But it’s not authentic love. Truth is intertwined with love and cannot be separated from it. As there is dissatisfaction with Church teaching on this topic in Ireland, it would have been more helpful to have someone speak of the beauty of chastity and what the Church teaching means. I believe we desperately need this focus in the United States as well.

Father Martin also advocated Thursday morning for ministries to those identifying as “LGBT” without addressing Church teaching. What he advocates for is not new and has been in existence for years. It’s just that it’s no longer under the radar.

When I turned away from the “gay” life many years ago, I desperately sought out support. A priest referred me to one of these “gay-supporting” ministries in my diocese. I told the screener who took my call that I was looking for support in living according to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. I was told this particular group would not be helpful to me since its focus was on homosexuals who had been hurt by people in the Church. I was not given any other options, just a “sorry.” A few years ago, two other men I know were told the same thing. They weren’t given any other options either. There are many of these types of groups in many dioceses. Those who experience same-sex attractions and seek to live chaste lives are the real marginalized group of the Catholic Church.

Thankfully, we’re not alone. After further research, I found Courage International and I am truly grateful for this organization. Courage is a diocesan clerical public association of the faithful that ministers to men and women who experience same-sex attractions and strive to live according to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. Courage often wasn’t welcomed in many of the dioceses that had these ministries that Fr. Martin supports.

I have met many courageous men and women who are living meaningful, joyful, and chaste lives. It has been a godsend to have Catholic brothers and sisters who are in this together. We support each other and pray for each other. The Christian path is hard to walk. We aren’t meant to do this alone and isolated.

There are many of us who experience same-sex attractions and strive to live chaste lives. We are usually the quiet voices that don’t attend parades. However, many of us are feeling called to speak out and share our stories of hope and joy.

In 2016, shortly before the Synod on the Family was to begin, I was blessed to be one of four people who gave testimony at a conference in Rome, Italy, the focus of which was to speak the truth with love on this issue of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Each of us, who experienced same-sex attractions, spoke of the hope and joy that we have found in living out our Catholic Faith by embracing its beautiful teaching of chastity.

As we move forward to end confusion, let us turn to and embrace the Church’s teachings. I encourage leaders to show us the beauty and true meaning of her words. Help us to see the hope that she offers that comes by pursuing holiness, virtues and a close relationship with Christ.

(Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez / CNA)


  • David Prosen

    David Prosen is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville with an MA in counseling. David was featured in Blackstone’s film, The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church and has had several articles published for Lay Witness including, “I am not Gay. I am David.” He has given presentations across the country on the topic of “Same-Sex attractions” from a Catholic perspective.

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