Fr. James Martin, S.J., one of the editor's of America magazine, has been getting attention for some remarks he made in a post written Monday in which, in the course of discussing recent situations in Boston and Denver involving Catholic schools and homosexual parents, he wrote:
The Boston decision also stands in contrast to the increasingly heated language coming from church leaders on the topic of same-sex marriage. Pope Benedict XVI's comments last week in Fatima, Portugal, in which he stated that abortion and same-sex marriage were "some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats" to the common good seemed oddly discordant. The equation of abortion, something that clearly is about a threat to life, with same-sex marriage, which no matter how you look at it, does not mean that anyone is going to die, is bizarre. A good friend of mine, who is gay, recently resigned from a position at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he said, with great dismay, that “abortionsamesexmarriage” had become one polysyllabic word among some of his bosses.First, it appears that Fr. Martin has followed the lead of either the Huffington Post ("Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same-sex marriage some of the most "insidious and dangerous" threats facing the world today, asserting key church teachings...") or The New York Times ("Pope Benedict XVI used a famous Portuguese shrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday as a stage to denounce abortion and gay marriage...") in forming his opinion about what the Holy Father said and meant. And while we all know how helpful the Huff-and-Puff Post and the Grating Lady are in understanding the teachings of the Pope and the Church (ahem!), I took the trouble of finding the actual address given by Benedict on May 13th, in Fatima and to "a meeting with those who work in charities". Here is the key paragraph, near the end:
Why has same-sex marriage been equated with abortion? Are they really equivalent "threats" to life? If you’re looking for a life issue with stakes as high as abortion, why not something that actually threatens life? Like war? Or the death penalty? Or the kind of poverty and destitution that lead to death? Why aren't “abortion and war” the most "insidious and dangerous" threats to the common good? Or “war and the death penalty”? Or “war and poverty?” The great danger is that this increasingly popular equation will seem to many as having less to do with moral equivalency and more to do with a simple dislike, or even a hatred, of gays and lesbians.
The services you provide, and your educational and charitable activities, must all be crowned by projects of freedom whose goal is human promotion and universal fraternity. Here we can locate the urgent commitment of Christians in defence of human rights, with concern for the totality of the human person in its various dimensions. I express my deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socio-economic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion. Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.This, it seems fair to say, takes the winds out of the sails of Fr. Martin's righteous indignation—unless, that is, he disagrees with the Pope's assertion that life, marriage, and family should be protected against assault and destruction. Not that I am trying to somehow downplay the context (Portugal, where "same sex marriage" was recently approved). Nor am I implying that Benedict isn't opposed to "same sex marriage." Of course he is. Big shock there! And I think we all understand (or should) that "same sex marriage" is a huge societal stamp of approval on homosexuality as a normal, healthy, and happy way of life. Yet homosexual acts, which one has to logically conclude are a part of "same sex marriage," are considered to be "acts of grave depravity" and mortal sin by the Church.
Not to belabor obvious points of Catholic Moral Teaching 101, but mortal sin, unless dealt with, leads to spiritual ruin and eternal separation from God ("To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice"; CCC 1033 and following). So to approve, either openly or tacitly, of a falsehood ("same sex marriage") that encourages and legitimizes actions (homosexual acts) that are contrary to natural law and the teachings of the Church is to be, to some degree or another, in opposition, first, to truth and then to authentic love, life, marriage, family, and social order.
Fr. Martin writes, "The equation of abortion, something that clearly is about a threat to life, with same-sex marriage, which no matter how you look at it, does not mean that anyone is going to die, is bizarre." He might consider the words of a man who knows a thing or two about the human condition: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). Unless he doesn't believe in hell, which I doubt is so, in which case there are other reasons for concern.
To say this is about the "dislike" or "hatred" of homosexuals is simply to take a page from the "gay power" playbook (see, for example, Shadow in the Land: Homosexuality in America [Ignatius Press, 1989], by William Dannemeyer, or The War Against the Family [Stoddart, 1992], by William D. Gairdner, and note where we are today compared to 20 years ago). Pope Benedict is not picking on or targeting helpless homosexuals in a culture intent on persecuting them. He is identifying "some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good," which includes a powerful and well-supported homosexual movement intent on not only concretizing "same sex marriage" as a permanent (so to speak) feature in Western society, but denouncing and stigmatizing any opposition to that goal. Are we going to be disciples of Jesus Christ, or are we going to be dupes for fashionable and destructive tolerance?
I've been reading (slowly, but with much edification), Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's book, Liberty or Equality (Christendom Press, 1993), and then recently found online one of his essays, "Liberalism in America," in which he writes:
Where do we find the most dynamic American liberal assault today? Surely not in the field of economics, when even the most socialistic European governments are trying to auction off state enterprises. No, the radical nature of American liberalism leads it to affect the very roots of life that are found in human sexuality. It wants to hit us below the belt, to undermine and pervert the relationship between the genders, human sexuality, and the family which is the nervus rerum. If everything else is to be submitted to the omnipotent state, it is argued, there should at least be sexual “freedom.” And yet, here is where discipline is most necessary.
One need not be a Freudian to understand its importance in human relations. He who “devalues” the family by promoting promiscuity and perversion devalues the very fabric of society. He who denies the biological differences of men and women, and the unique roles each must fill, rebels against nature. The Soviets boasted that the equality of the genders in their realm was perfect since women were permitted to work in coal mines. In the United States, too, women are now accepted as combatants in the armed forces as equally as men are.
Another danger lurks in the emancipation of sexual deviations. Our sexuality is of a rather “plastic” nature—even in its normal course. For instance, a male will more easily fall in love with an extremely slender girl, if thinness is the fashion, or with one of opposite bodily qualities, as in the fashion of Rubens’s age, if that is the day’s trend. Perversions or other forms of immorality often become fashions and can destroy nations. For instance, generations of fatherless children from single mothers will likely lead to social perdition.
Contemporary liberalism reveals its hedonistic character with the mass murder of the unborn. What we have in the West is Childermass of “unwanted life,” similar to the practices of National and International Socialism in Europe and East Asia. What did Nicolas Gomez Davila, brightest thinker on the Right, tell us? “The cult of man must be celebrated with human sacrifices.” As a result, pregnant women no longer walk as cradles but as swinging coffins.
The logical link between abortion and homosexuality is there, if only we are willing to look. Likewise, as Dr. Raymond Dennehy argues,
The widespread practice of contraception is a major force behind the rapidly growing acceptance of homosexuality in western societies as a natural, sexual orientation. Bluntly stated, the justification for the one counts as the justification for the other. Contraception formally separates the sex act from procreation, insofar as it allows a couple to have sex at any time without the possibility of conception. Therein lies its link with homosexuality. Sexual intercourse between homosexuals and between heterosexuals using contraceptives is identical in this, they are both by their very nature sterile. The increasing legislative and judicial pressure for the right of same-sex couples to marry is simply the actualization of the contraceptive mentality.
Read Dennehy's entire essay, "Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation" (Ignatius Insight, 2007). These connections are not "bizarre." On the contrary, they follow apace from the integrated nature of sexuality and the human person. Fr. Martin is concerned about the "great danger" of people disliking or hating homosexuals. Pope Benedict is concerned about attacks on life, family, and marriage, and "insidious and dangerous threats to the common good." With all due respect, I think the Holy Father sees matters far more clearly and correctly than does Fr. Martin.
Fr. Martin's response, received mid-evening:
Dear Mr. Olson,
The Peace of Christ.
Thanks for your gracious and thorough response to my initial post about the situation in Hingham. I'm always happy to respond to you, and hope that your readers--even those who think, falsely, that I'm in "open warfare" with the pope--will profit from our conversation. Believe it or not (and there will be those who don't believe it, but so be it) I was just in the middle of rereading Pope Benedict's "Jesus of Nazareth," on a train en route to a parish talk when I got your note alerting me to your response. I'm surely not in "open warfare" with the Holy Father, as anyone who has read any of my other writings (or blogposts) will know.
In any event, I'm happy you provided the full text of the pope's comments, which are indeed more nuanced than I had described. (I had read them of course but didn't quote from them and probably should have in my initial post on "In All Things.) That was a helpful addition to the conversation. And I also agree that one can reasonably make a connection between abortion and other "contraceptive mentalities," as you point out, which lead to the degradation of life or even death.But I still, even after reading your thoughtful post, believe that to link (as some of our bishops have begun to do) abortion and same-sex marriage as two equivalent dangers, even two of the most "insidious" dangers facing the common good, simply flies in the face of what we're talking about.
Abortion involves the taking of life. So does, say, war or the death penalty or even some of the deeper forms of poverty (where poverty leads to starvation and death). But same-sex marriage simply does not. Yes, it is an important issue that the church should be addressing, but my larger point is that linking those two up is not helpful for a discussion of "life issues." If you are looking for something with the same moral urgency as abortion, then it should be something that actually leads to physical death. Which same-sex marriage assuredly does not. When we raise the issue of same-sex marriage to the same level as abortion then we will, I believe, undercut our credibility that we have on life issues. For people see that the one topic is simply not as grave, and, once again, if we are concerned about an actual threat to physical life, then we should be vociferously opposing war or the death penalty.
In short, abortion leads to physical death; same-sex marriage does not. Linking the two, or raising them to the same level of moral urgency, simply muddies the waters, and, in point of fact, weakens our opposition to abortion.
And I've not even begun to speak of the importance of treating both the same-sex couple in Hingham, Mass., with, as the Catechism states, "respect, sensitivity and compassion," and the child with care. I've done that in my blogpost, which readers can read. Instead, I'm focusing here on the topic of your blog: that linking.
I hope this helps to explain a bit my objections about what I feel is a bad strategic decision to link the two.
Peace to you,
James Martin, SJ
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:
• Abortion and Ideology | Raymond Dennehy
• Sexual Orientation and the Catholic Church | Dr. Charles E. Rice
• The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue | Raymond Dennehy
• Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation | Raymond Dennehy
• Authentic Freedom and the Homosexual Person | Dr. Mark Lowery
• Privacy, the Courts, and the Culture of Death | An Interview with Dr. Janet E. Smith
• What Is "Legal"? On Abortion, Democracy, and Catholic Politicians | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
• Deadly Architects | An Interview with Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker
• Human Sexuality and the Catholic Church | Donald P. Asci