By Duane Paul Murphy ’19
Catholic University of America’s national seminary last week withdrew its invitation for James Martin to speak at the seminary’s annual alumni event, citing the concern that his views about the LGBT community needing to have a better relationship with the Catholic Church may become a distraction at the event, based on complaints from various Catholic online websites such as Father Z, ChurchMilitant.com and LifeSiteNews.com.
Martin had been scheduled to speak at the Theological College’s annual alumni event on October 4th to lecture about the teachings of Jesus Christ, with no plans to discuss his own personal positions on LGBT issues or his latest book. Due to increasing criticism from a variety of conservative Catholic online websites, especially from social media, Reverend Gerald McBrearity, the seminary’s rector, made the final decision to rescind Martin’s invitation because he and others within the seminary believed that his presence would be a distraction from the 100th anniversary of the seminary’s founding.
“In no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made over the recent weeks,” the seminary’s wrote in a September 15th press release.
Catholic University of America’s president John Garvey followed Sept. 16 with a statement online disapproving the rescinded invitation to Reverend Martin from the university’s seminary.
“The campaigns by various groups to paint Father Martin’s talk as controversial reflect the same pressure being applied by the left for universities to withdraw speaker invitations,” Garvey wrote. “Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea. It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.”
Martin, a Jesuit reverend who is editor-at-large at America and consulter to the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, recently written and published a book through Harper Collins Publisher entitled Building A Bridge, which discusses how the LGBT community and the Catholic Church itself can create dialogue and relations between each other.
“I was disappointed, but less for me, and more for what it said about the pressure that some of these self-appointed orthodoxy police exert,” Martin wrote in an email to the Tower.
Students on the university’s campus were supportive of President Garvey’s response to the seminary and surprised due to the fact that he and his administration do not officially recognize CUAllies, the university’s unofficial LGBT group, on campus.
“It makes me happy that Garvey disagrees with the Theological College’s decision, because he is the one who will not let CUAllies be recognized as a club of the university,” said freshman student Michelle Brencher. “So this is a step forward for the University and hopefully by the end of the year CUAllies will be recognized.”
This particularly incident is not the first time that The Catholic University of America has dealt with when it comes to tensions between the school and the LGBT community. In 2014, the university told College Democrats to delay an event called “Milk and Cookies” in which a screening of the movie “Milk” was going to be presented during LGBT Awareness Month in October. Two years later, in April of 2016, about 10 students protested controversial conservative writer Matt Walsh’s speaking engagement hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Rev. Martin additionally told The Tower that the dialogue and relations between LGBT community and the Catholic Church is a slow, but delicate process.
“My sense is that it is in these gradual steps that LGBT people can make real progress,” Martin said. “So it’s a healthy tension between confidence and patience. And, above all, trust in God.”
Rev. Martin’s replacement has been yet announced by the university’s seminary.