Theological College at The Catholic University of America – September 2017

Jesuit priest disinvited from university due to pro-LGBTQ beliefs

Washington, D.C.

On September 15, 2017, Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at the Catholic University of America (CUA ) in Washington, D.C. He had been asked by the Theological College to deliver a talk called “Encountering Jesus: Meeting the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith” at an Alumni Day event on October 4, 2017. Leaders at the seminary told Martin they rescinded his invitation after receiving a flood of complaints from people objecting to the controversial opinions he had expressed about homosexuality in his recently published book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (2017).

Key Players

Reverend James Martin, S.J. is editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine based in New York. In 2017, he was appointed consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications by Pope Francis. Martin is known for having views on homosexuality that are unconventional within Catholicism. Specifically, he contends that homosexual individuals do not necessarily need to remain celibate. He is a prolific author and has discussed a number of issues relating to Catholicism on television and at schools and churches across the United States.

Theological College is the national seminary of CUA, which is run by American bishops, unlike other Catholic-affiliated universities in the country. Though a separate entity, the seminary is located at CUA.

Further Details

CUA has hosted Martin in the past, but the October 4, 2017, event would have been the first time the seminary hosted him. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Theological College Rector Father Gerald McBrearity said the seminary disinvited Martin in order to avoid distraction and controversy. In a statement, McBrearity explained that the decision “In no way . . . signal[s] approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made [toward Martin] over the recent weeks.”

The university released a separate statement on September 16, 2017, clarifying the situation and apologizing for the disinvitation. It stated that the seminary’s decision did “not reflect the University’s policy on inviting speakers to campus,” and acknowledged the fact that the disinvitation of controversial speakers is a prominent issue on college campuses generally. The president of CUA, John Garvey, said that “universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas.”

Martin also released his own statement about the situation via his Facebook page on September 15, 2017. He explained to his followers that the Theological College told him it canceled the event because it did not want “protests and negative publicity” to tarnish it. Martin provided links to specific websites that were coordinating the campaign to complain about the event to the Theological College’s office. The people participating in the campaign primarily objected to the reverend’s refusal to emphasize the Catholic teaching that homosexual people should remain celibate.

According to The New York Times, Martin’s stance on homosexuality has “led to insults and ‘joking’ threats of violence against him. Conservative Catholics have called him ‘effeminate,’ a ‘homosexualist,’ ‘a heretic,’ ‘pansified’ and guilty of ‘leading young men to perdition.'”

Outcome

Martin’s appearance canceled; no plan to reschedule

Rev. James Martin did not speak at Theological College on October 4, 2017. As of February 2018, the event had not been rescheduled and no plans to do so had been announced.

External Resources

Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Then Faces Backlash, The New York Times

Fr. James Martin uninvited from talk at CUA seminary, National Catholic Reporter

September 15, 2017 Facebook Post, Father James Martin

University Statement on Father James Martin, S.J., Invitation, Catholic University

Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book, Washington Post

Prepared by Emma Vahey ’20

February 27, 2018