Deacon Jim Russell: A Final Word on Fr. Martin

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By Deacon Jim Russell, Crisis Magazine, July 26, 2017

If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Deacon Jim RussellOver the years, I’ve had the opportunity to experience annual Ignatian retreats at our area’s local Jesuit facility—a rejuvenating experience of silence.

Yet, for the last few months, the term “silent retreat” has forever changed for me. Now, it makes me think of Fr. James, Martin, S.J.

This will likely be my last article regarding Jesuit Fr. James Martin (cue the applause, right?). Why the last article? Because the more he has talked about his new book on “building a bridge” between the Church’s “hierarchy” and the “LGBT community,” the less he is really saying. It’s as though he is disappearing ever more deeply into that “LGBT Catholic Bubble” that encompasses his entire project—and what good is a “bridge in a bubble”? As the newness of it fades and the limelight flickers, there will be hardly anything to say. It will already have been said.

Anyone who, like me, has followed every last media opportunity Martin has had in promotion of the book will know that he is re-hashing the same talking points over and over again. Every media outlet that covers the book gets the same boilerplate replies that amount to a studied strategy of ambiguity that is intended to maximize encroachment of the “LGBT community” into the heart of the Church while minimizing the effect that the truth of Catholic teaching could have on that same community.

Already, this hide-and-seek approach to supposed “dialogue” is getting really, really old.

The real Fr. Jim Martin is barely even there behind the barrage of redundancies that constitutes his public self-promotion of his supposedly two-way bridge. The media persona he projects is merely a puppet. The real puppeteer is the Fr. Martin who pulls the strings while relentlessly refusing to own his faith.

This brings out a supreme irony: One of the prominent efforts to undermine Church teaching regarding homosexuality has arisen via the parish of St. Paul the Apostle, the mother church of the Paulist Fathers, in New York. At their gay-friendly ministry “Out at St. Paul,” nothing stands in the way of the error-filled “Owning Our Faith” project and video. Not the pastor, not doctrine—nothing. In fact, it was the pastor himself who presented the “Owning Our Faith” video, so deeply flawed and yet so deeply admired by Martin, to Pope Francis himself. Some of Martin’s own promotional videos feature footage from the “Owning Our Faith” project.

After being asked hundreds upon hundreds of times by hundreds of different people, exactly why won’t Martin himself own the faith of the Church regarding homosexuality? All he does is pull a few puppet-strings each time the question comes up. Suddenly the Gospel he is supposed to believe down to the marrow of his bones, under the same obligation that St. Paul himself was when saying “woe to me if I do not preach,” is magically objectified into a mere “stance” or “prohibition” that the Church only “officially” teaches, and it’s just untouchable because it’s soooo far from the “stance” of the “LGBT community.” And, besides, it’s clear that “LGBT Catholics” have never “received” the teaching in the first place, Martin says.

If some of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the more Martin talks, the more he simply fades into the murky shadows of many who spoke similarly over the last fifty years. It was another Jesuit, the late Fr. Richard McCormick, who famously embraced the falsehood of a “double magisterium” (naturally the second “magisterium” comprised theologians like himself!) and who insisted that teachings “not received” were not even true teachings at all. The more Martin speaks, the more he disappears into McCormick.

Not only that, but Martin’s approach is also rooted squarely in the hero he’d like to canonize, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who has famously admitted her strategy for achieving decades of dissent by doing the same thing—not owning her faith. Her self-labeled “creative circumvention” allowed her to “wiggle” around admitting her dissent by also framing true Church teaching as an objectified “stance.”

However, just as a train receding into the midnight horizon might occasionally throw a spark of illumination from its wheels, Martin’s retreat is not flawless. Recently, he forthrightly admitted his erroneous view that God creates LGBT people as LGBT people. Compare this to the Catechism’s clear assertion that homosexuality has a “largely unexplained” psychological genesis.

This admission is really the crack in the dam that lets the floodwaters past. Virtually everything else that contradicts the Gospel regarding homosexuality arises from this singular flaw. If the entire spectrum of “LGBTQIA” is God’s handiwork, then we can jettison the whole “objectively disordered” kerfluffle and go with Martin’s self-recommended “differently ordered” instead. Then, same-sex sex acts and same-sex “marriage” and transgender surgeries become goods that we don’t have to reject. We can let “gay pride” into our sanctuaries, festooning them with rainbow flags.

Make no mistake—Martin’s personal media puppet, which keeps his personal views behind the curtain of the fictional narrative of “created this way,” is nothing more than a Trojan horse.

Thankfully, more astute minds than mine have seen just how unrealistically wooden the Martin puppet is; many faithful Catholic writers are taking on the myriad false assertions now incessantly repeated at every media opportunity and every presentation at parishes with faux-Catholic views on this issue. This is largely another reason why I believe the entertainment buzz of the Martin marionette’s performance is fading fast. Simply put, the stilted rhetoric and attached strings are leaving neither the Church nor the “LGBT community” feeling very satisfied.

Thus, Martin himself is creating new videos and print responses to the “critiques” he’s getting from both sides of the as-yet nonexistent bridge. Yet it’s all the same dodgy, scripted formula we’ve seen and heard before, attempts that are notpassionately, single-mindedly focused on actually building that bridge, but instead are constructed so that, just as in Oz, we pay no attention whatever to the “man behind the curtain” as the spectacle before us plays out.

Am I being too harsh? Is it too much to ask that the creative artist behind the performance come out, and take a bow? I think not. Literally, for goodness’ sake, own your faith, Fr. Martin. Stop attempting the impossible task of building a bridge in a bubble, via “creative circumvention.”

Instead, stake your claim. Are you with the Church and the Good News of its teaching on homosexuality, or not? Because, if you are, your stunt-double Pinocchio is doing a really terrible job of preaching that Gospel. If you are not, I’d suggest taking a good, long look at First Corinthians 9:16.

Believe it or not, Fr. Martin, my concern here is not only for the truth, but for you. I don’t hate you, I don’t fear you or your message, and I don’t want to see you fail to live up to your priestly calling. You are my brother cleric, my brother in Christ.

However, your puppet isn’t. That’s just the truth of it. I don’t want the real you getting lost more and more deeply in the irrelevance of your now-worn-out message. The real you is the “you” that God is truly calling you to be, despite your misguided embrace of errors that are harming both you and others. The real you is the Fr. Jim Martin who is literally vanishing before my very eyes.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Set aside the strings, the stage, and the schtick. Don’t disappear entirely. Let your silent retreat come to an end.


Deacon Jim Russell serves the Archdiocese of St. Louis and writes on topics of marriage, family, and sexuality from a Catholic perspective. He can be reached via e-mail at