Patti ArmstrongI was irritated when Pope Francis called for every member of the Church to “pray and fast in penance for the evil of clerical sex abuse, and to be involved in needed change within the Church” on Aug. 20.

I wanted a much bigger emphasis on the guilty. I still do. That is the part that irritated me.  I was already praying and fasting for the Church as the travesty of abuse and cover-ups has unfolded. It should have been our default position all along and now we see just how dire that need is.

Despite some cynicism among the betrayed, I’ve never come across anyone who commanded us not to pray and fast. Until now.

Father James Martin, unapologetic apologist for the pro-LGBT and avid supporter of the condemned New Ways Ministry, has told people not to pray and fast. He tweeted:

“I understand the desire among some church leaders to call for the church to fast and pray in response to the sex abuse crisis. It’s a recognition that we are all the Body of Christ, the People of God, united as one, in Christ’s name. And we are all called to prayer. However… in this case, to imply that the laity, in any way, should perform any kinds of penances, including fasting, is simply wrong. The laity should not have to do one minute of penance for the crimes, sins and failings of the hierarchy and the clergy.”

Why would a priest tell the faithful not to pray and fast? Father Martin often says things that make no good Catholic sense. Father Longenecker has revealed his heresy on several occasions. In the article,  CELIBACY? GAY? FR MARTIN? WHAZZAT? Father Longenecker posted a question about “Fr James Martin’s constant whine that the ‘good, celibate gay priests’ are not being celebrated and recognized.” Father Longenecker said that since priests are not supposed to be sexually active, he is “stumped by the idea that we are somehow supposed to celebrate and recognize the hypothetical ‘gay celibate priest’ Fr Martin mourns for.”

The call not to pray in fast should stump us all. Prayer and fasting is powerful spiritual support and taps into the power of God. It disarms the devil. Why would a priest tell people not to do it?

We are asked to pray throughout the Bible. Even Jesus prayed.  He told us: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say not to pray.

The earliest and most often cited purpose for Catholics to fast is atonement for sin. Another reason for fasting is preparation for a task or support of another person. Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days (see Matthew 4:2) before beginning His ministry in Galilee. In the Acts of the Apostles 14:23, as they traveled from city to city “they appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith” (Acts 14:23).

Homophobic or Courageous?

And now there’s one more thing to ignore, Father Martin’s tweet claiming Father Paul Kalchik’s burning a rainbow flag with a cross on it at Resurrection Catholic Church in Chicago was the “most homophobic act he could imagine short of beating up an LGBT person. Note that the pastor defied the archdiocese and took part in the ‘exorcism.’ And connecting it to the Easter Mass is a scandal: Easter is about love; this is about hate.”

We interpret things very differently. I say the act was not hateful but about love and courage.

Fr Kalchik published in the Sept. 2 parish bulletin: “…a special prayer service, outside in front of the church. Items of sacrilege go into the fire. Our pledges, mixed with incense, into the fire. Offered as reparation. St. Michael, protect us from evil.” The pledge cards were filled out by parishioners the previous weekend, pledging to fast and pray for the Church.

The Archdiocese of Chicago under Cardinal Blase Cupich told him not to do it. Instead of the original planned public ceremony, however, on Sept. 14, Father Kalchik privately joined with seven parishioners in a prayer of exorcism and burned the flag in a portable fire pit. He told the Chicago Sun-Times: “That banner and what it stood for doesn’t belong to the Archdiocese or Cardinal Cupich. It belongs to the people of this parish who paid for it … What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?”

“It was just by accident that this banner that was made to celebrate all things gay … did not get destroyed when I first got here,” he said. Priestly rainbow vestments and candles had already been destroyed by him when he arrived in 2007.

Father Kalchik was sexually abused by a neighbor and again by a priest and said the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the Church is “definitely a gay thing,” and that “Scripture is crystal-clear. It’s against God’s law.”

Cardinal Cupich’s response was a letter to the parish that Father Kalchik “must take time away” so “his needs can be assessed.” Let us all pray for all concerned.


Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.

Follow her on Twitter at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at