Much of the criticism of Fr James Martin and his book Building a Bridge is part of a “cancer of vilification” in the US Church, a bishop has claimed.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said the criticism was often based on “homophobia”, and also served as a “veiled attack” on Pope Francis.
Two talks by Fr Martin were cancelled last week, while an address to Cafod in the UK was also postponed. Fr Martin said was as “a result of anger or fear over my book Building a Bridge,” although Cafod said their decision was due more to scheduling issues.
In an article for America magazine, Bishop McElroy accused Fr Martin’s critics of a “campaign of distortion”, adding that a “cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the Church”.
Fr Martin’s critics, he added, are driven by “homophobia” and have a distorted view of Catholic moral teaching. He also accused them of making a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his “campaign against judgmentalism”.
The US Church, Bishop McElroy said, has a “long-standing bigotry” against members of the LGBT community. The attacks on Fr Martin’s book Building a Bridge show it is time for the Church to “purge itself” of this bigotry, he adds.
The bishop also accused them of distorting Church teaching, saying that while Christians should model themselves on Christ, chastity is “not the central virtue in the Christian moral life”.
“Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not.”
Finally, Bishop McElroy says many of those criticising Fr Martin are unable to forgive Pope Francis for “uttering that historic phrase on the plane: ‘Who am I to judge?’”
“The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church,” the bishop adds.
Fr Martin’s book and the reaction against it have received much attention. Cardinal Robert Sarah critiqued Building a Bridge in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, in which he said the Church must be clear about sexual morality, and praised same-sex attracted Catholics who live according to Church teaching.
Mr Martin contends that his book does not challenge Church teaching. “It simply builds on the catechism and the Gospels,” he said.