Theological College, the seminary at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC, today cancelled a talk I was to give on Alumni Day, on Oct. 4, thanks to a campaign by Church Militant, the priest known as “Father Z” and Lifesite News.
Those campaigns can be seen, in part, here:
That campaign caused a storm of phone calls, emails and messages to Theological College, which included I was told people screaming at the receptionists who answered the phone. In the end, they felt that the expected protests and negative publicity would distract from Alumni Day.
This follows the cancellation of another lecture at the Annual Investiture Dinner of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York City, scheduled on Oct. 21. The organizers told me that they had received angry emails and calls from several members of the Order, most of whom, they believed, were encouraged to protest thanks to another campaign initiated by Church Militant, which you can see here: https://www.churchmilitant.com/…/episode/vortex-unbelievable
As an aside, a few years ago I was invited to join the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but couldn’t because of its steep entrance fee. Also, Catholic University hosted me for a talk, one of a few that I have given there, just last year.
That follows an earlier cancellation of a lecture in London for Cafod (Catholic International Development Charity in England) which was scheduled for the third week in October.
Each of these cancellations was a result of anger or fear over my book “Building a Bridge,” about LGBT Catholics. The book has the formal approval (the “Imprimi Potest”) of my Jesuit Provincial, the Very Rev. John Cecero, SJ; and has been endorsed by Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Archbishop John Wester, Bishop Robert McElroy and Bishop John Stowe.
In the case of Theological College, the fears were of angry protesters disrupting their Alumni Day. In the case of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Dinner, it was anger from some members over the topic of LGBT Catholics. In the case of Cafod lecture in London, it was not a response to any campaign but fear that my presence itself would garner negative attention, after the group had recently faced other similar problems. In none of these cases was the local ordinary–in each a cardinal–in any way advocating for the cancellation of the talk. The impetus was purely from those social media sites.
I have asked each organization to be honest about the reasons for these cancellations. That is, I told them I did not want to lie and say, “I withdrew” or “I declined” or “I was afraid to come.”
So I share with you as much as I can in the interests of transparency, which we need in our church. And to show you the outsize influence of social media sites motivated by fear, hatred and homophobia.
For my part, I bear no ill will to Theological College, Catholic University, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre or Cafod. The organizers were all apologetic and in some cases more upset than I was. I know that they were under extreme pressure, and in some cases were overwhelmed by the rage that can be generated by social media: ill will based on misrepresentations, innuendos, homophobia and especially fear. Perfect love drives out fear, as St. Paul said. But perfect fear also drives out love.
Also, I want to say that none of these cancellations disturbs me. I’ve not lost any sleep over them. (The outsize influence of social media sites that traffic in homophobia, specialize in personal attacks, and whips up hatred another matter. This is disturbing and should be disturbing to all of us. It is not coming from God.)
And there will be many other venues. In fact, after the talk in DC was cancelled, Holy Trinity Church in DC invited me to deliver a lecture a few days before the planned Theological College event was to occur, on Sept. 30. So I look forward to seeing you all in Washington.
I’m also happy to say that a revised and expanded version of “Building a Bridge,” with a new introduction, more stories drawn from my encounters with LGBT people, more insights from church leaders, and more biblical meditations, will be published early next year.
Last night at the University of Scranton, after the talk to the incoming freshmen, a mother approached the book-signing table, and started to cry when she talked about her gay son and what the book had meant to her. And I told her that her tears put any opposition in perspective.
Because what is opposition next to the love of Jesus? It is nothing.
I also have the support of my Jesuit Provincial, my Jesuit brothers, and two cardinals and several bishops who endorsed my book (as well as many other cardinals, archbishops and bishops who have contacted me privately). Most of all, I want to say that Jesus is close to me in prayer.
So I am at total peace.
A final note: all of the talks that were cancelled–at Theological College, at the Order of the Holy Sepulchre Investiture Dinner, and at Cafod, were not about LGBT Catholics. They were about Jesus.
James Martin, SJ