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Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Building A Bridge
How the Catholic Church
And the LGBT community
Can enter into a relationship of
Respect, Compassion, and sensitivity
by James Martin, SJ

I have deliberately waited a while before reviewing this book. Father Martin evidently has a large number of supporters and detractors. Some of the public criticisms of this book have been rather personal in nature. My aim in this review is to judge the work, not the person who wrote it.

There is a story about a man who wrote a book on the life of Jesus Christ, which in many ways was beautiful. He wrote about Christ's poverty, his tiredness, his weeping, his suffering and his death. But he failed to mention Christ's miracles, his Resurrection and his Ascension. The book was all wrong, not entirely because of what was in it but what was not.

Which brings us to Father Martin. He quite rightly discusses our need to reach out to those with same sex attraction, to treat them with respect, compassion and sensitivity. What is missing is a clear affirmation and support of Church teaching on this matter: that while the homosexual orientation is not sinful, the homosexual act is. Father Martin does note that the teaching of the Church on homosexuality "has not been received" by the LGBT community. This is rather like saying that the teaching of the Church on the divinity of Christ "has not been received" by the Arian community. Or that the Nestorian community "has not received" Church teaching on the Mother of God.

Father Martin is highly critical of Catholic institutions that dismiss those in openly gay relationships but do nothing about Catholics in their employment who practice contraception. He fails to understand that discipline is required in cases that are manifest. Those who use contraception are not defying Church teaching in public, unless they  proclaim they are doing so in public. A man sharing a property with another man is not openly defying Church teaching, unless he chooses to do so by, for example, attempting to marry him.

Father Martin claims that in the encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus did not ask Zacchaeus to repent before calling him to come down from the sycamore tree. But Zacchaeus most certainly did repent. Had he chosen to follow Jesus while continuing in his sinful ways, he might at best be regarded as a patron of Catholic dissenters, but not a disciple of Christ.

Speaking of dissent, Father Martin goes out of his way to praise the somewhat anti-Catholic New Ways Ministry while not saying one word about the orthodox Catholic group Courage, which offers real support to those with same sex attraction.

Father Martin will rightly note that his book has been endorsed by high ranking clergymen, including Cardinals Tobin and Farrell. The reputations of both have been severely damaged by their association with disgraced former Cardinal McCarrick. Other supporters of Father Martin's work include Robert McElroy, James Alison and Jeannine Gramick, a veritable Who's Who of Catholic dissenters.

In summary, this book does not represent the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. Father Martin has built a bridge, and it deserves the same fate as the one over the River Kwai.

Copyright ; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2020

Version: 23rd August 2020

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