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More Than Our Appetites

Fr. James Martin, S.J., avers that his advocacy does not challenge Catholic doctrine on homosexuality. He has made a point of publishing an essay delineating Church teaching on the subject. I am happy to take Fr. Martin at face value: If he says he does not wish to challenge the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, even if there is some evidence that this may not be true, I am willing to believe him.

But there is a difference between choosing not to defy Catholic doctrine and choosing to teach it in its fullness. And the doctrine of the Church extends far beyond issues of sexuality. While Martin may not be teaching error on that subject, his work fails to express, or even take into account, Catholic teaching on a fundamental issue: what it means to be a person at all. The consequence of that failure is confusion.

Consider Fr. Martin’s recent remarks to college presidents at a meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. His speech does not state that homosexual activity should be condoned, or that Church teaching on the matter should change. But it does present a vision of the human person at odds with Catholic teaching, and it urges a set of pastoral practices that will lead to heartbreak and disappointment, not to the freedom of Jesus Christ.

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