Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Correcting a point in David Henderson's essay at Public Discourse

David Henderson has an interesting essay up at Public Discourse today. It is well worth reading.


I need to correct Mr. Henderson on one point.  He says:

"[Robert] George’s defense of Fr. [James] Martin lands predominantly on Fr. Martin’s willingness to verbally assent to Church teaching and not on the substance of Fr. Martin’s argument, which remains unaddressed. Several substantive points—including Fr. Martin’s promotion of “Pride” events, his ongoing support of New Ways Ministry and Out at St. Paul’s, and his insistence that the Church adopt LGBT+ nomenclature—do make an appearance at the end of George’s article, but are treated only as minor points of ongoing disagreement. But these issues are not so inconsequential. Taken together, they represent a single critical issue that has yet to be resolved: Fr. Martin’s continued affirmation of sexual orientation as a valid basis of personal identity."

Henderson is absolutely right that the issues he mentioned are not inconsequential. But I didn't say or imply or in any way suggest that they were inconsequential. In fact, the reverse is true. I made a point of highlighting their importance. In the very essay of mine to which Henderson is referring I say, speaking of areas of disagreement between Fr. Martin and myself:

"So where do we disagree? Mainly, I think, on whether same-sex attraction (or other forms of feeling related to sexuality, such as the dysphoria or dysmorphia people have in mind when they use the term “transgender”) is a valid basis for establishing one’s identity, and whether we ought to recognize and affirm identity built around same-sex attraction (or those other forms of feeling). Fr. Martin believes we should. I believe we shouldn’t. This is a deep, multidimensional, and important debate. The right answer will determine, for example, what sort of language we ought to use (“same-sex attracted” vs. “LGBT+”) and whether we ought to affirm celebrations of certain forms of “identity” such as those celebrated in “Pride” parades and other events."

I said--indeed, I have repeatedly stressed--the critical importance of these issues to the pastoral practice of the Church. It is not at all clear to me how Mr. Henderson could have read the words "this is a deep, multidimensional, and important debate," or anything else I have said about the matter in the essay and elsewhere, and concluded that I regard the issues as being merely "minor points of disagreement" or "inconsequential." 

What's more, again in the article to which Henderson refers, I called on Fr. Martin (as I have again since) to refrain from endorsing putatively Catholic ministries that reject the Church's teachings on sexual morality and marriage. Here is what I said:

"I would appeal to Fr. Martin to reconsider his support, which has been enthusiastic and vocal, for organizations such as New Ways Ministry and Out at St. Paul’s—organizations that unambiguously contradict and seek to undermine the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexual morality. His support for these organizations—motivated by his laudable desire to reach out in a welcoming spirit to those whom they purport to serve—leads people to wonder whether he is being honest in saying that he does not himself reject the Church’s teachings. New Ways Ministry has twice been severely rebuked by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Out at St. Paul’s has explicitly claimed that Pope Francis is “wrong” to reaffirm the Church’s teaching on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Fr. Martin stands with the Pope and the Church, as I do. But that cannot be done consistently with an endorsement of Out at St. Paul’s."


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