Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who consistently blurs the line on Catholic teaching regarding homosexual acts, has claimed that Pope Francis encouraged him to continue in his brand of “ministry” during a private meeting they shared in 2019. However, according to several American bishops, Pope Francis is allegedly “displeased” with how that meeting was manipulated to enforce a political agenda.
According to Catholic News Agency (CNA), Pope Francis met with bishops New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, where they discussed a range of topics. When the discussion shifted to his 2019 meeting with Father Martin, Pope Francis allegedly became “angry” as he expressed feeling “used.”
“The Holy Father’s disposition was very clear, he was most displeased about the whole subject of Fr. Martin and how their encounter had been used,” one bishop told CNA. “He was very expressive, both his words and his face — his anger was very clear, he felt he’d been used.”
Pope Francis granted Father Martin a private audience shortly after Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput publicly pointed out “a pattern of ambiguity” in the priest’s work.
“I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims,” Chaput said at the time.
Shortly thereafter, Martin and Pope Francis met, which was interpreted by some members in the Catholic media as a rebuke of Chaput’s column, specifically designed to legitimize Father Martin. The bishops who met with Pope Francis this week, however, disputed that interpretation as the pope “made his displeasure clear.”
“He told us that the matter had been dealt with; that Fr. Martin had been given a ‘talking to’ and that his superiors had also been spoken to and made the situation perfectly clear to him,” one bishop told CNA. “I do not think you will be seeing that picture of him with the pope on his next book cover.”
Father Martin told CNA in a statement, “I can’t comment on what the Holy Father told me, since he asked me not to share the details with the media, other than to say that I felt profoundly inspired, consoled and encouraged by our half-hour audience in the Apostolic Palace, which came at his invitation.”
CNA added that Martin’s work has also been discussed by “numerous Vatican congregations and that some officials expressed concern about aspects of the priest’s work.”
Though Martin has positioned himself as an LGBT-friendly priest, he has always maintained he agrees with Catholic teaching on homosexual acts while simply calling for more compassion for such individuals. Last October, however, that facade appeared to drop when he tweeted an article from the Protestant Scripture scholar and theologian Walter Wink, which said that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts should be questioned due to the Bible’s alleged endorsement of slavery. Martin even used the words “interesting” in reference to the passage.
“Interesting: ‘Where the Bible mentions [same-sex sexual] behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether the biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well and nowhere attacked it as unjust,’” he tweeted. “’Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified?’”