“Dialogue.” I Do Not Think It Means What James Martin Thinks it Means

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In a column at the Wall Street Journal published late last week, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, explored how the Church can pastorally and truthfully welcome LGBT believers.

The column was succinct, and spoke with an honest and unapologetic clarity on the Church’s teaching on marriage, the family, and chastity. Its criticism of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s recent book for the confusion it has sown drew an immediate response.

In remarks to America Magazine, Father Martin says that his book and his efforts are not a rejection of the Church’s teaching on marriage, sex, and chastity, but an invitation to dialogue.

In his statement of self-defense against the claims in Cardinal Sarah’s op-ed, Father Martin “urged the cardinal to consider why the church’s teaching on homosexuality has been widely rejected by L.G.B.T. Catholics and their families.”

“The only way that the church will be able to answer that question is by listening to them,” Martin went on to say, “which is part of the bridge building I am calling for in my book.”

“Cardinal Sarah’s op-ed inaccurately states that my book is critical of church teaching, which it is not. Nor am I,” Father Martin said. “Building a Bridge is not a book of moral theology nor a book on the sexual morality of L.G.B.T. people. It is an invitation to dialogue and to prayer, and I’m sure that Cardinal Sarah would agree on the importance of both.”

But what is dialogue? And what are its ends?

The errors that beset faithful Catholics in the West in regard to marriage and the family are not new. The arguments that have been thrown at the Church’s feet are indeed the ocean in which we are forced to swim.

One wonders what nuggets of wisdom are yet to be gleaned that have not already been sprinkled throughout every major television network’s weeknight sitcom lineup for years now.

Imagine if the primary response to Arius had been for more “dialogue” with those who rejected the Church’s teachings on the Trinity.  After all, I’m sure they felt pretty bad that the Church didn’t agree with the way they saw things.

Thank goodness nobody poo-pooed the Dominicans’ response to the Albigensian heresy with nonstop calls to hear them out.

Here’s the thing about dialogue: It must, by definition, be a two-way conversation – this is what keeps it from becoming a monologue. If the Church is invited to dialogue, in order for a dialogue to truly be a dialogue at all, She must be able to speak back with the Truth, and be heard.

Without the proper end of seeking the truth, a dialogue is little more than idle small talk with no proper end – loose talk with no results.

It is in the doldrums of one-sided chitchat that we abandon our responsibility to proclaim the Truth that we have been given by God, and we act as little more than an ecclesiastical sounding board for all the errors of any given age. And what follows is confusion. Fr. Martin’s book and his ministry have done a fine job of spreading both, as outlined here, here, and in countless other instances.

It is the job of the Church to proclaim the Truth in charity. This cannot be accomplished if Her unchangeable teachings are lost in a monologue that masquerades as a two-sided conversation.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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Nate Madden is CRTV’s congressional correspondent. A convert to Catholicism and South Carolina native living in Washington, D.C., Nate is also an alumnus of the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a fellowship alumnus of both the John Jay Institute and the Claremont Institute. You can follow him @NateMaddenCRTV.

1 Comment

  1. “dialogue” in this case would be ultimately frustrating for those who do not agree with the church’s teachings and have “rejected” them, per Fr. Martin.

    The teachings will not change.

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