Jesuit Father James Martin, an editor at America magazine, has been disinvited from speaking at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with The Catholic University of America, following pressure from online-based groups.
Father Martin was invited to speak Oct. 4 on the theme of encountering Christ. However, the Theological College said that, “since the publication of his book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social-media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation.”
Father Martin’s most recent book has drawn criticism since its publication for its avoidance of discussing the Church’s teaching on celibacy and for its lack of engagement with Catholics who identify as “LGBT” who welcome Church teaching on continence and other issues. In August, Father Martin announced on Facebook that he is currently writing a revised issue of the book, which he says will address the feedback and critiques he has received.
In addition to writing books and speaking, Father Martin has also been appointed to serve as consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and serves as editor-at-large of America.
The Theological College explained that after receiving social-media feedback on his writing, the school decided to withdraw its invitation both in the “best interest of all parties” and “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy as Theological College celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding” at an alumni event focused on remembrance.
“In no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social-media sites have made over the recent weeks,” the school stated.
In response to the decision by the seminary under its auspices, Catholic University of America President John Garvey stated his regret and concern at the situation. While Catholic University retains some authority in some spheres over the Theological College, the seminary remains autonomous in any decisions related to priestly formation at the seminary, as well as over events which take place on seminary property.
In its statement, the university noted that the Theological College’s decision “does not reflect the university’s policy on inviting speakers to campus,” nor the counsel the university gave to the seminary. The university also noted that it invited Father Martin to speak last year on campus.
Garvey stated that the pressure placed upon Theological College over Father Martin’s speech mirrors similar pressures placed upon other colleges for inviting more conservative speakers to their campuses.
“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea,” Garvey said. “It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.”