Catholic Responses to Homosexuality: Hatred, or Simple Disagreement?

At Religion News Service, there’s an article about Fr James Martin’s viral facebook post, which, the report notes, has received

140,000 shares, almost 400,000 “likes,” and about 28 million — yes, million — views — and climbing.


RNS follows up by quoting a response by Phil Lawler, who writes that where Martin sees “hatred”, he sees only “profound disagreement”.

Which is it?
This was the first part of Fr Martin’s fb post:

No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality. Even after over 25 years as a Jesuit, the level of hatred around homosexuality is nearly unbelievable to me, especially when I think of all of the wonderful LGBT friends I have.

The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.”

– Fr James Martin, facebook 

And then, Lawler’s response, as quoted by RNS:

In my own surfing through the internet, reading scores of posts on the Obergefell decision, I can honestly say that I did not see a single message, a single comment, that struck me as hate-filled. Perhaps Father Martin’s email traffic is qualitatively different from mine. Or perhaps—far more likely, I’m afraid—he sees ‘hatred’ where I see only vehement disagreement.”


We can speak the truth. Yes, certainly we should avoid making unduly provocative statements. But since we are trying to provoke reactions, we cannot pull all our punches … More to the point, if we’re going into battle—and we are—we need to know who’s on our side, and who’s working against us.”

Religion News Service

Lawler’s claim that he has not seen evidence of “hatred”, only profound disagreement in response to the decision is bizarre. I’ve certainly seen such evidence, and I’ve not been particularly looking. However, we can certainly disagree on the interpretation of specific responses.

More interesting to me, is that he has chosen to interpret Martin’s fb post exclusively in terms of Obergefell – which was not even mentioned in the post, which was concerned with a more endemic, persistent pattern of response to the subject. As an openly gay Catholic myself, I have often experienced such overt hatred myself. For instance, when I have attempted to post reasoned arguments, evidenced based arguments on why traditional biblical interpretations of the handful of may be mistaken (a view held by many professional theologians and biblical scholars), I’ve been accused of being a tool of Satan, deserving excommunication or even exorcism.

The real problem with so many of the Catholic responses to homosexuality, is that while they may well appear to be not hatred, but just profound disagreement, is that they are so selective. Critics will freely point to a handful of verses that appear to condemn homosexuality, but ignore the very many more that condemn other practices – usury,for instance. They will freely quote the Catechism on the evils of homosexuality, but ignore the lines Martin quotes on “”respect, compassion and sensitivity”. (Even where there is no actual hatred on display, there is frequently a gross lack of sensitivity). Most Catholics now accept the right to disagree in conscience with rules on contraception – but refuse to extend the same right to gay men and lesbians, who take seriously the Catechism statements that we must all accept our sexual identity. For gay people, there are profound contradictions in Church teaching on sexuality. These need to be debated, not ignored. –



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