Jesuitical Reasoning
Fr. James Martin, S.J.

Jesuitical Reasoning

This must be my month for thinking about my years of 11 years of Jesuit education. While I respect the Jesuits for having taught me how to reason and separate my feelings from my mind, they have used verbal legerdemain to create false impressions. This has caused the birth of the term Jesuitical with regard for a person’s rhetoric. It is not a compliment. Literally the word means a dissembling or equivocation. Synonyms include disingenuous, deceitful, and specious among others. 

Noted Jesuit author Father James Martin recently commented on the abortion issue in the WSJ. My first encounter with him was his 2011 book on saintly humor, entitled Between Heaven and Mirth, The Catholic Journal published my subsequent essay in 2016. His book was wonderfully written and an inspiration for all people, not just Catholics, as to the intimate connection between humor and religious fervor. 

The next time I read about him was in an article about his fierce advocacy for LGBTQ rights and the need for more inclusiveness within the Church. To me it was as if the laughter had died. On its surface, no one should fault his ministry for gay people because they certainly have not been afforded the courtesy and respect all humans deserve. Yet in reality, like most advocacy groups, acceptance is just the tip of the iceberg. Many want power and most often payback. I remember vividly when many gays defiled the Blessed Sacrament at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and verbally profaned Cardinal O’Connor in 1989. This side of the Gay Street deserves no respect at all.

Many of Father Martin’s teachings are in direct contradiction with most members of the American hierarchy. He believes it is good for Catholics to attend and celebrate Gay Pride Week, which now encompasses all of every June. I have experienced a Gay Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City many years ago. My wife Judy and I were on our way to a Broadway play when we had trouble crossing Fifth because the police had closed most of the avenue to pedestrian traffic for several blocks. So, we had to watch some of it as we searched for a passageway to the other side of the street.

With the sole exception of the marching gay fire and police contingents who were uniformed, orderly and reserved, what we saw was liken to an adolescent slumber party of mostly young men, half-naked, cavorting up and down the city streets, shooting huge water guns at each other. The erotic symbolism was too obvious for comment. I also spied a tall black man, sporting a gossamer Teddy negligee. Great fun for the whole family! 

To my mind, Father Martin’s Gay Ministry, though admirable in some ways, does raise some questions. He wants to build bridges for gay Catholics so they can enjoy the full joys of grace and the Catholic culture. I gather that he wants this to be a one-way bridge where the gays will not have to confess their sexual sins or change their behaviors. He wants them to be accepted exactly as they are with no moral growth or change. Father Martin defends their behavior by saying that gays are born that way, though there is not one creditable study that has proven that it has discovered a gay gene. Nurture or a hormonal imbalance wins over nature with homosexuality.

Father later advocated for this and other progressive issues as an editor-at-large for the Jesuit Magazine America. He is on wonderful terms with a fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis, who appointed him as one of his consultors to the Vatican Dicastery for Communications. He officially represented the Vatican in calling for more inclusiveness, using Biblical examples as Jesus breaking bread with social outcasts, such as tax collector, Zaccheaus. He fails to mention the profound spiritual changes that occurred with these sinners.

As for the abortion issue, Pope Francis has added to the overall atmosphere of moral ambiguity that has dominated both of these issues. He has come out and said that about gay behavior who am I to judge?  Yet he has reserved his stern judgments for such non-Catholic figures, such as former President Trump. He has also praised Father Martin’s ministry with gay people, which is fine with me, but the pope needs to be clearer about Martin’s ministry.

With regard for abortion, in a guest piece for the House of Worship column, in the WSJ, Father Martin wrote: Abortion and the Grumbling Crowd. Father Martin thought the issue of Catholic politicians who were pro-abortion but still presented themselves for Holy Communion at Mass had been settled years ago, when Cardinal Wilton Gregory said he would not deny President Joe Biden Communion, despite his public support and promotion of unlimited abortion. The Cardinal is the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, where Biden goes to Mass, when in Washington.

Father Martin should have known that the waters of this issue are quite muddy. The views of the liberal Cardinal are not shared by many of his colleagues. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone declared that Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be barred from receiving Holy Communion in his archdiocese. The Archbishop wrote that a Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion commits a manifestly grave sin which is cause of most scandal to others. He also noted that Universal Church law requires that such persons are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. These Church teachings do not seem to apply to Biden and his Democratic colleagues.

The abortion debate and the Holy Eucharist has been going on since Catholic Senator John Kerry ran for president in 2004. That debate had died down, until Joe Biden became a candidate in 2020. With his election, he became the first Catholic to occupy the White House since the Roe decision in 1973. What should be a non-issue for all Catholics has become a divisive debate, due to the aggressive support of Biden, Speaker Pelosi and virtually all the other Catholics in Congress for abortion rights. 

With one or two exceptions they have accepted the dictates of the Democratic Party’s progressives to support, promote and advance abortion rights to their fullest extent. They have virtually weeded out all prolife Democrats, so that the last ones standing are West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin and one or two in the House. What has emerged has been a clouded atmosphere of confusion and denial among, not only nominal Catholics, but also some Catholics in the pews and more disturbingly a number of prelates. 

The Catholic World Report has written that abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our times. Unfortunately, this view differs from that of Pope Francis. The pope has walked a wobbly tightrope between abortion and the other issues in the pernicious seamless garment doctrine of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s view has been at the root cause for the lack of full momentum for opposing abortion and overturning Roe. Bernardin’s views equated several other issues, such as the death penalty, poverty, and the minimum wage to the most important of the life issues, namely abortion, euthanasia, and fetal stem cell research. Many believe that this was done primarily to protect Democratic politicians.

The sad irony is that during his fatal illness in 1983, Cardinal Bernardin admitted that there was a hierarchy in the life issues with abortion being the most prominent. Since then, his revision has been totally ignored or forgotten. While the pope has acknowledged the importance of the unborn, such as when he called abortionists hitmen, it is his inconsistency that is a problem. In his Encyclical Gaudete et Exsultate he stated that abortion is not the only issue…Equally sacred are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute…, reverting to Bernardin’s origin premise. Unfortunately, Gaudete does not emit respect or allegiance, only confusion and divisiveness, as both sides can cite the quote that favors their views.  

Father Martin also cites Bishop and future Cardinal Robert McElroy, who asks why target abortion, when there are other issues. The bishop noted it is the moral obligation of Catholics to support all Church teachings in their entirety.  Former Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic has supported the death penalty.Yet there has been little outcry over this. McElroy goes further by saying by focusing on abortion, pastors risk politicizing something sacred. The Eucharist must never be instrumentalized for a political end… The liberal wing of the Catholic hierarchy is most consistent when hiding behind Bernardin’s disingenuous seamless garment, worn only by doctrinaire religious and political liberals.  

In answer to the Bishop’s assertion, I smell Jesuitical reasoning, even though he is not one. His is a false equivocation that gives the wrong impression. The gravity of the death penalty had not been recognized in Catholic teaching as a serious matter until 2018. Barr’s and my conscience, as well as millions of others, had been formed on this issue many years before this change in Church teaching. My reason makes this issue part of the grey area of moral teachings. While I am not an ardent supporter, I can understand the reasonable applications for its use.  

Pope John Paul II was the first member of the hierarchy who cast doubt on its necessity. The pope addressed the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae. He indicated in his Encyclical that the reasons for its use as societal self-defense were no longer valid. I could find no citations to any documents that gave cogent reasons for this serious change in Church teachings. This is surprising because this pope has always married faith and reason in most of what he wrote. I did get an insight from a speech by one of his advisors, Helen Alvare, the night before his visit to St. Louis in 1999. She said that in a talk at St. Louis University the pope just did not like to see anyone die. I can only conclude that the pope let his emotions dictate this historic change in Church teachings.

If anything, given the crime statistics in the major cities, the lives of innocent human beings are being devalued and even extinguished as more concern is afforded to sociopathic criminals. The Left focuses on the guilty, offering several psychological reasons, such as mental illness or a broken home, explaining why they should not be punished to the full extent of the law. Given the severe increase in homicides in all or major city and the easy parole of the perpetrators, most American urban areas have become nearly defenseless. They need tougher laws and even the death penalty to protect the innocent who are always the more important part of the human life equation.

Father Martin also quotes the pope as saying that I have never denied communion to anyone…Personally, I do not think this is something to be proud of. One of the pope’s most important responsibilities is to uphold and protect the sanctity of the sacraments. As for Joe Biden, the pope said the president’s public disregard for Church teachings was a question for Mr. Biden’s confessor. But a public sin, such as abortion where one has been consistently resolute in advancing and protecting an evil is a cause for scandal and involves all people, especially the faithful in the pews. The president has been dead, solid perfect with his unqualified public support and extension of abortion. He has actually led his party on this issue with more passion than he has shown for the Ukrainian victims of Russian oppression or any other issue in his playbook.   

The pope says he does not want to weaponize or politicize the Holy Eucharist. Each time President Biden and Speaker Pelosi tell the lie, I am a devout Catholic, they politicize the sacrament and confuse their fellow Catholics. When Pelosi presented herself for communion, in the Vatican in July of 2022, in defiance of her Archbishop and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), it was more a political act than a devout practice. While Pelosi did not receive directly from Pope Francis, his silence gave tacit approval to her actions 

This debates prompts the question: why do so many Catholics not recognize the gravity of President and Speaker Pelosi’s profound act of public disobedience for a profoundly serious Church teaching whose constant violation has resulted in 64 million dead human beings in utero? These self-proclaimed devout Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic host. Polls on this question report several different results. But the consensus is at best, less than two/thirds of Catholic who actually go to Mass and receive Communion, really believe in it. This underscores the blatant fact that the Church and Catholic parents are failing to teach each new generation the real meaning and value of its sacraments. 

While I agree with the pope’s premise about all human life being sacred as it has been created in the image and likeness of God, I think Father Martin’s Jesuit training confuses this issue with his Jesuitical reasoning. He uses the rhetorical fallacy of non sequiturs, which falsely equates the universal threat to the unborn that exists throughout the world with the general state of the amorphous poor. His argument would have substance, only if hitmen were going into all the poor neighborhoods and exterminating them. Remember Hitler started with the mentally ill and the physically disabled before the Jews and eventually tried to eliminate all people unworthy of life. If this were the case, Father Martin might have a point.

Father Martin also cites the Biblical fact that Jesus sought out sinners, such as tax collectors, such as the notorious Zacchaeus and broke bread with them, much to the chagrin of the Jewish people and even some of Jesus’ followers. Even the lowest wit in the Church could see that Father Martin is equating breaking bread with Holy Communion. This is a Jesuitical and even dangerous analogy.  

This was not the Last Supper. The only sinner in attendance was Judas. His presence raises as to whether or not he received Jesus’ Body and Blood at the first actual Mass. I found a column from 2019, Called Catholic Philly. Father Doyle’s answer was that the Gospels are not clear that Judas was still present when the apostles received their first Holy Communion. But if he had been why would Jesus let him receive? Father Doyle said that maybe Jesus let him exercise his free will or maybe he had already atoned for his sin since he had already returned his blood money. This is a question for moral theologians. I pray they won’t be Jesuits. He ends his essay with the self-righteous words, It is no surprise that the controversy and the grumbling continues.

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Written by
William Borst