So I agree with Fr. Martin that an intolerable tension now exists in the Church’s attitude toward sex, but I disagree about how that tension should be resolved. More than Allah or Christ, sex is the great god worshipped across the globe. What one of our greatest Catholic commentators calls the “horny industrial complex” rules the world: selling products, justifying the destruction of families, impelling the transformation of law. Fr. Martin wants the Church to make a more perfect peace with this god. I want it to offer more consistent resistance.
Regrettably, but unavoidably, resisting untruth will require Catholics to be rude. This is why, much as I sympathize with certain points he makes, I reject Fr. Martin’s call for civility. Either the Catholic Church is right in what it teaches about human sexuality, or it is wrong. A great many people are convinced that the latter is the case—and thus that any expression of the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts will be insensitive and disrespectful. There is no phrasing so artful, no speaker so refined, that Catholic teaching can be pronounced without offense.
This seems to be Fr. Martin’s view. As far as I can tell, he has never found words in which to defend Catholic teaching on homosexuality. This fact is striking. If Fr. Martin, with his winning smile and pleasing voice, his rigorous Jesuit formation and gilded Wharton degree, his friendships with celebrities and appointment at the Vatican, cannot find a polite way to express Christian teaching, then no one can. No Catholic priest is more at home in fashionable society. No modern spiritual master is better equipped to make the faith clubbable. Judging by Fr. Martin’s silence, it simply cannot be done. On homosexuality, and not just on homosexuality, Christian teaching inevitably offends.