Beliefs Culture David Gibson: Sacred and Profane Ethics Institutions Opinion

A Catholic priest’s viral Facebook post on gay marriage, and what it means

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of many books. Photo by Kerry Weber, courtesy of James Martin
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of many books. Photo by Kerry Weber, courtesy of James Martin

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of many books. Photo by Kerry Weber, courtesy of James Martin

The Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage brought the predictable wave of responses, of jubilation and despair, and a lesser amount of sober commentary. And there was also the predictable, but still overwhelming, storm of social media, and the attendant backlash, especially from religious voices.

The Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit priest and popular author who we regularly cite at Religion News Service, and he felt so moved by the nastiness that he wrote a brief Facebook decrying the fact that, as he put it, “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,” he wrote.

Then he hit “post,” and whoa, the online mob went out and proved him right.

Martin has an impressive following on both Facebook and Twitter but even he seemed stunned at the reaction: Nearly 18,000 comments — many sharpy critical — 140,000 shares, almost 400,000 “likes,” and about 28 million — yes, million — views — and climbing.

Here is a recent screen shot of the post:

A screen shot of Jesuit Father James Martin's Facebook post on anti-gay reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

A screen shot of Jesuit Father James Martin’s Facebook post on anti-gay reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

Martin also did a follow up post about the negative reactions.

Was what he said that controversial? Is it because he is a Catholic priest? Or did he just happen to find the the sweet spot — or the bitter heart — of a digital hurricane?

Over at, another RNS fave, editor Phil Lawler, wrote a commentary on Martin’s lament wondering if he was overreacting: “So is sarcasm now prima facie evidence of hatred?” Lawler wrote.

“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.”

Father Martin’s comments showed he wasn’t upset with the Supreme Court ruling, so he has to expect such blow back, Lawler concluded:

“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.”

Your reaction?


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


Click here to post a comment

  • I read Fr Martin’s subsequent FB posting highlighting the responses he got. My favorite was this:

    “You are a horrible person. My church does not hate.”


  • Following Biblical commandments is very hard. It has always been hard and Jesus already forewarned His followers that, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.”

    Wonder what Jesus meant by ‘narrow gate’?

  • I have never had a problem with gay people getting married except for the fact that I would wonder ‘why?’ they would want to get married. After they have endured the severity of ‘divorce’ enough times and everything that they had worked for is now gone maybe there will be a demand to repeal the decision. They have every right to be officially married but the trend today is in the opposite direction. One thing for sure is that we humans are lost, stupid and insane.

  • Fr. Martin’s comment seems to be the proper Catholic response to the hatred spewed, yes. He is not agreeing to gay marriage, he is responding to hateful comments and general discrimination of gay people. No one is surprised by the ruling, wrong as it is, but any hatred should go to the redefinition of marriage….not to the individual gay person.

  • Where is the holiness preaching of the gay pastors? I’d like to say it’s laughable to expect these SD o-calld gay Christians to preach something other than licentiuosness. Those gay pride parades that include the usual liberal denoms, are as far away from the Gospel teachi n g of repentance and forgiveness as the east is from the west. Anything that even remotely looks or sounds like accountability is labeled bigotry and hate.

    That a Jesuit is opining about some poor pitiful nice gays he knows. He should take a night time trip into the parks and public bathrooms where gay pride takes on a whole new meaning. The whole religious gay pride movement preaches LGBT demands wrapped in the blood of Pederasts and Sapphoites and the Gospel is just some old paper to line the birdcage with. If some Jesuit wants us to show love to homosexuals, should not the homosexual show at least some understanding that homosexuality is impossible to fathom to 98.9% of the rest of mankind?

    Cmon now.

  • “he is responding to hateful comments and general discrimination of gay people”

    Something you had no problem making or supporting in others. You can count yourself among the people he is criticizing.

    He said nothing about disapproval of gay marriage. Like many excuses religious types use to engage in bigotry, your take is dependent on reading between the lines and ignoring the spirit of what was said.

  • Where is the holiness of reviling a group of people, making up defamatory comments concerning them and using blanket ridiculous stereotyping?

    I guess for many that IS what passes for holiness.

  • Larry, you are a one way street. If you saw a child playing out in the highway, then going out and moving the child to the curb, and then scolding that child is not hatred, but Love. Please, understand that you are very bigoted in your statements. The Catholics here are trying to get those who are in grave danger to correct their ways. Father has his approach, but at some point he has to get to the issue at hand (read Matthew 18:15-18)

  • “Love first…” – Father James Martin

    If all we need is love
    Religion is in the way!

    “Avoid them” – (Romans 16:16)
    “Hate them” – JESUS
    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS
    “Kill Homosexuals” – JESUS (Leviticus 20:13)

    Before you tell me Jesus is not God – as in, ‘Jesus did not write Leviticus’ –
    you be sure to think through where that argument leads!

  • Most of the people I know that have gotten married have already been together for decades. They’re not getting divorced, unless their divorce is forced upon them by good ol’ Christian love. Just because heterosexuals treat their marriages like trash– probably because they have never had to fight for them, but just assumed their heterosexual privilege– doesn’t mean that gay people, in general, will do so.

    As for lost, stupid, and insane, I would suggest you try atheism rather than religion, especially if you are a so-called Christian of the moralizing, judgmental, busybody, hatre-and-call-it-love type.

  • But I’m not a child, greg, and I neither want nor need your or your church’s hypocritical guidance, non-existent love, or any of the rest of it,.

  • “He should take a night time trip into the parks and public bathrooms where gay pride takes on a whole new meaning.”

    Why, have you?

    Actual knowledge of the subject shows that it is generally closet, married, pretend-heterosexuals who are out cruising the parks. just ask Larry Craig.

    And if the version of the gospel you use constitutes the kind of lies and bigotry you demonstrate, then the bottom of the birdcage is exactly the right place for it.

  • Greg1 stop pretending you give a crap about other people. You are lying to me and using a canned response. Your version of “love” and “concern” is indistinguishable from hate and malice. You are simply trying to excuse bad behavior by pretending it is something better. You are full of crap. Quoting the bible does not make you any more honest or show you are remotely capable of love and concern. Just that you are too spineless to own up to your own opinions.

    You are trying to pretend the Father was not addressing you. He was. It was obvious. Nobody is fooled.

  • 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.

  • No Larry, you are accusing me of something that exists only in your world. My concern is for all those who are heading towards the eternal abyss, and rather than stopping and taking pause, have only put on their sunglasses, and picked up the pace. My concern is two-fold: first and foremost, what did Our Lord say?: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). So our concern is principally for the sinners. Secondly, our country is made up of many weak minded people, who are born followers. And when the law of the land becomes hell-bound in its standards, then those people will meet their logical end. But when the laws of the land are principled and godly, then the followers will find eternal bliss. I myself can fight the good fight, but the weak are the ones I’m very concerned about. People have not idea what awaits them; that is very frightening.

  • Oooh, they are going to hell if I can’t be allowed to treat them like crap.

    Why do you hate America so much? Why do are you so hostile to its freedom?

  • When you “vehemently disagree” with the fundamental dignity and equality of people, and pretend despite all credible science that fundamental aspects of their being are merely perverse choices, then you are expressing hatred.

    So, if you do, please stop mocking Jesus by calling yourself his disciple. You may be a disciple of some angry Biblical proof-texting cult. But, you are no Christian.

  • You are truly no help. If you are not LGBT, then I wish you would not write on the topic here on this site.

  • Martin’s case in point, right here, clearly illustrated.

    Or, should I judge every straight man by all those who rape their daughters and kill their wives? And that despite living in a culture which favors them, protects them, and caters to their every need and desire?

  • You are not God. If you are going to pretend to be such, though, then enforce the entire Bible, not just the bits that suit your homophobia.

  • No, its just you, Larry, whatever species you belong to. You are a boorish dilletante who takes the opposing side of everything as if you are in a high school debate club. You are the poster child for nerds, and just why they are bullied rightfully.

  • Ted,

    “If you are not LGBT…you are no help”

    If one is not Jewish he cannot protest Hitler!? Ridiculous.

    Anyone who argues against the bone-crushing, humanity-crushing evils
    of religion is doing the world a favor.

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine and execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)


  • I followed many of the comments to Fr. Martin’ post. I must say that I did see quite a few posts that were nasty and hateful. Other posts quoted the Church’s stance on homosexuality incorrectly. Very little love and tolerance; yes and definite nastiness and hate. It was sad.

  • @Ted,

    “please stop mocking Jesus..”

    Why should anyone stop mocking the instigator of these vile hatreds against gays? Jesus started it!

    “Kill Homosexuals” – God/Jesus (Leviticus 20:13)

    If Jesus didn’t mean it – THEN WHY DID HE SAY IT ?

  • If you are not LGBT, you should show some respect for those of us here who are LGBT Christians, and stop commenting. Your comments are inflammatory and stupid, to anyone with a shred of Christian theological and practical experience.

  • I must Repent! Postin is wron. Only one guy can post under one name. Repent! Gettin gossip posted is wron. Repent! I don’t get sex so I don’t need to Repent that one! Repent anyway! I have trouble bein able to type the letter “g” sometime so I need to Repent! and be spewin more scrapture so I have to Repent more bein sharp tonued! Repent!

    Repent! Bring out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!
    Repent! Bring out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!
    Repent! Brin out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!
    Repent! Bring out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!
    Repent! Bring out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!
    Repent! Brin out your Dead! Bring out your Dead! Repent!

    (apoloies to Monty Python)

  • Larry your world has two doors by which people can enter it: either they agree with you, or they are a hater. You might have a mild case of bipolar disorder. They do have medication for that. I’m only trying to help.

  • Regina, the Church’s position is clear, and most here are very charitable in that regard, but this latest Extreme Court Decision on gay marriage should be a clarion wake up call to the Church, and to its bishops. At some point, you have to draw a clear distinction between being charitable, and participating in the grave mortal sins of others.

  • I agree with this to a point. That point is that you love those with SSA just like anyone else! I also agree that those committed SSA unions SHOULD have all of the Civil rights (some say 1,300 or so!) as Heterosexual unions. No one should ASSUME that those with SSA are NOT seeking to be chaste! The institution of Marriage, in God’s law, will always and only be between 1 man and 1 woman, period. From what I can garner, those who wanted this change SWEAR they only wanted the civil rights. But, now I’m wondering how many also want to add the DIGNITY of the Institution of Marriage to the SSA union. That’s where I differ. Our country needs to step forth and finish this off in a way that respects all. A name change is absolutely necessary to prevent the chaos and confusion and turmoil which will likely result otherwise.

  • Roman Catholics – if marriage is a God-ordained sacrament intended solely for one man and one woman, what then are the “marriages” of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims (except ISIL and Boko Haram) and other religions/non-religions? Are they bankrupt morally as well, since they don’t see their union as God-ordained?
    Where’s the howls of outrage and protest against them?

  • Perhaps the good father forgets how many catholic children were abused by church pedophiles, and how much of the parishioner’s donations have gone to lawsuits and damages to victims? Rather than dealing with these crimes head-on, now we get a simpering ‘God is love so accept these things’ and therefore the message is, God is love for everyone EXCEPT his own flock and their children, their wasted but very hard earned resources, and the future of their progeny. All for what???? Indeed the topic touches on some FEROCIOUS wounds, all unadressed, all ignored, and it shows when that poison is now fed to the flock as God’s Will. Snake talk from our Jesuits.

  • There is no confusion, except in your mind.

    You want a religious marriage? go to your church.

    You want a legal marriage? Get a license from the state. a CIVIL marriage license.

  • You are concerned about turmoil and chaos?

    Then learn to mind your own business, and stop worrying about mine. All of your confusion, chaos. and turmoil will disappear.

  • “If your brother should commit some wrong against you. . .” (Matthew 18.15)

    Precisely what wrong is being committed “against you”?

    Perhaps Fr. Martin knows the passage well. Quite possibly better than you.

  • @Laurence
    um, NOT…. Jesus is not the “narrow gate”. He is talking about the “way” to life is a cramped road, hard to get through a “narrow” gate or passageway. It would not be “easy”. In contrast the road to destruction is broad and spacious. This is to say that “anything goes” on that road, plenty of room to roam spiritually. MANY people are on that road to destruction and most don’t even know it. Why? (2Timothy 4:3-5) 3 For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the wholesome teaching, but according to their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers to have their ears tickled. 4 They will turn away from listening to the TRUTH and give attention to false stories. 5 You, though, keep your senses in all things, endure hardship. Paul says to (true)Christians that they would experience “hardship”. That’s the “narrow gate”.


    Your God wants LGBT people killed.


    “the only cure for homosexuals is that they be put to death” – Pastor Robbie Galaty,
    Tennessee Megachurch Sept 2014

    “I have not come to abolish the law” – JESUS

  • What do you have against nerds, JR? Why do you think they are “rightfully bullied?” Do you support the active mistreatment of other people because they fall into a social group that you find disagreeable?

  • Telling your wonderful friends their sinful behavior is OK even though it will earn them eternal punishment is not love. That is the opposite of love. It is pure selfishness. You are putting the pleasure of your temporal relationship above their best interests. Love is telling them the TRUTH.

  • God said a marriage is between a man and a woman. I do not understand why that is so difficult to understand.

  • Gloria,

    “God said…why is that so difficult to understand?”

    The Bible is full of things which are easy to understand:


    “And the daughter…if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” – GOD (Leviticus 21:9)

  • Thanks for the link. I followed it and learned a whole bunch about the pervert-promoter James Martin. I never trusted this Jesuit, and now that SCOTUS has delivered their nefarious decision, he is slinking out of the shadows of the Lavender Mafia and starting to make his true beliefs known.

  • I read Fr. Martin’s comments and I was appalled. How can a Catholic priest so misunderstand his own people. As a journalist I wrote about religion for seven years. I’m an active Catholic in that I work against euthanasia and have volunteered at several Catholic food programs and hostiles. I am friends with many Catholics for all walks of life. And yet the worst comments I’ve heard to not come from believing Catholics. Many of us have gay friends (I do) and yet opposed same-sex marriage. Fr. Martin should no better. For one, he can’t prove it. It was thoughtless. As for the reaction to his post, David, you can’t seriously gauge the truth from online reactions. Especially given the anonymity. You don’t even know the people posting nasty messages are Catholics. Does this mean there are no Catholics who betray their faith with hatred? Of course not. There are creeps in every facet of society but as a group we are not haters. Shame on Fr. Martin.

  • “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.”

    Those Catholics who disagree with the teaching on contraception also tend to accept “gay marriage.” The teaching on contraception, which I accept, is logically tied to the teaching against homosexuality: the unitive and procreative cannot be separated. Secondly, where does the Catechism teach “that we must all accept our sexual identity,” if that means accepting that there is nothing wrong with acting on same-sex attractions? I don’t think you will find such a teaching.

  • I’ve often thought of heterosexual marriage as “having your cake and eating it too.”

  • Larry, your comments re: Greg1 are hateful and judgmental, You are judging his character and his motives. Can you even see that?

  • They are legal contracts just as heterosexual marriages before a justice of the peace are legal contracts. Your dissaproval is immaterial. Learn your place.

  • I would love to meet this wonderful Priest. He is a “Jesus” walking among us. Making us as Christians and non as well to give pause to what is truly right I could never see Jesus not embracing these precious human beings. My daughter is among them. The Jesus I know in my heart would also embrace marriage. Until you have been so blessed to be a part of this world. It isn’t right or fair to judge or spout words that would not come out of Jesus’s vocabulary. NEVER!! I feel I am the blessed one. I have been given the gift. The gift of an “open heart”. I pray you all can one day feel what I feel.

  • There are two observations that I would like to make. First, it seems to me, is that some Catholics hope for the same Church Father James Martin does. Yet, the reality in most parishes is not that they do not welcome LGBT, but they ask them to integrate into the rich diverse community already present. There is another challenge also w/ Father’s regular protesting on LGBT issues. Some people welcome his own sexual identity struggle to come out. Others are finding it exhausting.