James Martin SJ: Gravity in Face of MSNBC Condescension – UPDATED

Jesus, A Pilgrimage, Excellent New Book!

Having read and followed the work Father James Martin, S.J. for a decade or more, I would be hard-pressed to identify a time when he was less than smiling and serene in his discussions on matters of faith, prayer, church-life and more.

So, it was striking, and meaningful, to see this most temperate of priests bring a respectful-but-grave presence to an MSNBC discussion that, it seems to me, was handled poorly. The participants, save the Jesuit, seemed unserious and complacent-in-ignorance.

Father Martin is not some finger-wagging, down-shouter of a shepherd (all-pulpit-no-pasture and forever on the harangue), and because that is true, and because his easygoing manner is well-known, you would think that his sobriety, here — his stark refusal to budge on the subject of Satanism, and the offensiveness inherent to any Black Mass being “re-enacted” in the public — would make an unusually strong impression on the host, Chris Hayes, and other guest.

You might think it, but sadly, you’d be wrong. No one in this video clip is thinking, “gee, Martin is no lunatic, and his gravity is palpable, so maybe there’s more to this than I know…” Rather, Hayes seems incapable of fully masking his amused condescension toward Martin’s concerns, and is willfully choosing not to hear his words; the two men prefer to travel campus-comfortable tracks, ranging from the predictable to the bigoted to the silly, with a side-trip to pick up a straw man. Check it out:

Notice, Martin addresses the “Black Mass” situation on Harvard Extension’s own terms. That body characterized the insult as a “cultural” event and compared it to a re-enactment of a Shinto Tea Ceremony; Father Martin suggests that a similar “re-enactment” of an anti-semitic or racial horror, like a lynching or a cross-burning, would quite rightly be a denounced as having no place on any campus or indeed in any public place. Why, then, would the mockery of the Catholic Mass be an acceptable insensitivity?

The answer does not come. Instead Hayes and Harvard’s Christopher Robichaud tries to rebut with overarching smugness. Unable to admit “rem acu tetigisti”, Robichaud suggests that Martin is intellectually “sloppy” and risks credibility by rejecting the priest’s very accurate question as a “false equivalency”; his argument essentially boils down to this: “marginalized communities” deserve sensitivity protections and respect, but “big powerful religions” do not. I wonder if he’d be fine, then, with a public burning of the Koran, since Islam, claiming a billion members, is a “big powerful religion.”

After that things get downright specious, with the dishonest claim that this is a “freedom of religion” issue, when it clearly — as a “re-enactment” performed by people claiming no religion at all — is no such thing. Even as a free-speech issue, it would fall foul of Harvard’s own speech code:

Behavior evidently intended to dishonor such characteristics as race, gender, ethnic group, religious belief, or sexual orientation is contrary to the pursuit of inquiry and education. Such grave disrespect for the dignity of others can be punished under existing procedures because it violates a balance of rights on which the University is based.

The video concludes with Hayes and Robichaud constructing a straw man, and pretending that Father Martin, and all of the Catholics offended by the proposed “re-enactment” were trying to define what constitutes religion in opposition to “marginalized” persons. Except, as I said, the schedulers and “performers” of the “Black Mass” were clear that they had no thought of religion, only of culture, when making their plans. That assertion kind of defeats Hayes’ “profound question” out of the box.

All in all, an unimpressive outing from Hayes and Harvard, but Father James Martin continues to be an excellent ambassador for the church, when he is allowed to actually speak.

Ed Morrissey watched the video
this morning and adds his thoughts:

It’s everything you’d expect from All In With Chris Hayes, and so much less … less common sense, less intellectually honest, and less respectful of faith. Renowned Jesuit author Fr. James Martin looks at times like he’d accidentally wandered into a lunatic asylum during this segment, and after watching five minutes of Chris Hayes and Harvard’s Christopher Robichaud treat the now-cancelled “black mass” event like an actual religious practice rather than a hate-speech mockery of the Catholic Mass, Fr. Martin will not be alone in that confusion:

Read the whole thing.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Chris-2-4

    Is there a link to the video?

  • Jack Bradley

    MSNBC is actively Satanic.

  • Adam Frey

    “marginalized communities” deserve sensitivity protections and respect, but “big powerful religions” do not.

    So he’s never heard of the Know-Nothing party, the Ku Klux Klan, or other anti-Catholic movements trying to marginalize us until we finally started to get a degree of respect in America by the mid-20th century? To say nothing of the Catholics who are still persecuted in North Africa or China…

  • Ray Glennon

    Thanks for posting the video and your clear and comprehensive assessment of the (bad) theatre that resulted. There was no interest in an enlightened discussion, just in provoking a controversy and making the Church look unreasonable and narrow-minded. I completely agree that Fr. Jim Martin SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) is a great spokesperson and an agent of the New Evangelization. And I’m about ⅓ of the way through his Jesus – A Pilgrimage and it is excellent.
    Peace and all good.

  • Bill J

    Thanks for posting this video. Father Martin is fantastic here, because he doesn’t fill the space with just another bunch of talking head arguments. He simply projects the seriousness of the matter…the emotional reality, so to speak by the gravity of his expression. He bounces the Harvard guy right into a lapse of confusion, by turning the taking the “sensitivity” and “inclusion” cudgel from his hands and using it for the side of the Church. Robichaud looked shocked for a split moment, like he suddenly became aware that he, yes HE, never conceived of the idea that maybe even Catholics should be granted the very same protection from harassment and bullying that other people enjoy. Shocking. Then, of course, Hayes and Robichaud can’t stand up to a real argument like this, so they retreat down the pundit highway with silly side arguments about those ridiculous people and their spaghetti monster religions….which everybody and I mean everybody knows is meant as anti-religious protest parody, except these two eastern establishment yahoos and they just obfuscate, obfuscate and obfuscate. And Father Martin sitting there as priestly as a priest can be, has the look of a man as rock in the confidence of knowing he represents the moral, historical and cultural heritage of a two thousand year tradition and says nothing to this silliness. Just kind of sad. Thank God for Father Martin.

  • Gail Finke

    They are saying all the same things Harvard said, which were all the same things the students running the event said. Bizarre. My question — and I asked Harvard directly, for a piece that I never did write because they did not respond. “Whose culture is a Black Mass representative of???” No one’s, because there AREN’T ANY Black Masses. At least, none like this one was supposed to be. Bored 18th century aristocrats dabbling in the occult? They were big on Black Masses, or claimed to be. Tiny groups of people who make stuff up as they go along, based on horror movies? They may put on their own Black Masses, I don’t know. But to say that these Satanic Temple folks represent any “culture” at all, much less a “marginalized” one, is just ridiculous.

    The club members said that Catholics upset by this were paranoid. That Harvard and people like this seem to agree bothers me more than anything else.

  • TheDayOfReckoningWillCome

    Chris Hayes is not worth watching. He denigrates anything he doesn’t agree with by making jokes about it and offering smirky rebuttals. It’s the not the first nor last time, all you have to do is watch his archived videos.

  • AnneG

    Can’t find the video link. But, I wonder what the Harvard folks would say if people wanted to hold an actual Santería ritual on campus, including sacrificing chickens or a goat. And Santería is an actual minority religion.

  • Ken

    Was that an actual debate or a Saturday Night Live skit? I know I shouldn’t laugh at such a serious topic but both of those other people were so illogical in their arguments that I laughed out loud. Somehow there was some sort of jumping from Ten Commandments to Flying Spaghetti Monster or something? It was confusing. Need to pray for the guy from Harvard he looks like he has some real hatred for the church.

    Thank God for Father Martin and his patience to sit through that. His answers were consistent and measured. I could never handle being in a situation like that and not start screaming and yelling. Reminded me of a video of Jimmy Akin sitting through an interview during the election of Pope Francis and the woman kept insisting all Catholics are opposed to all the teachings of the church.

  • Ken

    Thanks, I’ll take your word for it and pass on watching any of his videos. Once was enough for me.

  • http://connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com/ CT Catholic Corner

    Chris Hayes is an ex-Catholic turned atheist who has a deep hatred of the Catholic Church. And sadly, Fr. Martin with his progressive (nearly heretical) views lost his credibility long ago with most Catholics. Had Fr. Martin been a respected and credible priest he might have made an impression. The failure is all on him.

  • KL

    Could you please clarify which “nearly heretical” views (NB: that’s not a category of belief; either a belief or view is unacceptable within Church teaching, and should be denounced, or it is permissible and is a matter of personal discretion) you are referring to? I have been consistently impressed by Fr. Martin’s evangelism and advocacy for Catholicism in a media-saturated culture.

  • Beth Turner

    Also interesting that Lucien Greaves describes the Satanic Temple (in his interview with Shane Bugbee) as “anti-cult,” hence anti-culture. So neither does it have any religious themes (they have no belief in the supernatural, or reference to God), no belief in “truth with a capital T,” and they specifically disavow “cult,” the basis of “culture.”

  • Andy

    I area with you most wholeheartedly – I fail to see anything in Father Martin’s public life/writings/appearances that is heretical – please CT identify this things he has said in their totality which are heretical and should be denounced and those that are opinion which are permissible in in the church.

  • MeanLizzie

    “Heresy” is a hell of a word to throw around lightly. I’ve read all of his books. Never found heresy. Now he stands amid fools who jeer at the church and the Eucharistic Christ and defends both with stoic dignity. Some heresy.

  • http://connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com/ CT Catholic Corner

    Take your pick: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/jesuit-magazine-editor-popes-comment-on-same-sex-marriage-against-the-gospel/

    or : http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/05/fr-james-martin-sj-one-of-the-editors-of-america-magazine-has-been-getting-attention-for-some-remarks-he-made-in-a-post.html

    or: http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/what-should-gay-catholic-do

    Watch Fr Martin on PBS or NBC – read his blog or his magazine, watch when he mentions ‘gay’ or “Pope Benedict” and you will see what I and others mean about him. Follow him on Twitter and watch him praising all things gay pride and the gay political agenda- its there to see for all those paying attention to this priest.

  • MeanLizzie

    I appreciated his response to the Ignatian Scoop and found nothing heretical in the rest of it — he is doing something we are allowed to do as Catholics: wondering. In this case he is wondering about the pastoral care of the homosexual person and how the church will be dealing with new realities (such as gay couples wanting to baptize babies) that the Holy Father is also talking about and which will be discussed in great detail in October at the Extraordinary Synod for the Family. I’m not about to call His Holiness a heretic for being concerned about how we as a church can remain true to ourselves and the charge we have been given, while still bringing the message of Christ to gay people…it’s a matter of being pastoral in a way we have not had to be, and likely we will all be developing these ideas throughout our lifetimes. You can certainly dislike Martin if you want, or me for that matter, but I’m not sure you’re entitled to call him a heretic; that would be for his superiors to decide. And I know damn well I’m no heretic.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    This is what passes for intellegence on the left. I’m not surprised. What’s shocking is that those idiots are winning the culture wars.