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.