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Catholics urge Jesuits to censure Fr. James Martin for lauding image of Mary with LGBT rainbow halo

The Rev. James Martin of New York, New York
The Rev. James Martin of New York, New York. |

A petition has circulated asking the Jesuit Order to censure one of its priests for blaspheming one of the most sacred images of the Virgin Mary.

Life Petitions, a project of the pro-life news site Life Site News, started a petition asking the Jesuit Order to “censure James Martin, SJ, for offending Poland by blaspheming the Black Madonna” one week ago. As of Wednesday morning, the petition had garnered more than 17,384 signatures.

Martin sparked outrage when he tweeted a picture of a Black Madonna painting that replaced the golden halos surrounding Mary and Jesus with rainbow-colored halos.

As the Life Petition explained, the Black Madonna, also known as Our Lady of Czecstochowa, is “venerated and revered in Poland as representing the Virgin Mary, who is the patroness and protectress of the country.”

Martin’s post came as part of a lengthy Jan. 19 Twitter thread in which he condemned Poland, a country where he claimed, "homophobia is rampant" and "LGBT people are on trial for ‘desecrating a copy of the Black Madonna’” with rainbow-colored halos.

After arguing that “there is a long history of portraying (Mary) as part of different faith communities” and ethnicities, he complained that “the LGBT community has few images like this.”

“So it is not surprising that they would add their own symbol, the rainbow, in a respectful way, to a beloved image of their mother,” he said in the thread that included a close-up of the Black Madonna with rainbow halos. “How appropriate that she is weeping, for it her son who suffers whenever an LGBT person is persecuted.”

Emphasizing that “the history of this sacred image is the history of Poland and the Polish people … a history of struggle and resilience, steeped in orthodox Roman Catholicism,” the Life Petition asking for Martin’s censure accuses the Jesuit priest of having “deeply offended Polish religion, history, culture and tradition.”

The petition was addressed to the Superior General of the Jesuit Order and carbon copied to the Polish and American Jesuit conferences.

“This kind of offensive promotion must be given a sharp rebuke,” the petition reads. “Therefore, we ask you to publicly censure Fr. Martin for the offense he has caused to the Polish nation, culture, and religion, and, moreover, for the scandal his behavior has caused to the faithful, generally.”

“The reason people are really outraged at James Martin, SJ, is not just because (he) offended Poland and the Poles, but because he is blaspheming Our Lady and Our Lord with this foul image. Fr. Martin clearly crossed the line with his decision to subvert this holy icon. Please address the situation publicly.”

Over the years, Martin has often received strong criticism from conservative Catholics for his embrace of LGBT activism and his efforts to reach out to the community. Martin has advocated for the changing of church teaching so that same-sex attraction is characterized as “differently ordered” as opposed to “intrinsically disordered.”

According to Martin, “If the church uses terms that are dated, unknown, overly clinical or considered disrespectful or even offensive (as ‘same-sex attracted’ is with most LGBT people), the church risks preventing real dialogue with the group.”

Martin has maintained that “naming LGBT people what they ask to be named is part of the ‘respect’ called for by the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” suggesting that, “If the church desires to address the contemporary world effectively it must consider using the terms by which the world understands itself.”

He has also called upon the Catholic Church to embrace families headed by same-sex couples as one of “many ways to be a ‘family’” besides the traditional nuclear family.

Martin’s advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community has also been met with criticism from prominent figures in other denominations of Christianity.

Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contended that by describing same-sex attraction as “differently ordered,” Martin subverted “the Catholic Church’s understanding of the doctrines of creation, of humanity, of sin, of redemption, (and) of the church” and indicated a desire to seek an “entire re-orientation of the Catholic faith.”

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