Fr. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest in America who sparked controversy with his book urging Catholics to be more accepting of LGBT people, has been disinvited from a prestigious Catholic seminary where he was scheduled to speak.
Theological College in Washington, D.C., said in a statement that "since the publication of his (Martin's) book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary's invitation."
The school explained that the social media backlash has forced it to withdraw Martin's speaking invitation, which was given over a year ago, both in the "best interest of all parties" and "in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy as Theological College celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding."
"In no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made over the recent weeks."
In his book, Martin, who is editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America and a Vatican adviser, laments the "chasm" between the LGBT community and the institutional church and calls on the church to treat LGBT persons with "respect, compassion and sensitivity." He also calls on the LGBT community to reciprocate and reflect those virtues.
Some church leaders, such as Cardinal Robert Sarah, criticized the book for failing to address Catholic teachings on marriage, which state that it is a union solely between a man and a woman.
"The Catholic Church has been criticized by many, including some of its own followers, for its pastoral response to the LGBT community," Sarah wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal earlier in September.
"This criticism deserves a reply, not so much to defend the Church's practices reflexively, but to determine whether we, as the Lord's disciples, are reaching out effectively to a group in need."
The cardinal explained that the Catholic church must support but also share the truth about the requirements of chastity with the LGBT community.
Sarah described homosexual actions as "gravely sinful and tremendously harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them."
"People who identify as members of the LGBT community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the Church about this complex and difficult topic," the cardinal added.
In response to being disinvited by Theological College, Martin said that he expected criticism of Building a Bridge to come from both the "far left" and the "far right."
"From the far left it would be 'Not far enough,' and from the far right, 'Too far,'" he said while admitting that he was still surprised at "the torrent of hatred that it would unleash from the Catholic alt right."
He further pointed out that he was not scheduled to speak at Theological College on LGBT issues, but on his 2014 book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage.
"I wasn't there to talk about L.G.B.T. issues," he said. "And as for handling pressure, what is the worst that could happen? A few protesters? Is that a reason to cancel a talk on Jesus?"
America magazine noted that the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States has also issued a statement in support of Martin in the wake of the controversy.
"All of Father Martin's books are written with the full consent of his religious superiors and in conformity with Catholic Church publishing guidelines," the statement explained.
"Building a Bridge, which was reviewed by the Censor Librorum of the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, received an Imprimi Potest from Fr. Martin's provincial, declaring its suitability for publication."