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After cancellations over LGBT book, Cupich invites priest to Chicago

After a Jesuit priest’s new book about gay and lesbian Catholics ruffled some feathers and led to canceled speaking engagements, Cardinal Blase Cupich (pictured on July 17, 2017) extended an invitation to the priest to come to Chicago during Lent next year. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After a Jesuit priest’s new book about gay and lesbian Catholics ruffled some feathers and led to canceled speaking engagements, Cardinal Blase Cupich extended an invitation to him to come to Chicago during Lent next year.

In recent weeks, Father James Martin was set to give three talks at various organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom. Though none of those discussions were to focus on his book, its subject matter came under fire, and the talks were canceled. Last week, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Martin will be speaking at Holy Name Cathedral during Lent 2018.

Asked if those cancellations factored into his invitation to Martin, Cupich told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I wanted to make sure that I affirmed what he was doing. I think those moments of not inviting, or disinviting him were very unfortunate and I wanted to let him know that I supported him.”

Martin’s latest book, “Building a Bridge,” was published last June. The goal of the book, he said, was to “build a bridge of respect, compassion and sensitivity between the institutional Catholic Church and the LGBT Catholic community.”

Several cardinals endorsed the book, which was published with the blessing of Jesuit leaders.

Martin, who has authored more than a dozen other books and is an editor at large at America Magazine, said a recent New York Times story on the book led to the fiery, and largely baseless, criticisms.

Father James Martin | Facebook photo

Three entities — which Martin referred to as the “Catholic alt-right” with a “tenuous grasp” on the facts — pressured organizations to cancel his engagements.

Among those is “Church Militant,” a Detroit-based group “that is dedicated to informing and educating Catholics about the One True Faith through digital media.”

In a video posted to Church Militant’s Twitter page in response to Martin’s book, Christine Niles, the site’s executive producer and editor in chief said, “I want to lay it out in very clear and stark terms. Father Martin, quite frankly, promoting intrinsic evil.”

Martin said he “was delighted” to be invited to Chicago amid the cancellations.

“It was also a vote of confidence from a highly respected church leader for what I’m trying to do with this book,” he said.

Asked if, in his invitation to Martin, there was a message for more conservative members of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cupich urged parishioners to reach their own conclusions.

“This is a priest who has given his life for the service of the church,” Cupich said. “He’s been very dedicated, he’s well-respected. The Holy Father appointed him to a commission in Rome. So, I would just say to people: Make up your own decision, your own mind about him, by reading exactly what he wrote.”

That may be the case, as “The news of the cancellations, I would say, tripled the weekly book sales,” Martin said.

On the whole, Martin said reception to the book has been positive.

“I have the support of 99.9 percent of the Catholic faithful,” he said. “When I go to parishes, it’s hugs and thank yous. And Jesus is very close to me in prayer, and I have his support, too, which matters most.”

“Frankly, it’s the right thing to do, which goes a long way.”