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CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - While a popular pro-gay priest spoke about Our Lord in a cathedral, 75 faithful Catholics were protesting outside.
Jesuit celebrity priest Fr. James Martin gave the first of two talks at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral Thursday night. This one was about Jesus' human and divine natures.
Traditional Catholics were across the street from the cathedral in a large protest featuring members of Church Militant Resistance. An estimated 75 people took part in the prayerful protest, which was organized by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).
Some TFP members donned the organization's red sashes and bore its tall red banner. Two men from TFP played hymns on the bagpipes while a third man led the singing using a megaphone. The protesters also prayed 15 decades of the Rosary and a slew of other prayers. There were paper programs with the prayers and hymns listed for protesters to follow along.
They also distributed pamphlets produced by TFP entitled, "Are LGBT People Other Christs?" The pamphlet is a rebuttal of comments made by Fr. Martin comparing the exclusion and anxiety of LGBT people to the persecution, Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
A protestor present at the rally wrote:
The crowd for the venue was lined up across the street as they waited to be let into the church. They generally seemed amused at us, smiling in that condescending way but made no comments or gestures — aside from one man who gave us a thumbs-down as he entered the church.
He also told Church Militant, "A couple of people not attending the talk were nasty. One guy on a bus that was stopped in front of us gave the finger, and another guy riding by on a bike made very vulgar gestures and comments."
Protesters' signs bore messages like "Fr. Martin's bridge to sin offends God" and "Purity Yes, Lust No."
In the cathedral, two priests from the archdiocese and a laywoman all took turns at the podium introducing Fr. Martin. One of the priests noted that this event was supposed to kickstart the archdiocese's "plan of renewal."
Martin received loud applause as he took the stage. There were about 1,200 people in attendance, and the Chicago archdiocese had a YouTube live stream. (Since then, the hour-long video has gotten about 500 views.) Chicago's Cdl. Blase Cupich was apparently present off-camera.
Father Martin began his talk by relating a joke about an elderly priest struggling to use a microphone, then offered a prayer. After the prayer, he said, "I first want to thank Cdl. Cupich for his very gracious invitation."
During his reflection, Fr. Martin described some experiences he has had over the years while traveling in the Holy Land. He talked about his quest to find a little-known section of coastline on the Sea of Galilee he calls the Bay of Perils.
He refers to it as a "natural amphitheater" because the bay has a theater-like shape and very good acoustics. (Despite misconceptions, "amphitheater" does not mean "outdoor theater" as Fr. Martin uses it here. It actually means "double-theater," referring to a circular theater with 360 degrees of seating.)
At one point, Fr. Martin let a curse word slip out while standing in the sanctuary. He was describing how confused he once was about a fellow Jesuit's behavior. He recalled that he thought to himself, "What the hell — who is this guy?"
He caught himself and said, "Excuse me!" The audience laughed at his blunder as he looked over to Cdl. Cupich with an embarrassed expression. But he repeated with a grin, "Who the hell is this guy?"
The main thesis of his speech was the fact that Christ is both fully divine and fully human. In emphasizing Jesus' humanity, Fr. Martin claimed that Our Lord "wondered why the stars twinkled. He asked how far away the moon was" — a seeming contradiction of Scripture, which makes clear the world was created through Christ: "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not" (John 1:10).
Martin brought up his favorite example of the Syrophoenician woman. Christ initially seemed to harshly reject the Canaanite woman's request to exorcise her daughter, but her persistence seemed to win Him over (see Matthew 15:21–28). The Jesuit claimed that Our Lord had to "learn" about His mission from the woman: "Perhaps Jesus needed to see things in a different way."
Martin rejected the more traditional idea that Jesus was testing the woman's faith, pointing out that Our Lord's reference to Gentiles as "dogs" seems like a very harsh rebuke. He defended this position by saying, "I have asked multiple New Testament scholars about this."
But he softened his position somewhat, reducing it to more of a hypothesis. He admitted that the passage is difficult to interpret, saying, "It's a very mysterious reading."
Later on, Martin argued that Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders of His day for "legalisms" and "missing the big picture," then said sarcastically, "Thank God that never happens today."
Given Martin's expression and the audience's uproarious laughter, this was likely a jab at the faithful Catholics who had been protesting across the street.
The Jesuit speaker kept emphasizing that the people in the New Testament were "real," in the sense of emotionally relatable. He said, "We forget that Jesus had friends."
"Remember these are real people," Fr. Martin said. "These are real people," he repeated.