Father James Martin praised NBA player Jason Collins in glowing terms on Wednesday for becoming the first active professional athlete to come out as gay. His comments provided a sharp contrast to the chorus of Christians who have publicly denounced, downplayed, or dismissed Collins’ sexuality.
“There are many times that Catholics are called to support their gay brothers and sisters wholeheartedly,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “This is one of them. All of us are created by God, and all of us have an undeniable and unassailable human dignity. And part of that dignity is accepting that you are a beloved creation of God.”
Martin noted that “coming out” was often a difficult process that was rife with psychological distress and interpersonal conflict. But he said accepting one’s sexual identity was necessary for “spiritual wholeness.”
“The public honesty of people like Mr. Collins may be especially important to gay and lesbian young people, who sometimes experience a deep sadness and crushing isolation around their identity,” he continued. “As most of us know, they are far more likely to consider suicide, thanks to the often overwhelming social pressures that they face.”
Martin’s post created a flood of feedback, which was both positive and negative. Several commenters took issue with his claim that loving “means first accepting a person, in all their complexity, as God has created him or her,” as it implied that God created gay and lesbian individuals.
“I believe that God creates people like this. Surely no one would choose as an adolescent to be the target of contempt,” he told one such critic.
The Jesuit father even addressed football player Tim Tebow, who was very open about his Christian faith.
“Tim Tebow to say ‘I’m Christian’ was a lot less dangerous than for Mr. Collins to say ‘I’m gay,’” Martin remarked. He later added, “No danger in saying you’re gay? You’re kidding right? Tell that to a young gay boy or a young lesbian. They are bullied and intimidated and are sometimes driven to suicide.”
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