DALLAS TWP. — Misericordia University senior Michael Dubinski supports his school’s decision to have the Rev. James Martin, S.J., Jesuit priest, speak at the school’s winter commencement Dec. 17.
Dubinski, who is slated to graduate in May, is aware of Father Martin’s book, which promotes building a relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community as well as several groups petitioning the university to rescind its invitation to the Reverend.
“His (Father Martin) message is not different from church teachings,” Dubinski said. “He speaks about love and peace. There is nothing wrong with that.”
However, there are others who do not agree with Father Martin’s message.
Religious groups such as Coalition of Concerned Catholics, TFP Student Action and Church Militant started an online campaign and petition urging Misericordia to cancel the invitation.
Christopher M. Shea, from the Coalition of Concerned Catholics, mailed a copy of a seven-page letter addressed to Misericordia University’s President Thomas J. Botzman to the Times Leader Media Group that stated the following:
“You must know that his (Father Martin) writing, preaching and advocacy is heterodox to Catholic moral teaching. By his very presence, he gives scandal to this Catholic college, and your acceptance of his appearance gives the false imprimatur that many condone his misguided agenda. We do not, and faithful alum, family and friends throughout this country and across the globe, call on your leadership to defend the Church by disinviting Fr. Martin.”
The Rev. Martin’s book titled, “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” stirred up controversy among some Catholic groups, which spurred them to pressure other institutions to cancel Father Martin’s speaking engagements.
“Father Martin’s publication, which seems to underly the concerns expressed by many in opposition to the University’s invitation for him to serve as commencement speaker, was written with the full consent of his religious superiors and in conformity with Catholic Church publishing guidelines, having been reviewed by the Censor Librorum of the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus and having received an Imprimi Potest from Father Martin’s provincial, declaring it suitable for publication,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said in an emailed statement.
Misericordia University refuses to cancel the Rev. Martin’s address to over 300 graduates, sasid Paul Krzywicki, assistant director of Marketing Communications at Misericordia University.
“Misericordia University is a Catholic institution established in the traditions of the Sisters of Mercy,” Krzywicki said. “We are committed to a mission of fostering intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and respect for everyone in an environment where all are welcome.”
Krzywicki said Father Martin was nominated in 2016 to be the keynote speaker at the seventh annual winter commencement.
The suggestion went through the university’s approval process, which is consistent for every commencement speaker, Krzywicki said.
The Diocese of Scranton also supports the university’s decision to keep the commencement speaker.
“Misericordia University has followed the protocol expected of a Catholic university in extending an invitation to Father Martin to serve as its commencement speaker,” Bishop Bambera wrote in an emailed statement. “It is understood that neither Father Martin nor any speaker at a Catholic university is to offer commentary that conflicts with Catholic teaching.”