Like many others who have found themselves aghast at the easy outrage and invective found on Twitter, he tries to ignore the more hateful of his critics. It has not, however, reduced his reliance on social media to connect with people. He started using it 10 years ago to promote “My Life with the Saints,” one of several best-selling books he has written.
“At first I thought I was too busy, but then I realized it could be kind of a ministry,” said Father Martin, who is editor at large at America Magazine (on whose board I once served). “It’s reaching people where they are. Jesus went to where the people were and spoke to them in their language. And he was always going to the margins.”
The reactions he has gotten from many people who have read his latest book has been encouraging. Apart from his call for a dialogue, the second half of the book is devoted to readings and prayer, though that aspect gets lost in the debate over the book. He had long received desperate messages and impassioned emails seeking counsel or prayer through life’s difficulties, and the publication of “Building A Bridge” prompted even more. He gets about 50 messages daily, in which people talk about things like how a priest would not anoint a dying man in hospice care because he was gay; or how someone was fired from a job at a Catholic institution because of their sexual orientation.
But he has also been the victim of ad-hominem attacks, even from other Catholics who, he said, do not seem to remember Pope Francis’s remark that “who am I to judge” if a member of the clergy was gay. He tries to ignore the criticism, but when Catholic Vote, a conservative group, sent out a message – which it said was in jest – that Father Martin had been “beaten like a rented mule” by a Dominican priest, he filed a complaint with Twitter that resulted in the account being temporarily suspended.
That, in turn, prompted Austin Ruse, the president of the Center for Family and Human Rights, to call Father Martin’s reaction “pansified,” dubbing him “Father Snowflake” as well as a “perfidious priest.”
Mr. Ruse, who is also a contributor to Breitbart News, did not apologize for using those words. “They are qualifiers for his bad behavior in lying about the comments of Catholic Vote on Twitter,” he said in an email. “I could have used snowflake for he whimpered for a safe space. He lied and caused Catholic Vote to be suspended from Twitter and held up…