James Martin (priest, born 1960)

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James Martin

Personal details
Born (1960-12-29) December 29, 1960 (age 58)
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DenominationRoman Catholic, Latin Church
ResidenceManhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationJesuit priest, author
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania

James J. Martin SJ (born December 29, 1960), also known as Jim Martin, is an American Jesuit priest, a writer, and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America.[1] In 2017, Pope Francis appointed Martin as a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications.[2][3] Some of Martin's views, especially on homosexuality, are controversial among Catholics.[4][5]

Education and career[edit]

Martin grew up in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States, and attended Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.[6] He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1982 and worked in corporate finance at General Electric for six years.[7]

Dissatisfied with the corporate world, he became more deeply involved in the Catholic Church and decided to enter the Society of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits) in 1988. During his studies to become a Jesuit priest, Martin earned a M.A. in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago in 1994, a M.Div. from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in 1998, and a Th.M., also from the Weston School, in 1999.[8] He was ordained a priest in 1999.[7]

In addition to his work at America magazine, Martin has written or edited more than 10 books, many of which are largely about his own experiences. He is a frequent commentator for CNN, NPR, Fox News Channel, Time magazine, The Huffington Post,[9] and other news outlets, and has written several op-ed pieces and blogged for The New York Times.[7] His most recent op-ed for the Times, published on April 10, 2019, dealt with privacy and transparency in the scripture and in our spiritual lives.[10]


Martin is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company.[11] His involvement with the 2005 stage production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and featuring Sam Rockwell, John Ortiz, Eric Bogosian, and Callie Thorne, is the subject of Martin's book A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions (Loyola Press, 2007). Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review.[12]

The Colbert Report appearances[edit]

On September 13, 2007, Martin appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report to discuss Mother Teresa's fifty-year sense of abandonment by God which had much coverage in the media at the time.[13] Martin appeared several more times on The Colbert Report, once to discuss Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the U.S. in April 2008,[14] and again on February 23, 2009, to discuss how poverty (or, at least, reducing the importance one places on material goods) can bring one closer to God.[15]

On March 18, 2010, Martin was invited to the program in the wake of Glenn Beck's suggestion that Catholics run away from priests who preach "social justice".[16] Martin noted that "social justice addresses the things that keep people poor" and "asks you why are these people poor." He added that "Christ asked us to work with the poor. ... In the Gospel of Matthew He says that the way that we're going to be judged at the end of our lives is not what church we prayed in or how we prayed but really ... how we treated the poor." On August 10, 2011, Martin appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss God's "approval rating" and to promote his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life.[17] On November 9, 2011, he appeared once again to promote his book concerning humor and religion, Between Heaven and Mirth.[18] On February 11, 2013, he went on the show to discuss the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.[19] On September 24, 2013, he was on the show, talking about an interview where Pope Francis said that love, compassion, and mercy are more important than the rules (within a subtext of Pope Francis washing the feet of criminals, wanting a more prominent role for women, saying atheists can be redeemed, not judging gays and lesbians, and that we cannot serve money and God at the same time),[20][21][22] and introducing Metallica.[23] On September 24, 2013, he appeared to discuss income inequality and the Pope's emphasis on economic justice and on the importance of caring for the poor.[24]

Critique of anti-Catholicism in the media[edit]

Martin has written about anti-Catholicism in the entertainment industry. He argues that, despite an irresistible fascination with the Catholic Church, the entertainment industry also holds what he considers obvious contempt for the Catholic Church. He suggests: "It is as if producers, directors, playwrights and filmmakers feel obliged to establish their intellectual bona fides by trumpeting their differences with the institution that holds them in such thrall."[25]

Controversial views[edit]

The publication of Martin's book Building a Bridge in 2017 has led to controversy among Catholics.[4][26][27] In it, Martin called for a closer dialogue with the LGBT community.

The book was hailed by several prelates, including Bishop Robert McElroy, Cardinals Kevin Farrell and Joseph Tobin.[28][29] According to journalist Frank Bruni, Martin did not "explicitly reject Church teaching" but question the language of the doctrine describing homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered".[30] Building a Bridge has been contested, notably for its "perceived ambiguities" and its "lack of engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships".[4][31] Senior vaticanist Sandro Magister wrote that the book "upends the teaching of the Church on the subject of homosexuality, legitimizing relations between persons of the same sex".[32] In a critique of his book, Cardinal Robert Sarah described Martin as "one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality".[33][29][34] In 2018, Cardinal Raymond Burke stated that Martin has "an 'open' and wrong position on homosexuality".[35][36] In a column, Martin explained that he has never challenged the authentic Church teaching and never will.[37] But some critics have pointed out that nowhere in his book Martin has affirmed the Church's magisterial teaching to be true.[38][39] Princeton professor Robert George fully accepted that Martin believed in the orthodox teaching but this explanation did not convince conservative activist Austin Ruse or Father Thomas Petri, academic dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception.[38][40]


Martin's book My Life with the Saints (2006) was the winner of a 2007 Christopher Award.[41]

In May 2007, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wagner College on Staten Island, New York.[42]

In May 2012, Martin served as commencement speaker at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia,[43] Saint Louis University in St. Louis, and Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania. He received an honorary degree from each school as well.[44]

In May 2014, Martin served as commencement speaker at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and received an honorary degree.

In November 2015, Martin was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Regis College, the Jesuit theological college at the Toronto School of Theology.


Books authored[edit]

  • This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa (Orbis Books, 1999), which tells of Martin's experiences in the early 1990s working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nairobi, Kenya, and helping East African refugees start small businesses.
  • In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience (Sheed & Ward, 2000), which is the story of Martin's call to the priesthood and the early days of his Jesuit vocation.
  • Searching for God at Ground Zero (Sheed & Ward, 2002), which contains Martin's reflections on God, evil, love, and hope as he ministered to rescue workers at Ground Zero in the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints (Paulist Press, 2006) tells of the influence the writings of Catholic spiritual writers Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen have had on Martin's life.
  • My Life with the Saints (Loyola Press., 2006), Martin's memoir, chronicling the lives of some Catholic saints and other holy men and women and how they have touched and guided his life.
  • Lourdes Diary: Seven Days at the Grotto of Massabieille (Loyola Press, 2006), an account of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
  • A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions (Loyola Press, 2007).
  • The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (Harper One, 2010), Martin explains how Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola helps people with practical spirituality.
  • Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (HarperOne 2011) looks at the connection and relationship between humor, joy, and faith.
  • Jesus: A Pilgrimage (HarperOne, 2014): Martin describes his personal travels in the Holy Land, expounds on Bible passages associated with the sites that he visited during his travels, and relates the passages to current life.
  • Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus (HarperOne, 2016) Offers a portrait of Jesus, using his last words on the cross to reveal how deeply he understood our predicaments, what it means to be fully human, and why we can turn to Christ completely, in mind, heart, and soul.
  • The Abbey: A Story of Discovery (HarperOne, 2016) A novel about how God works in our lives. The protagonists discover the power of God to bring healing and wholeness to our lives.
  • Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (HarperOne, 2017).

Books edited[edit]

  • How Can I Find God? The Famous and Not-So-Famous Consider the Quintessential Question (Triumph Books, 1997).
  • Professions of Faith: Living and Working as a Catholic (with Jeremy Langford) (Sheed & Ward, 2002).
  • Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions (Loyola Press, 2004).
  • Celebrating Good Liturgy: A Guide to the Ministries of the Mass (Loyola Press, 2005).


  1. ^ "James Martin, S.J." America Magazine. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  2. ^ "Pope taps James Martin and EWTN chief as communications consultants". Crux. April 12, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  3. ^ "Father James Martin appointed by Pope Francis to Vatican department for communications". America Magazine. April 12, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Archbishop Chaput: Fr. Martin deserves respectful criticism, not trash-talking". Catholic News Agency. September 21, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  5. ^ Faggioli, Massimo (December 29, 2017). "Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship". international.la-croix.com. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  6. ^ Holmes, Kristin E. (December 2, 2006). "Every saint's a sinner". Philadelphia Inquirer. Available at www.philly.com (Philadelphia Inquirer Archive).
  7. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved January 21, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Father Jim Martin Preacher and Teacher Bio Page". Beliefnet.
  9. ^ Rev. James Martin, S.J The Huffington Post.
  10. ^ Martin, James (April 10, 2019). "Opinion | What the Bible Says About Secrets". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  11. ^ "Company Members". LAByrinth Theater Company. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  12. ^ "Nonfiction Book Reviews - A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life's Big Questions". www.publishersweekly.com.
  13. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. September 13, 2007.
  14. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. April 21, 2008.
  15. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. February 23, 2009.
  16. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. March 18, 2010.
  17. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. August 10, 2011.
  18. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. November 9, 2011.
  19. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. February 11, 2013.
  20. ^ Spadaro, S.J., Antonio (September 30, 2013). "A Big Heart Open to God: An interview with Pope Francis". America. American Press Inc.
  21. ^ Roewe, Brian (September 25, 2013). "Colbert puts Pope Francis 'on notice'". National Catholic Reporter.
  22. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. September 24, 2013.
  23. ^ "Metallica - "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. January 8, 2014.
  24. ^ "James Martin - The Colbert Report (Video Clip)". The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. January 8, 2014.
  25. ^ "The Last Acceptable Prejudice". Archived from the original on April 3, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  26. ^ Gonzalez, David (September 16, 2017). "Jesuit Priest Stands Up for Gay Catholics, Then Faces Backlash". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  27. ^ Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (September 7, 2017). "Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University's seminary after protests over his LGBT book". The Washington Post.
  28. ^ McElroy, Robert (September 18, 2017). "Bishop McElroy: Attacks on Father James Martin expose a cancer within the U.S. Catholic Church". America Magazine. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  29. ^ a b Magister, Sandro. "Cardinal Sarah Confutes the Pro-Gay Jesuit". Settimo Cielo (in Italian). Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  30. ^ Bruni, Frank (February 3, 2018). "The Scariest Catholic in America". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  31. ^ Chaput, Charles (July 6, 2017). "A Letter to the Romans - CNA Columns: From the Bishops". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  32. ^ Magister, Sandro (September 1, 2017). "Cardinal Sarah Confutes the Pro-Gay Jesuit". Settimo Cielo (in Italian). Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  33. ^ O'Loughlin, Michael (August 31, 2017). "Cardinal Sarah offers critique of L.G.B.T. book, Father James Martin responds". America Magazine. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "Cardinal Sarah critiques Fr James Martin on homosexuality". Catholic Herald. September 1, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  35. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (August 29, 2018). "Cardinal Burke: It is 'licit' to call for the resignation of Pope Francis". America Magazine. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  36. ^ Don Fier (January 10, 2019). "Interview With Cardinal Burke… Be Transformed And Put On The Mind Of Christ". The Wanderer Newspaper. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  37. ^ Martin, James (April 6, 2018). "What is the official church teaching on homosexuality? Responding to a commonly asked question". America Magazine. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  38. ^ a b Henderson, David (September 26, 2018). "The Foundations of the Human Person: Fr. James Martin, Robert P. George, and Daniel Mattson on the Terms of Gay Identity". Public Discourse. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  39. ^ Hitchens, Dan (October 2, 2017). "Fr. Martin Does Not Actually Say". First Things. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  40. ^ Ruse, Austin (June 15, 2018). "Robert George Says We Should Believe James Martin". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  41. ^ "The 58th Annual Christopher Award Winners". The Christophers. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  42. ^ "Commencement News Release 2007". Wagner College. Archived from the original on June 17, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  43. ^ "Saint Joseph's University Announces 2012 Commencement Speakers". Saint Joseph's University. Archived from the original on May 4, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  44. ^ "Jesuits Receive Honorary Degrees - USA Northeast Province of Jesuits". sjnen.org.

External links[edit]