The New New Testament

The Catholic Church has had a rough couple of decades. Can a 51-year-old layman from Westminster help turn things around? The pope thinks so.

October 2012

Back inside the classroom at Snow Mountain Ranch, Martin has concluded his presentation and solicits questions. A young woman reluctantly raises her hand and asks in a pained tone, “About gay marriage, I want to be able to explain it to people who question me about it. It’s always been explained to me that being gay isn’t a sin, but performing [those] acts are—outside of marriage. But because they aren’t allowed to get married, that’s where the argument starts.”

She continues as Martin gently encourages her. “One of my best friends is gay, and he is a practicing Catholic. He’s Catholic,” she says. “So he really struggles with the fact that he’s gay, because he doesn’t know how to live out his life. And…I don’t know how to answer that question for him.”

It’s a perfect example of the 21st-century culture Martin and the Church are facing—a world seemingly incongruous with Catholicism’s rigid ideology. And so, in some ways, the young woman’s question is the question Martin and the Church must answer.

Although Martin appears to be sympathetic to her concerns, he offers her a nonanswer that underlines the difficulty the Church has in connecting with a modern audience. He starts with, “This is a great question,” before rambling through a four-minute response during which he repeats “There’s no easy answer” six times. He invokes today’s “hook-up” culture, suggests “there’s a lot of mystery” surrounding the issue, and says God’s answer is the most merciful one. “I think there’s going to be an answer that your generation is going to raise up, because the percentage of people that have gone through this is higher in your generation for many reasons—some we can guess, others we don’t know,” he says. “But I think it’s going to teach us something about love that is going to be profound in our culture.”

For the final time, in a softened voice, he says, “No easy answer” and thanks the young woman for her question.