The New York Times and Father Martin:
by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 26, 2012
As the Apostle James observes of belief in God, "the devils also believe and tremble." (James 2:19) Theirs is not a supernatural faith, of course, but a faith born of experience and diabolical cunning. It is, after all, only prudent to believe and tremble in the presence of the God who has consigned one to eternal damnation.
When it comes to God in the person of Jesus Christ, The New York Times evinces a similar demonic prudence. Suspecting that Christ is just who He says He is, the Times has always been rather overeager to advance any sort of nonsensical claim that questions His divinity. For example, there have been repeated major stories purporting to debunk the Holy Shroud of Turin on the pages of the Times — a curious editorial priority for a secular newspaper. But the Shroud has survived all attempts to falsify it.
Most curious, however, is a front-page headline story in the Times of September 18, 2012. Based on nothing more than a scrap of papyrus of unknown origin and history, whose owner is anonymous, the headline screams: "A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus' Wife." You see, it would be very important for the Times to "prove" that Jesus had a wife, and probably children, as this would suggest He was not divine but just an ordinary man with the usual wife and kids.
The evidence for the suggestion that Jesus had a wife is a lone phrase from this papyrus of unknown provenance (chain of ownership). The fragmentary scrap, supposedly written by a Coptic Christian of the 4th century, states: "Jesus said to them 'My wife ...' " The rest of the sentence, conveniently enough, is missing from the torn fragment. That's it! That's the "evidence" behind the front page story in the Times. Hardly an investigation up to Pulitzer standards.
Now, even if the fragment were authentic — and already reputable scholars are warning it is probably a fake, surprise, surprise — it would prove only that some unknown person wrote "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...'" on a piece of papyrus some 350 years after Our Lord ascended into Heaven. So what? So nothing.
Citing the historian at the Harvard Divinity School (that bastion of orthodox Christianity) who is touting the papyrus, the author of the Times article — Laurie Goodstein, whose beat seems to be undermining the credibility of the Catholic Church — enthuses that this "discovery" could "reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his [sic] wife and whether he [sic] had a female disciple."
Heaping even more weight on the little scrap of dubious papyrus, Goodstein declares: "These debates are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage." Walking her usual anti-Catholic beat, she adds: "The discussion is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church, where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of the model set by Jesus."
Why, that little scrap of papyrus could provoke a veritable revolution against the Church and her outmoded teaching on priestly celibacy and women's ordination! Dream on, Ms. Goodstein.
Even the Harvard historian covered her bases by cautioning that "this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married." That's because He wasn't. It is a matter of revealed truth, attested by 2,000 years of Christian tradition, that "the historical person" Jesus — the very model of the celibate priesthood, as Goodstein admits — was a celibate male, as was only fitting for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And it should go without saying that the very suggestion that Christ had marital relations and fathered children, who would thus be direct descendants of God Incarnate, is both blasphemy and heresy.
Enter Father James Martin, one of those oh-so-modern Jesuit priests. Rushing to the "defense" of Church teaching the next day, Father Martin's Op-Ed column in the Times actually lends support to the attempt to prove that Jesus had a wife, all the while Martin feigns to demur from the suggestion. He writes: "But does this mean that Jesus was married? Probably not [!]. And will this fascinating new discovery make this Jesuit priest want to rush out and get married? No. It is more likely [!] that Jesus was celibate."
Probably? More likely? The unmistakable implication — and Martin must know it — is that this "fascinating new discovery" could mean that Jesus was married. The seed of doubt is planted. In that clever Modernist way, Martin offers some Scriptural arguments against the idea of a married Jesus which actually lend stealthy support to the idea: "Remember that Dr. King's papyrus dates from the fourth century — roughly 350 years after Jesus's life and death. The four familiar Gospels, on the other hand, were written much closer to the time of Jesus, only a few decades away from the events in question. They have a greater claim to accuracy..."
A greater claim to accuracy? The Gospels are the inspired and inerrant written word of God, as the Catholic Church teaches infallibly. But apparently not for Father Martin. They are just documents like any others — like the scrap of papyrus, in fact — which can be viewed as weightier, if one chooses, but only because they are "familiar" and were written closer to the events recorded. And just what does Father Martin mean by "the four familiar Gospels"? Another devious implication: there are all kinds of unfamiliar Gospels floating around out there just as authoritative as the four "familiar" ones, and maybe this papyrus is part of one of these "unfamiliar" Gospels. But probably not.
The "four familiar Gospels," of course, say nothing about any wife of Jesus because Jesus had no wife. For Martin, however, this means only that Holy Scripture "most likely [my emphasis] indicates that Jesus did not have a wife and children during his public ministry, or in his past life in Nazareth." Most likely. Then again, it could be that He was married and had children. We just don't really know for certain, do we?
Thus does the Modernist insinuate the very thing he purports to deny. Deepening the insinuation, Martin writes: "It wouldn't upset me if it turned out that Jesus was married. His life, death and, most important, resurrection would still be valid. Nor would I abandon my life of chastity, which is the way I've found to love many people freely and deeply. If I make it to heaven and Jesus introduces me to his wife, I'll be happy for him (and her). But then I'll track down Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who wrote so soon after the time of Jesus, and ask them why they left out something so important."
Here Martin is deploying another classic Modernist tactic: the statement that even if proposition X in Catholic teaching were proven utterly false, that should not threaten our faith. As if the falsification of Catholic tradition on a matter as fundamental as the celibacy of Jesus Christ, as if the suggestion that there is a line of human beings descended directly from Him who claimed to be divine, could have any other effect! But Father Martin generously allows that he would remain celibate even if Jesus was not, apparently because the celibate life fits Martin's preferences for "loving people" and not for any reason so crude as the Church's bimillenial requirement of priestly celibacy precisely in imitation of Christ. This priestly celibacy business is all quite optional, you see.
Let us be as charitable as possible and assume that Father Martin does not even appreciate what he is up to. Indeed, a Modernist will express shock and dismay at the very suggestion that he is a Modernist. As Saint Pius X observed in his great anti-Modernist encyclical Pascendi, when confronted with their subversion of Church teaching the Modernists "express astonishment themselves," yet "no one can justly be surprised that We number such men among the enemies of the Church, if, leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge, he is acquainted with their tenets, their manner of speech, their conduct." (Pascendi, n. 3)
With friends like Father Martin, the Times does not need non-Catholic enemies of the Church like Goodstein to undermine belief in the celibacy of Our Lord and wreak havoc with the implications of a married Christ who left behind children in the flesh. For the Modernist is an enemy within the Church, who subverts while appearing to affirm, who asserts while appearing to deny, and who is all the more effective because, like Father Martin, he wears the cloth. That is the very reason the Times saw fit to publish Father Martin's equivocating op-ed piece the day after Goodstein announced that Jesus may have had a wife and children.
As Saint Pius X warned the faithful a century ago, the Modernists "put their designs for her ruin into operation not from without but from within; hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain, the more intimate is their knowledge of her." (Pascendi, n. 3) This is the threat of which Our Lady warns in the still-hidden text of the Third Secret of Fatima, whose essence — not seen in the vision published in 2000 — Pope Benedict XVI revealed during his pilgrimage to Fatima in 2010:
As for the novelty that we can discover today in this message, it is that attacks on the Pope and the Church do not come only from outside, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church... the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies outside, but arises from sin in the Church.