Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has said that the Church cannot back down on its teaching on chastity when dealing with the gay community.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the cardinal criticised the Jesuit Fr James Martin’s book Building a Bridge, which calls for “dialogue” with the LGBT community while accusing Church figures of showing double standards on the issue of chastity.

Cardinal Sarah described Fr Martin as “one of the most outspoken critics of the Church’s message with regard to sexuality”, and argued that while Fr Martin is right to say there should be no double standards regarding the call to chastity, members of the LGBT community must be made aware of the fullness of Church teaching.

Cardinal Sarah said that while this may seem a high standard, especially in the modern world, it would be “contrary to the wisdom and goodness of Christ to require something that cannot be achieved”. He added: “As a mother, the Church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity.”

Fr Martin responded by telling America magazine, of which he is editor-at-large, that the cardinal “misses a few important points”, including “the immense suffering that LGBT Catholics have felt at the hands of their Church”.

Building a Bridge is not a book of moral theology nor a book on the sexual morality of LGBT people,” Fr Martin said. It is an invitation to dialogue and to prayer, and I’m sure that Cardinal Sarah would agree on the importance of both.”

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