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Popular priest's speech at Catholic University is canceled because of protests over his support for gays

Pope Francis made groundbreaking comments on tolerance for gays in 2013. (Associated Press)
Pope Francis made groundbreaking comments on tolerance for gays in 2013. (Associated Press)

Catholic University of America has abruptly canceled a speech by a well-known, popular Jesuit priest because of protests over his support for gay and lesbian Catholics.

Father James Martin, at-large editor of the Jesuit-run America magazine and an oft-quoted commentator on Catholic affairs, was scheduled to speak at an alumni event at the university's Theological College on Oct. 4.

The college, based in Washington, revoked the invitation following protests from conservative Catholic groups over Martin's new book, "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity."

In it, the prolific author advocates for acceptance of and dialogue with gays and lesbians.

Conservatives mounted what the university called a social-media campaign against Martin and his appearance at the school.

Father John Zuhlsdorf, who runs a blog called Father Z, repeatedly labeled Martin a "homosexualist activist" and called for Catholic institutions not to host him.

Martin has said he was planning a lecture on Jesus and his teachings, not on gay Catholics or on his book.

University President John Garvey said the school was not in agreement with the Theological College's decision.

“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas," Garvey said in a statement posted on the university's website. "Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea."

Jesuits often represent the more progressive ranks of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis, though socially conservative, is a Jesuit -- the first ever to be selected pontiff -- and has also advocated a more tolerant position toward gays.

Francis recently named Martin as a consultant to the Vatican's communications department.

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