By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 6, 2018
SMYRNA—Joey Martineck, who was recently named director of the Respect Life ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, believes painters and writers, along with all artists, can “pierce” the hearts of the community to see the beauty of life“Something more is demanded these days. You don’t just hear a lecture, in this day and age, hear a lecture and say I’ve decided to change my whole worldview,” said Martineck, a playwright himself with both a musical and a play completed.
“Something needs to grab ahold of you, your heart and … be moved, pierced by the beauty of this.”
“People need to see the beauty of life. I just want to empower artists, I am just not sure how I am going do to that yet,” he said. “I believe that’s the way that God is kind of leading the church, to using artists to use beauty as a way of really convincing the heart of people with the Gospel, with respect life.”
Starting with ministry leaders
Martineck, who is 28, said there will be few changes immediately in the Respect Life office. One of his early efforts will be to gather ministry leaders from the archdiocese for a day of reflection and conversation. He’d like to learn first from them and hear their views and ministry needs, which he will use to shape the priorities of the office.
In an interview in his office at the archdiocesan Chancery, Martineck said his goal for now is to listen, but he also outlined a dream to engage artists and to be a resource for parishes to speak with youth and adults.
Georgia has recently seen a decline in the number of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a former research arm of Planned Parenthood. A fact sheet released in May stated there were 33,000 abortions performed in Georgia in 2014, the latest statistics available. That is a 7 percent decline in the abortion rate in the state between 2011 and 2014 among women of reproductive age.
Shaped by college experiences
The oldest of two boys, Martineck grew up in Connecticut before moving to the Atlanta area. His mother works at the Catholic Center at Georgia Tech; his father works in marketing. The family was one of the early members of St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek. He recalled Masses held in the gym of Holy Redeemer School.
He attended Georgia Tech University, graduating with a degree in computer engineering. During his time, he served as the president of the Georgia Tech Students for Life.
Being a college leader shaped him. He said he was always clear about church teaching with the “serious injustice” of abortion, but on campus he also came to learn about “mercy” by talking with people who feel differently about abortion rights. Martineck said the church teachings are truthful, so people shouldn’t be afraid to talk with others with different views. “The worst thing we can do is be silent,” he said.
After a stint as a salesman in the corporate world, he returned to Atlanta to discern a vocation to the priesthood and worked for a time in the Respect Life office. He is featured in a series of online videos posted by the archdiocese. The four-minute video “Eros vs Agape” features him discussing two Greek concepts of love found in the Bible and is the most popular, with 1,300 views.
He attended Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a seminarian for three years where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and where he also studied graduate level theology. He returned to Atlanta this summer after he discerned God calling him to another way of serving the church.
Sharing a theology of human sexuality
Martineck is passionate about Theology of the Body, an understanding of human sexuality shaped by St. John Paul II. He said grasping this view of sexuality can move believers to a deeper faith.
“As bad as abortion is, it is really a symptom of a deeper and deadlier disease,” he said, adding the views of the St. John Paul II can widen the conversation to put abortion, why people seek it, and how to reduce it into a broader context. He said part of his vision is to revitalize Catholic sex education.
“I want the church to take back her rightful role” on conversations about sexuality, focused on the “whole person, body and soul,” he said.
The theology has not shaped the faithful yet. A 2017 poll by the Pew Forum found a slim majority of people who identify as Catholics saying abortion should be legal. However, a 2013 Marist poll f or the Knights of Columbus reported that 76 percent of Americans would support limits on abortion.
The annual January observance of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in the country, rallies the Catholic community of Atlanta together. In recent years, the day has been centered at the Cathedral of Christ the King where Mass is usually crowded with hundreds of uniformed Catholic school students. Afterward, a silent vigil along Peachtree Road attracts scores of students, families with kids in strollers and priests with signs opposing abortion. And Martineck said the event will continue as it has in recent years.
Marla Brown is the leader of the Pregnancy Aid Clinic, the only Catholic crisis pregnancy nonprofit in the archdiocese. It has three clinics to help men and women, in Forest Park, a mobile clinic, and in Roswell.
Brown said she’d like to see an effort to revive Respect Life ministries in parishes.
“We would love to see a rejuvenated focus on the dignity of life initiative in our churches,” she said in an email. The effort would be strengthened by effective communication to unite the ministries, she said.
Asked for words of advice for Martineck, Brown said he should “understand and believe that you must wear the armor of God on a daily basis to shield off the evil that continually tries to disintegrate this vital effort.”
This mission is “under attack” as it works to “protect the dignity of life,” she said.