Despite the efforts of the bitter old men in dresses - a significant number of whom are likely self-loathing closet cases - the Catholic laity is leading the way in advanced nations in supporting same sex marriage. It goes without saying that I find a delicious irony in this. I also see it as a result of the Church hierarchy's own doing through the protection of sexual predator priests, to meddling in matters sexual that they know nothing about, to the continued subordination of women to men. The official Church position may still hold sway in ignorant, backward parts of the world but it simply doesn't sell in modern parts of the world where Catholics look to their consciences first and increasingly ignore Vatican fiats. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon. Here are some highlights:
Take a look at this list of countries: Belgium, Canada, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, France, Uruguay, Luxembourg and Ireland. Name two things that they have in common.They don’t share a continent, obviously. Or a language. But in all of them, the Roman Catholic Church has more adherents, at least nominally, than any other religious denomination does.And all of them belong to the vanguard of 20 nations that have decided to make same-sex marriage legal.Ireland, obviously, is the freshest addition to the list. It’s also, in some ways, the most remarkable one. It’s the first country to approve same-sex marriage by a popular referendum. The margin wasn’t even close. About 62 percent of voters embraced marriage equality.Irish voters nonetheless rejected the church’s formal opposition to same-sex marriage. This act of defiance was described, accurately, as an illustration of church leaders’ loosening grip on the country.But in falling out of line with the Vatican, Irish people are actually falling in line with their Catholic counterparts in other Western countries, including the United States.They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.We journalists too often use “the Catholic Church” as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval.But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.Catholics in the United States appear to be more, not less, progressive about gay rights than Americans in general are. . . . about 60 percent of Americans who called themselves Catholic said that they approved of same-sex marriage, versus about 30 percent who didn’t.And yet, interestingly, the qualms that certain public figures have about same-sex marriage are routinely explained — by the media, and sometimes by those people themselves — as ineluctable consequences of their Catholicism.But seldom does anyone point out that this explanation puts these men in the minority, not majority, of Catholics in the United States. Their stances win them more political favor among Baptists than among Catholics.For this large and diverse group in the United States and other Western countries, same-sex marriage has rapidly gained favor and Catholic leaders’ expressions of protest, such as firing employees who marry same-sex partners or speak up for marriage equality, are becoming untenable.I wonder, especially in light of comments by Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, after the Irish referendum. He noted “a growing gap between the culture of Ireland” and the church, which, he said, “needs to take a reality check.” He meant that its leaders do, and they can turn not just to Ireland but to many other densely Roman Catholic countries to gauge the hearts and souls of Catholics today.