With the massive defeat it experienced in Ireland and now with the same sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, one would think that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy would see the hand writing on the wall: either stop the anti-gay hysteria that the sky is falling and angry foot stomping or else become even more irrelevant in the world, especially in the educated western world. Many of the high clergy - many of whom I suspect are self-loathing closet cases who don't want to admit that they have squandered their lives following 13th century understandings of sexuality - are not getting this message. A main editorial in the National Catholic Reporter (which is not under the control of the hierarchy) makes the case why a changed approach to gays and gay marriage (among other issues) is needed. It's a message lost on Francis Xavier DiLorenzo,the bishop of the Diocese of Richmond who still bars divorced teachers from working at Catholic schools even if they are the best qualified. Here are some excerpts:
The editorial authors clearly understand the concept of "change or die."The Catholic church, which has used some of the most severe language of major denominations in its condemnation of homosexuality, labeling those with a homosexual orientation "intrinsically disordered," is especially challenged by the ruling.
At least its leaders are, for it has become clear in recent years that when it comes to believers, Catholics are among the most accepting of homosexuality. In terms of same-sex marriage, according to recent Pew Research polling, "Among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly six-in-ten now express support for same-sex marriage."
Churches certainly don't run on polling data, but the bishops should at least be informed of what the flock is thinking. And the majority of the flock is not in agreement with assertions such as those voiced by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who called the decision "a tragic error."
Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared Obergefell v. Hodges to Roe v. Wade . . .The comparison with Roe is simply way off base. Obergefell is not a matter of life and death. The case thus stated by Kurtz also places the conference in the posture of combatant -- with everyone: gays and lesbians, their families, government structures, not to mention the church itself in the expression of the many Catholics who disagree.
Further, if the church's experience with Roe is any indication, taking the combative approach will mean endless years of litigation and lobbying, convincing few and alienating many while further depleting whatever political capital the church might have left.These complex matters will demand more of the bishops than a foot-stomping "no." . . . a combative stance is not the only option. First, the church's treatment of divorced and remarried people is an apt comparison to gay couples. Divorce and remarriage is legal in all states, but the church is not required to perform such weddings. Ministers remain free to denounce divorce. At the same time, it is rare that Catholic institutions fire people who divorce and remarry; moreover, they and their new spouses often receive benefits. Such consideration is not viewed as an endorsement of a lifestyle.
Further, Reese points out, "In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding." Bishops, even those intent on railing against the decision, need to make that point clear to their people.[B]ishops and others should not underestimate the power of human experience nor the depth of insights gleaned in the short period during which parents stopped being embarrassed by their children, and gay children stopped hiding themselves and their sexual orientation.
Cupich's "take a deep breath" approach seems a far more productive way to sort out the tangle of issues that certainly will unravel in the wake of this decision. The bishops -- many of whom like to compare themselves to fathers of a family -- might, before they commit to a protracted fight, sit down with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and respectfully listen to their stories.
Meanwhile, we need to call a halt to actions that will further divide and damage the body of Christ.What we must avoid at all costs is a spate of firings of Catholic high school track coaches and math teachers. We can respect a narrow definition of the ministerial exemption out of respect for religious belief, but the broadening of the definition of "minister" to include schoolteachers, food pantry workers, diocesan accountants and parish musicians is wrong and must be resisted.