The National Catholic Review

Last week was certainly a study in contrasts between American Catholics and their spiritual leaders and teachers.

On Sunday, the spokesperson for the American Church, New York's affable Archbishop Timothy Dolan, pulled no punches while confidently defending the church's conservative positions on gay rights, women’s ordination, and priestly celibacy on 60 Minutes. He stated that gay people do not have any right to marriage, in the same way that a child does not have a right to marry his mother. Societies have always regulated sexual relations, he stated, and restricting marriage to a man and woman is but a useful and necessary continuation of this tradition.

Two days later, the Public Religion Research Institute released a study entitled, "Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: A Comprehensive Portrait from Recent Research." The findings show that not only do Catholic laity in America support gay rights generally, but do so at rates higher than any other Christian denomination and the American public as a whole. The research shows that 71% of Catholics support civil-marriage rights for same-sex couples, echoing results from a similar poll released the week prior.  That poll, from ABC News and the Washington Post, finds a dramatic 23% increase in support for gay marriage among Catholics compared to the same poll five years ago.

In a Friday news release, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement entitled, "USCCB Urges HUD Not to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Among Protected Categories," which calls on the government agency "not to adopt a proposed regulation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories for which discrimination in HUD programs is prohibited."

Contrast that statement with findings from the PRRI poll about non-discrimination laws: almost three-quarters of US Catholics favor laws that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Dioceses continue to opt out of adoption programs rather than comply with local non-discrimination laws, notably in Massachusetts and Washington, DC. Church leaders in both regions said that they could not in good conscience place children in homes with same-sex parents, and as a result, they would halt the decades-old programs.

Not surprisingly, the PRRI poll found that 60% of American Catholics support the rights of gay couples to adopt children.

Gays serving openly in the military? You know the drill. The Archbishop for Military Services USA, Timothy Broglio, released a statement pleading with Congress not to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Sixty-three percent of Catholics in the US support open service.

It’s possible that some church leaders who support a more pastoral approach to these issues, and they do exist, stay quiet for fear of the consequences that could result in offering another view. What’s more likely, however, is that church leadership in the US is dominated by men with a very specific, unbending worldview, even as members of their flocks evolve on these contentious and important social issues.

What are lay Catholics to make of this ever-widening chasm between their beliefs and what they hear preached from their leaders?

Catholics in the US, especially young people, are increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians. The church is digging in its heels, unable to comprehend this sudden change in societal norms. Despite the campaigns, statements, and preaching, lay Catholics lead the nation in support of gay rights. At some point, something has to give. Will the church change its stance on homosexuality? Of course not. Catholicism is the largest denomination in the US, but it is still a tiny sliver of the global church, and attitudes elsewhere, especially in the growing hotspots of global Catholicism, remain rigidly conservative. But church leaders may want to reconsider where they focus their limited time, energy, and resources. The battle for gay rights in this nation increasingly looks like it will be won-eventually-by those who support them. The church can continue to be a vocal minority in opposition to change, alienating the many people who increasingly know, love, and accept gay family members and friends. Or, it can refocus its efforts to highlight the love of God that animates a nourishing, life-giving, freeing faith, and attempt to reach those who need this love most: those who feel marginalized by the church now.


Tom Maher | 4/1/2011 - 10:35am
Michael (#45)

THe need here is for Catholics  themselves and not just the Catholic Bishops  be engaged on the issue of same-sex marriage which is largely an issue of politcs and law. 

The Church could indeed make more widely lnown its opposition to same-sex marrage and adoptions.  But the heavy lifting on these issue must be from  Catholics themselves.  Catholics must be more engaged and visible on moral issue that impact on society.  After all we do live in a democracy where the rules of society are decided by people at bollot boxes not by the sermons of Bishops.  Bishops moral leadership is important but it is not enough to get the job done.  Catholics themselves must not be passive sheep waiting for direction from above.  Catholics need to make their voices known in public forum.  

The relative silence on the issue of same-sex marraige has created a power vacuum which allows same-sex marraige activist almost unchallenged to shape and control the terms of this debate even to the point of declaring widespread public support within the Church.  Catholics should know better and say so.  This issue is very controversial and should not be uncontested by suggestable people who too uncritically and gullibly accept  politcal propaganda of same-sex marriage activist inside and outside the Church.
Anonymous | 3/31/2011 - 11:50pm
Mareczku - My point about Evangelicals and Mormons is that their membership is well educated in their churches' teachings and when voting time comes they are able to rally their membership to the voting booths to support candidates that will protect their religious beliefs and practices. 

If there is a widening gap in the Catholic Church about homosexuals and homosexuality, half the reason is because neither the priests nor CCD programs teach parishioners about the Church's position on this matter.

When the media and the homosexual lobby bombards the airwaves and blogosphere with pro-homosexual propaganda, attacks the Church as bigoted and hateful, and the parish priests remain silent (anyone care to hazard a guess maybe why?), of course many ignorant Catholics are going to be swayed. 

Mark Davenport | 3/31/2011 - 8:54pm
Mr. Brooks, you say that there is much to be learned from the Evangelicals and the Mormons.  Is that a joke?  I went to 12 years of Catholic school and didn't have much contact with Evangelicals or Mormons as a young person.  I learn a little from reading things from these groups.  It seems that some of the members of these groups are prejudiced against certain groups of people.  Some of these people don't have much use for Catholics, in the past some of them favored discrimination against black people and now many favor discrimination against gays.  I learned different lessons when I was a young person. 
Juan Lino | 3/31/2011 - 2:50pm
Hi Anne – thanks for your latest reply.

However, it’s clear that I’ve been unclear so I will attempt to be clearer this time. 

You wrote: “Over the years I have come to realize a couple of things - God is mystery, and by definition, human beings will never have "certainty" when it comes to understanding God.”


“There is no certainty and that is good…”

Well, it seems to me that these statements exhibit precisely the type of certainty I am pointing to when I say that all human beings look for certainty.

For example, what makes you certain that God is mystery?  Or better, if this week you said that God is mystery but next week you said the opposite, would you seek to be certain each time you asserted the claim?

Thanks for the dialogue – I wish you peace on your journey.
Anonymous | 3/31/2011 - 11:15am reports that this poll was funded by the pro-gay Arcus foundation, cited in other posts here.  Of course it was.

This is the same group sponsoring the four conferences of faux-Catholic organizations discussing homosexuality and the Church.

This poll and the upcoming conferences are designed to divide; to cause termoil within the Church, and many people here are buying into it hook, line, and sinker.  Michael O'Loughlin knows the game, that's why we see so many of these kinds of posts from him.  If you post these kinds of things enough, people are going to start to believe it.

This poll is meaningless.  Tom has it right: the Church needs to get its political game in order and, frankly, it needs to become more aggressive instead of allowing the homosexual lobby to pummel it in the public square.  I'm sure there is much to be learned from the Evangelicals and Mormons.

Tom Maher | 3/30/2011 - 7:49pm
The fact is the Church has its own interpretation of the Gospel and does not look or care what the polls say especially when the polls are interpreted by outsiders who could not care less what happened to the Church.  

For example recently the Wahington D.C. Archdioscese independent of government demands stopped offering adoption services because the church would be forced by D.C. law which does not allow religious exemption to provide adoption services to same-sex couples something that, as Cardinal Wurel said simply, the Church does not do.

All the rationalizations and theological intellecualizing does not influence  the Church's religious autonomy, thank goodness.   The Church remains autonomous  of popular sentiment and faithful to the authentic Gospel message.

But it is clear an new era of religious oppression has open in the western world where religious doctrine not endorsed by secualr government is no longer being tolerated.  This is not new or unexpected.  The Church and other religions  have have had terrible relations with governemnts throughout history.  Today's  threat to religious liberty is more of the same.  Once again  government wants all religions to conform to its political vision and demands.  Often in history the state and its political leaders have seen themselves as all-wise and knowing rulers who only need to be obeyed.     

Catholics need to be alert to this new threat to religious liberty from government by doing what they did very effectively in the past - organize politically.  The Church is abused in Washington, D.C. only becasue they lare a political minority there.  Lacking effective political representaion in an area makes Catholics easy to ignore.  We do not need scholatic debate here we need effective political organization upholding the right of the Catholic Church to be Catholic.  There are tens of millions of Cathjolics who are quite able to see that the Church remians autonomous of overreaching governments that fail to respect religious liberty.  
Andy Buechel | 3/30/2011 - 1:34pm
The options you lay out are of course possible, but there is (at least) a third: speaking what one believes to be the truth in hopes of reforming the whole.  This approach could be associated with someone like Erasmus, who was neither forced from ther church nor sat in silence.  In this approach, I think one can bring the tradition and that which is more important (say the Incarnation) to bear on that which is less important (say marriage and homosexuality).  This is especially true when one believes that what is further down the spectrum actively contradicts or even annuls the much more important truths higher up.   There are many queer scholars trying just this approach, among them Eugene Rogers, Graham Ward, James Alison, and Mark Jordan.  These people bow neither to modern individualism nor to quietism.  It strikes me as completely legitimate for a Catholic, with such exemplars as Sts. Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila.  Reminding us of those voices that are authoritative in the tradition and which contradict modern views (for example, the contemporary teaching on gender would be utterly unrecognizable to St. Gregory of Nyssa, for whom gender could not be a fundamental part of our creation in the image and likeness of God, but was accidental to a more fundamental humanness). 
OldDave NJ | 3/30/2011 - 11:26am
These discussions about sin and law and tradition, and the differences between the letter and the spirit of the law, often remind me of exchanges Christ had with the religious leaders of His day.  In Matthew 22, Jesus makes what always strikes me as a very foundational statement. He defines sin as the failure to love God, and the failure to love others with a selfless, self-sacrificing love. Greed, adultery, murder, hate, theft, pedophilia, etc. are all sin because they are destructive attitudes/behaviors motivated out of the desire for self-gratification. Failure to turn the other cheek, to give up your life for a friend, to give to the poor, to carry your cross daily ... those are sin for the same reasons. I find that passage to be a useful lens with which to view other parts of scripture dealing with sin and the law. It's one reason I distinguish the kinds of loving, committed, monogamous same-gender relationships we're discussing here from the same-sex actions I believe the writers of Scripture had in mind.  The relationships of the same-gender couples I know are as well-aligned with Christ's call to love God and others as those of the most devoted straight couples I know.

This way of viewing sin can be rather messy. It is a bit more subjective than literal interpretations made without consideration of context. It does invite consideration of science and social norms when discussing sin, because identifying the loving things to do can involve a good understanding of mental health and social norms. And it does evoke more debate and disagreement. But messiness is part of being a fellowship of fallible human beings, and I think this does get close to the heart of Christ's teachings. And really, I think it does result is a moral code that in most ways meshes just fine with the most conservative traditions and interpretations of scripture.
Anonymous | 3/30/2011 - 11:24am
@Andy- No offense taken.  Knowing your background I understand a great deal where you're coming from.  In my own experience in these arguments, I've found that one side wants (to borrow a phrase) pooh-pooh the teaching, and with it the Magisterium, etc., and the other side wants to rely upon a frozen hyper-authoritarian understanding of the Church's teaching.  I've discovered that within the Catholic understanding of revelation, magisterium, and authority there is actually a great deal of flexibility to find common ground. 

Now, there is always the case of when one becomes convinced that the Church is wrong on a topic and how one deals with that.  There is of course, for lack of a better word, the Protestant/Luther tactic of "here I take my stand".  That tends to be more favorable in the 21st century particularly given the robust Liberal (I mean philosophical rather than narrowly political) tradition of individual rights.  There is however another tradition of silently suffering, a more communitarian tradition, if you will, emergent in some forms of post-modern thought.

@Juan - As I've suggested, Catholics believe in the development of doctrine.  So its not so much the teachings changings, as it is the application and understanding of those teachings that is different in each time and place.  As you correctly point out, for example, slavery in the time of Paul vs. the 19th century.  This is necessary because Christ's teaching is, as a consequence of teh Incarnation, known to us only partially and through human (fallible with exceptions) means.  "Now we see as through a glass, darkly, but then face to face."  I am not necessarily arguing that the Church change its teaching on same sex marriage, but given the raw statistical numbers, I think the Church will have to find some accomodations for its position and attempt to mediate its teachings in a variety of ways.
Andy Buechel | 3/30/2011 - 10:33am
In that case, we agree on a great deal! I apologize if I was putting words in your mouth.  Often in debates on this topic, it seems that homosexuality and the Trinity are placed on the same level of importance, as if one rejecting the teaching on the former necessarily rejects the latter. 

And Juan.  At no point did I "pooh-pooh" anything.  You seem to think that those who disagree with the church on this matter clearly woke up one morning and decided that it would just be easier to go with the "culture at large".  That these might be agonizing decisions, done with much fear and trembling, thought and prayer in order to both form and follow conscience does not seem to have entered your consideration.  Perhaps it should.

I am convinced the church is wrong on the matter of homosexuality, and since I am equally convinced that the Spirit guides the church, I believe this teaching will one day change-though I will doubtless not be around to see it.  I could very well be wrong.  If I am, I have nothing to fall back on but the infinite mercy of God.  And if I am right....I have nothing to fall back on then the infinite mercy of God.  Phantom Caliphate or no phantom Caliphate. 
Anonymous | 3/30/2011 - 10:05am
Regardless of one's opinion on same sex 'marriage', I spot a growing 'consensus' among many Christians that moral teachings change with culture and time period.... and they don't seem to notice that this dooms their own opinion and desired outcome to a transient victory. Take arguments about slavery, usury, and sodomy and argue that Roman era slavery = 18th century slavery (it did not), and then say "see, times change, it was OK for St Paul, then bad, then now totally immoral, so see, society changed and the Church followed....ergo, why not an evolving picture on sodomy and all extra-marital sexual practices too?

OK, why not? But if this is the case (morals change with times) then what makes us think in 2011 that today's "progressive" ideals of sexuality won't be superceded by 2111 for something else? Do we in fact even believe that certain actions are always wrong, for everyone or not? And if not, then how can we even speak of 'rights' or morals rather than priviledges and the imposition of brute power?

If we do believe certain actions are always wrong.... how do we know we're not merely creatures of our time and will be 'wrong' within a generation or two? After all, if "the bible" and magisterium and 2,000 years of saints and mystics can be pooh poohed in favor of what's hip and cool now.... why should we be surprised when OUR opinions and proclivities are made illegal in 2021 by the new Caliphate or Chinese Hegemon?

Conclusion: be very careful when making the case against traditional morality by pooh poohing Bible, Magisterium and 'tradition' in favor of "modern times" because if you're right, you just gutted the intellectual premise of all objective moral norms and this WILL come back to haunt you and yours.
John Stabeno | 3/30/2011 - 3:30am
As a priest who preaches on a weekly and daily basis, I would hope the message of the Gospel to those who attend Mass on a regular and weekly basis predisposes them to be more loving and kind, not more judgmental and alienating. Jesus offered the woman at the well living water, who are we to deny people the same gift?

I believe the Church is at great risk for being labeled as out of touch and irrelevant by many of its own faithful members. And it is a shame because the Church can be a beacon of light for so many. The Church does many good works that are overshadowed by lunacy of some of its radical members to both the left and the right. Some are bishops and some are bloggers.

I guess we all just have to sit tight and find out how the story ends from the other side, because NONE of us has the TRUTH. It resides ONLY with God. And, yes, I know He gave out the keys, but I think he changed the locks a few times already! He may be loving, but He is not stupid!
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 10:34pm
Andy, I fully agree with your clarification; obviously there are degrees of dogmatic teaching, and I would certainly agree that homosexuality is further "down" than, say, the Incarnation.
Mark Davenport | 3/29/2011 - 9:22pm
This is an excellent and informative article.  It is obvious that Catholics are increasingly in favor of gay rights.  This is especially true of younger Catholics, I think.  As has been stated here even 64% of Catholics that attend Mass weekly or more approve of some form of same-sex unions.  It is troubling to me that some bishops actually seem to approve of discrimination against gay people.  Some Church documents state that homosexuals should not be discriminated against and most Catholics agree with this but sadly some do not.  I feel that some bishops are afraid of alienating Catholics that hate homosexuality and gay people so they don't want to openly support equal rights for gay people. 
Andy Buechel | 3/29/2011 - 7:54pm
Quick clarification: when I say that we cannot equate any church teaching and the will of Christ, I meant ANY in the sense of all the teachings.  In other words, creedal or dogmatic claims (those at the top of the hierarchy of truths) can be known certainly to coincide with the will of Christ and the Gospel message, in faith.  The teachings on usury and homosexuality I would argue do not come close to being in this category.
Andy Buechel | 3/29/2011 - 7:29pm
I can accept that argument with regard to slavery.  That it shows a developing understanding of human nature and what is due to it, thus resulting in an ultimate prohibition of the practice.  Usury does not seem like a development to me so much as a reversal, however.  That which was once forbidden as grossly unnatural (money procreating) became perfectly legitimate.  This is precisely the movement that those who advocate for a changed understanding of homosexuality are arguing for.  I am as conviced as you are that, if change does happen, it will take a very long time.  Yet the simple fact that the church condemns it now is not sufficient grounds to assume that it will always do so, any more so than one arguing in 500 AD on the solid grounds of the bible and tradition that usury was a mortal sin-anachronistically "intrinsically evil"-could accurately have foreseen the development on that course as well.  Thus, I would also argue that the easy equation of ANY church teaching and the will of Christ is overly simplistic.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 6:41pm
@ Dave New: Thanks for the clarification, & I think you lay out the 2 sides very well.  I don't mean to say that the Church's only approach is or even should be "this is the teaching, take it or leave it".  I just think we need to begin with the correct foundations if what we're arguing about is Catholic theology.  This is partly why I said to begin with that I think the Church should be arguing for some accomodations as I think it is destined to be a vocal minority on this issue.  And I think the issue of convincing members of the Church itself is obviously, as the original post shows, incredibly difficult.  I for one, however, value the place and role of authority in the life of the Church; I find it forces me to "stick with" others whose life experiences, opinions, and practices I might otherwise avoid.  Rather than authority keeping some out, I find it forces everyone to stay in some more or less creative tension with each other.  If I were an Episcopalian (and some days its tempting) I would be incredibly uncomfortable with the optics of the rich, white, North American/English part of the Church ignoring the poor, black/Latino part of the Church and going its own way.  I don't want the Catholic Church similarly splintering.

@ Andy Buechel: there is, of course, the notion of "development of doctrine".  That is, as the particular teachings are applied to actual historical consequences, there is some creativity and change.  This can be seen in each of the 3 things you mention: usury, slavery & homosexuality.  In each instance, the Church didn't just change, it actually moved the culture around it.  So while it is true that the Church didn't condemn slavery, it did teach that slaves were to be treated humanely and shuold actually be freed at a certain point.  And, at least with respect to Paul's teaching on homosexuality, he was actually critiquing the Greek/Roman attitudes that encouraged male Roman citizens to engage in exploitative homosexual sex, so there was some counter-cultural critique in his teachings, not just homophobism. 

Now, it seems to me that this is the contribution of the Church's teaching and why I think it premature to simply dismiss it as homophobic.   The point of Dolan's allusions to incest is to say  "You can, of course, apply certain attributes present in marriage to any human relationship.  But the Church's point is that there is something intrinsically unqiue about the sexual relationship of a man and woman bound in marriage that is irreplacable."  I just don't quite see the Church evolving very quickly on this point.
Andy Buechel | 3/29/2011 - 6:21pm
I'm also leary to jump in here, but I would like to know Jeff's answer on this point.  He says that the teaching of the church are equivalent to the the clear, authentic, word of Christ in the Gospel.  Does this go for every teaching?  What about the centuries old and clearly Biblically-grounded condemnation of usury?  And slavery as a permissible institution?  The church once believed that usury was a mortal sin and that it was morally permissible to own slaves. They do not believe either any more (at least in usury being the taking of ANY interest, not just exorbitant interest on loans).  If the church's teaching and the truth of the Gospel are always equivilant, did God change his mind?  I do not mean to be flippant.  I have genuinely never heard a good defense of how the church could make such an about face on these matters, and yet also assume that it is clearly outside the realm of possiblity that it could do so on homosexuality.
OldDave NJ | 3/29/2011 - 5:22pm
@Jeff (26): No offense taken. I am a Protestant - a Lutheran, no less - so was perhaps a bit imprecise in what I characterized as an assumption. But there is an assumption being made about the Magisterium being the only authoritative source of Biblical interpretations, and that may be the most important element of the "widening gap" discussed in the article. When Church leaders communicate theological/moral teachings as articulated by the Magisterium to those people who attend Catholic Mass regularly or semi-regularly, it seems as though it is assumed the large majority of those people will accept those teachings as authoritative and binding. It is an assumption based on tradition and long-standing teachings of the Church and certain interpretations of particular Biblical passages, but it is still an assumption. But is the assumption true?

I'm guessing polls have been conducted on that question as well.  My guess is that many of those people just don't buy the whole concept, much in the same way the concept has been rejected by Protestants. They remain devoted to the Holy Scriptures - as they understand them - and find many of the traditions and teachings and worship practices of the Catholic Church extremely meaningful spiritually. But they just aren't inclined to relinquish the right to interpret what the Bible says on major issues, and let others do it for them.

The Church can reiterate Church teachings on why Catholics should defer to the Magisterium, but I'm not sure that will convince many people. They can (and probably sometimes do) declare those that don't defer to be non-Catholics. But I'm not sure how American Catholicism thrives if deference to the Magisterium is an intrinsic part of being Catholic.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 3:57pm
I'm leary about jumping into this debate because I think its one that Catholics are destined to lose politically given the numbers.  I think Catholics who oppose same sex need to start arguing for accomodations rather than a full out ban.

But this quote above caught my eye:

"(4) You assume that Church teachings and your own personal understanding of scripture are equivalent to the "clear, authentic, word of Christ in the Gospel." No offense, but that is one of the main points of disagreement here."

No offense to the poster, but at least with respect to "Church teachings", it is not simply an "assumption" open for debate that they "are equivalent to the the clear, authentic, word of Christ in the Gospel"; that is Catholic doctrine!  It is the Catholic understanding of revelation that BOTH the written Scription and the Tradition of the Church, which includes the consistent moral teachings of the Church, as articulated by the Magisterium, TOGETHER represent the word of God; there is a harmony between the two.  To attempt to place either in tension or one above the other is a perversion of the Catholic understanding of revelation (see Dei Verbum from Vatican 2).  Furthermore, it has certainly been the consistent teaching (albeit not technically infallibly taughty) that marriage is intended by God for one man and one woman.  And I certainly don't think it is fair to suggest that the Bible contains passages supportive of same sex marriage.  I think whatever side of the debate we are on, we need to be clear about Catholic teaching and work with it, or if you're opposed to it, to state so.  But to suggest that this is just a matter of "assumption" is a tactic many find discomforting in this debate.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 1:57pm
Army: Court-martial Chaplains for "religious, conscience" objection to homosexuality.
3/24/2011 9:00:00 AM

As I said before, the State is the organized battalion which is being used by the devil to destroy the mystical body of Christ.
Daniel McGrath | 3/29/2011 - 1:43pm
I watched Archbishop Dolan's 60 Minutes interview with a friend who is a lapsed Catholic, who occasionally attends services at an Episcopal church-she calls them the "happy catholics". Her response was a lot of head shaking and criticism of the Church's unwillingness to bend in the face of shifting public opinion on a range of issues, from abortion to same sex unions to women priests and/or married priests. She articulated a pain-of-loss that I have seen in other friends who have fallen away from the Church. Their Catholic identity is very important to them, even though their views are much more like the multi-cultural, secular society in which they live today. For them, I often advise joining the Episcopalians, where there is a ready-made church with modern views and a priesthood whose branches go all the way back to the roots of Peter and Paul. (I hope that's not bad acvice.) In my own view, we don't need a more liberal Catholic church-some strongly brewed Episcopalianism. I am thankful for the example of Archbishop Dolan and the Church, as they strive to demonstrate love and respect for all individuals while remaining committed to the enduring teachings of the Church.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 1:43pm
Army: Court-martial Chaplains for "religious, conscience" objection to homosexuality.
3/24/2011 9:00:00 AM
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 1:39pm

Army: court-martial Chaplains for "religious, conscience" objection to homosexuality.
3/24/2011 9:00:00 AM

The U.S. Army has officially threatened military chaplains they must either embrace the new openly homosexual military, resign from service, or face court-martial for their "religious, conscience" objections. The Pray In Jesus Name Project has obtained leaked copies (unintended for media disclosure) of a private briefing given to chaplains, threatening them with court-martial unless they compromise their Christian message.

Yep. They said THIS would NEVER happen. Dear Bishops: Where are you?????????
William Kurtz | 3/29/2011 - 12:54pm
On a slightly related point, it's interesting the heirarchy has spoken so loudly on this issue, but has been virtually silent on a major issue in my state, Wisconsin. Despite more than a century worth of tradition of supporting labor, the bishop of Madison has declared himself neutral on the governor's union-busting, while the archbishop of Milwaukee merely issued a mildly pro-labor statement.
Some commenters want to make sure our bishops don't sound like liberal Protestants. Right now, they sound more like Southern Baptists, or even Mormons.  
Tom Maher | 3/29/2011 - 11:52am
Dave (#17)

The CHurch has a solid Gospe and Biblical basis for not being in favor of homeosexual marriages as an institution or as a legal right.

Even a pedetrian knowledge of the Gospel knows the Church from the beginning actively defended marriage as a sacred relationship not to be tampered with by  goverment or human social needs.  

John the Baptist Christ cousin by birth and the person who Baptized Christ defended one of the final acts of his life. King Herrod married his brother's wife and John the Baptist inspried as he was spoke out against this marriage.  He was imprisoned for his speaking out against Herrod violation of the sacredness of marriage and was beheaded.  From the very first while Christ was still alive the Church has defended marriage as a sacred institution between a man and a woman and to be taken very seriously by all including heads of state including King Herrod.
It is not possible to rationalize this fundemental human relationship even if ypu are a powerful and influencial head of state such as King Herrod or King Henry VII or a powerful political group.  The Church needs to be true to the clear, authentic word of Christ in the Gospel above all human considerations and contests.
Tom Maher | 3/29/2011 - 10:06am
Dave (#12)

The Episcopal Church in America has a gay Bishop of New Hampshire and a lesbian Bishop of Los Angeles.  Both Bishops openly and publically declared that they are sexually active in same-sex relationships.  This public knowledge of their sexual activity did not prevent them from becoming Bishops of the Episcopal Church of America.

So saying other Bible literate Christians interprete the Bible differently and have  diffderent theological teachings from than the Catholic Church is the point. The Cahtolic Church is not a liberal Protestant church nor should tit be.  The  Church does not need to "catch up" to the "advanced thinkers" of the Episcopal and other liberal Protestant churchs. Rather the Church needs to recognize how corrosive and effect on the Church the homosexual sub-culture has on the interpreting and teaching the Gospel.  The clear Gospel is muddled and rationalized to favor the social needs of a sub-group of the their church.  The point of the Catholic Church is not to be a crowd-pleaser but to teach the Gospel without human distortions of liberal Protestantism.  
Peter Shore | 3/29/2011 - 9:56am
Dave - The majority of the arguments leaders in the church bring to bear have little or nothing to do with the Bible. Most tend not to go beyond Humanae Vitae and JPII's "Theology of the Body."

Dolan has also stated that he would back something like civil unions (see here:, so that would seem to put Dolan within the 71%. 
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 9:48am
More homosexual propaganda from Mr. O'Loughlin?

Arguably, all this survey demonstrates is that people support the legalization of anything that they perceive will have no impact on them.  Or that people support the legalization of whatever they think everybody else supports.
What these polls fail to do is account for the potential ramifications of the choice presented and how that might affect the answers provided.

For example, consider what the poll might show if the question was asked, "Would you support gay marriage if legalizing it meant that homosexuality would be taught to children in public schools?" or "Would you support gay marriage if your child were more likely to choose a homosexual lifestyle as a result?" That gay marriage woud lead to teaching about homosexuality in public schools was one of the reasons that Prop8 was supported by CA voters.  

Also ignored are the implications for society as a whole.  Consider what the poll results on no-fault divorce would be if the question were asked, "Would you support no-fault divorce if it you knew that it would lead to a 40% out-of-wedlock birthrate?"  Or, “Would you support no-fault divorce if it meant that your husband would be less willing to reconcile with you after he had an affair?”

Even a question like, "Do you think the Catholic Church should change its teaching on homosexuality and homosexual marriage" would be more enlightening than this inherently biased survey. 

Think people; don't be fooled by these silly polls that are designed to sway opinion not report it.
OldDave NJ | 3/29/2011 - 8:53am
Two points. First, to address some apples/oranges issues, the PRRI poll asked about both marriage and civil unions. When asked the broader question regarding legal recognition of same-gender unions (either marriage or civil unions), 74% of all Catholics were in favor. That number was lower for Catholics attending Mass one or more times per week, but it was still a majority (64%). Those numbers are probably the most relevant to this discussion since the official Catholic position opposes any form of legal recognition. That said, the percentages of Catholics specifically favoring the right for same-gender couples to marry (as opposed to civil unions) were considerably lower.

Second point. I constantly read pieces by U.S. Bishops that contain information about same-gender couples that directly contradicts the strong consensus of most mental-health professionals in this country, as well as the experience I and most people I know have had in knowing same-gender couples and their families on a personal basis. They also develop theological arguments from the fundamental assumption that scripture condemns homosexual relationships in all forms. There are a lot of faithful, Biblically-literate, intelligent Christians - lay, clergy, and theologians - who disagree with that based on contextual considerations. And disagreeing is fine. But grounding arguments in an assumption that is at the very heart of the disagreement, as the Bishops tend to do, does nothing to move the discussion forward. I get the strong impression that the Catholic hierarchy is completely avoiding, and maybe is completely blind to, the real issues responsible for the "widening gap" discussed in the article.
Jeremy Boguslawski | 3/29/2011 - 6:39am
"Truth is not determined by a majority vote."-Cardinal Ratzinger

80% of "Catholics" could say they approve gay marriage and the Church will continue to stand by its' teaching of marriage between one man and one woman. If the Catholic church is the only institution sticking to the truth, I'll stand with the Church. You can not intellectualize truth because it is simple. I pray for those who consistently post on this blog to return into full communion with the Church and her beautiful teachings.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 2:39am
Quick clarification: I was using "faithful" as a objective description, i.e. adherence to the very basics of the Catholic religious structures and community, such as regular attendance at mass.
Anonymous | 3/29/2011 - 1:52am
Isn't 166 million dollars at least worthy of a...pause? Let us all remember the nature of our enemy: He is a Liar.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

John 8:44

Vince Killoran | 3/29/2011 - 12:32am
I think Brett is not exactly correct in the way he is presenting the data (not to mention his unfortunate language of "cultural" Catholic v. faithful Catholic). If you read the report itself you will see that there is a group that falls between weekly attendance & "a few times a year or less": those are Catholics who attend "once or twice a month." I know several of these folks and they fall into PJ's category, i.e., they travel great distances to attend parishes that are more welcoming but they often cannot attend each week. Forty-three percent of this last group support same-sex marriage. 

The report's authors go on to note that, even among the weekly group only 31% do not support any legal recognition of gay couples' relationships. Let's face it: we're a divided Church on this area with lots of grey area on this issue.
Anonymous | 3/28/2011 - 11:29pm
The devil is not one person. The devil is an organized battalion of malice. Some of the Fathers of the Church speak of two mystical bodies in the world. There is a mystical body of Christ, which is the Church He founded that we call the Church Militant. There is also a mystical body of satan, founded by lucifer, which is literally hell-bent on conquering the mystical body of Christ. This is the main reason why the Church on earth is called the Church Militant. It is most important to recognize the organized character of the legions of the evil spirit. Let us be sure that we recognize the Church Militant as more than just an adjective. As the saints tell us, the followers of Christ have one powerful weapon in battling the devil. That weapon is the Cross. We shall conquer the evil spirit on one condition. That we love the Cross, venerate the Cross, use the Cross to defeat the devil and his followers.
One more description of the devil. The devil uses civil authority, call it the State to war against the followers of Christ. It is surely not coincidental that Pontius Pilate, the civil governor of Palestine, condemned Jesus to a shameful death on the Cross. Over the centuries, the enemies of Christ have used the power of the State to undermine the moral teachings of the Savior. The legalized murder, under State authority, in most of the countries of the world, is surely the work of the devil. He uses State power. As I heard from a man just recently, “I have spent the last four years of my life in prison for praying the rosary before abortuaries.” As I said before, the State is the organized battalion which is being used by the devil to destroy the mystical body of Christ. 1
PJ Johnston | 3/28/2011 - 11:28pm
There are a lot of reasons people end up not in the pews, and not all of them have to do with whether or not they're faithful.  It could very well happen that faithful Catholics vote with their feet because their leaders are out of touch with their values or because they feel as if they are not welcome and things will never change.  I go to mass every day when I find a receptive parish.
Anonymous | 3/28/2011 - 11:22pm
PJ found the catch: only 26% of Catholics who regularly attend church support homosexual marriage.

Non-practicing or "cultural" Catholics may support such things, but faithful Catholics (bu a wide margin) certainly do not.
(I like how the author tries to make it appear that the bishops are "out of touch" when, in reailty, it's his ideology that is the antithesis of most in the pews)

Tom Maher | 3/28/2011 - 11:04pm
Well the facts Mr.O'Loughlin sites are contradicted by many other publically known event that do not support his conclusions of high percentages of Caholics and others support gay marraige. 

In 2008 in California the repeal gay marriage ruling of the California Supreme Court was overwhelmingly approved by California voters.  California was about the seventh state that had a state Supreme Court ruling approving gay marriages seiftly overturned by a puplic referendum.  In fact in almost every stare wre gay marriage was on the ballot it was defeated.  So this is noit just a Catholic thing in the United States.  

The ban on gay marriage was approved in the same election that overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama.  So there were plenty of liberals voting but still most voter chose to ban gay marraige in California.    How does that work?  California in any year is supposed to be atypically liberal .  But it dtill bvoted to ban gay marriaqge in the year of liberal ascendency where the Presdiency , the house of Representative and the Senate all went to liberal Democrats.  Soemthing very fundemantal must be going on.

And of course if oone isn't in the west -  like three quarters of humanity - than the topic of homosexual marriages is not even discussed. 

It might be better if Mr. O'Loughlin tell us just who actually supports gay marraige. Ort could this be one of those politically correct reactions where people say they are for gay marraige to the pollsters but in the privacy of the voting booth vote otherwise.  What happens all the time in the notheast.  Polls are off soemtimes by as musch as twenty or thirty percent.  Just how reliable are Mr. O'Loughlin' polls?  His pollsing data is not by actual voting results.  How come?
PJ Johnston | 3/28/2011 - 10:08pm
Do the percentages turn out significantly differently if you start factoring in frequency of church attendance, or do they remain about the same for "church-going" Catholics?  I'm from Iowa, which is possibly an unusual place because we just went through a judicial retention vote where three supreme court judges lost their seats over their pro- same sex marriage ruling, but there is a lot of use of Catholic pulpit time here to condemn homosexuality.  It's constant, and if you're not straight it's very alienating (even insane-making).  I usually have assumed that most of the congregation agrees with the priest's opinion about homosexuality, but I'm intrigued by the possibility that it might not.
John Barbieri | 3/28/2011 - 10:07pm
Without getting involved in the complexity of this debate - i.e.the rights of homosexuals - I think that the results show that the bishops are taken less and less seriously by the laity. The bishops by their own behavior have brought discredit on themselves as moral leaders.
OldDave NJ | 3/29/2011 - 1:03pm
Tom - again this isn't the ideal forum to get into details. But let me just point out four assumptions in your last post.

(1) You assume supporting same-gender marriage somehow represents a fundamental disrespect for the sanctity of the institution. Not true. The things that many of us understand as the Biblical ideal for marriages - love, fidelity, committment, mutual support, responsible parenting of any children in their care, etc. hold for straight or same-gender relationships alike. In the case of Christian marriages consecrated before God, there are also the elements of faithfulness to God and the raising up of children in the faith. Again, true regardless of the orientations of the parents involved.

(2) You assume the Herod story is somehow relevant. In fact, what Herod did was have an adulterous relattionship/marriage with his sister-in-law. That hardly meshes with some of the sanctifying traits of marriage, like fidelity, faithfulness, and committment, I noted above. Many folks just wouldn't see the relevance of that relationship to what we're talking about here.

(3) You assume that the fact that the couples in relationship throughout the Bible are heterosexual somehow reflects negatively on the same-gender relationships being discussed. But their absence from scripture isn't really very telling, given that same-sex activities throughout the time the Bible was written often were conducted in the context of things like pagan rites, prostitution, rape, and pederasty. There is a legitimate question regarding the relevance of those few passages commonly used to condemn homosexuality.

(4) You assume that Church teachings and your own personal understanding of scripture are equivalent to the "clear, authentic, word of Christ in the Gospel." No offense, but that is one of the main points of disagreement here.

Again, not to start a debate, but just to point out that it's important to be aware of assumptions made when you argue your points.
OldDave NJ | 3/29/2011 - 11:13am
In the interest of full disclosure (in case it's not obvious), I am one of those awful liberal Protestants. But I'm not throwing in my two cents just to argue against the traditional Catholic position. Mostly I just want to point out how, in my opinion, so many of these discussions involve people with opposing views talking past each other, rather than to each other. And that is mostly because people tend to resort to name-calling, or they build arguments based on assumptions that aren't accepted by their opponents, or they ignore or fail to understand the viewpoints of those they disagree with, or they take an I'm-right/you're-wrong/end-of-discussion attitude.
OldDave NJ | 3/29/2011 - 11:01am
Michael B. - your response illustrates a little of what I'm talking about. Most people I know now have friends/acquaintances that are homosexual; many know same-gender couples who have been together for a long time, who are raising families, and who live extremely normal, productive lives. And they know how damaging the status quo is for these families. Changing laws may not impact straight people directly, but more and more they recognize such changes would be good for gay people they know and care about. And if by teaching you mean school students will learn that such families exist, live normal, productive lives, and deserve our respect, then I think that actually is becoming fairly acceptable to an increasing number of people. Your comment about more children turning to homosexuality - even your reference to a "homosexual lifestyle" - suggests an understanding of orientation that is at odds with current scientific consensus and the personal experiences of most people I know.

@Tom M. - likewise, your response doesn't really address the issue. Of course, this kind of forum is not ideal for conducting lengthy theological discussions. But simply dismissing the views of those who disagree with you as "corrosive" and "muddled" and the distorted rationalizations of people wanting to be crowd-pleasers, without actually addressing directly the arguments behind their dissenting views, gets you nowhere.