Dominic Holden's Salon article about how no one is listening any longer to the pope has a special ring to my ears this morning following yesterday's elections. Holden posted it before the election results began to pour in. Holden reports from Washington state on what happened when the new archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, arrived in town and began trying to strongarm Catholics into supporting his (and Pope Benedict's) crusade against the human rights of gay and lesbian persons:
When conservative activists in Washington sought to suspend and overturn a marriage equality law for same-sex couples in January, Archbishop Sartain started strong. He invited activists to circulate anti-gay-marriage petitions inside his parishes, he ordered each parish to print an anti-gay-marriage statement in its Sunday bulletin, and the archdiocese’s website was splattered with red-type requests for people to lobby the governor to take action. Declaring that the “continuation of the human race” hung in the balance and that “bringing to life the next generation” required denying same-sex marriage (apparently heterosexuals will stop having children if gay people can marry), Sartain was clearly spoiling for a fight.
And he got one, but not the one he expected. It’s not clear that Sartain knew what he was in for. After all, Sartain has only been appointed about 14 months before — by a pope who, it must be acknowledged, may have a vendetta against Seattle’s gay-friendly congregations that rebuffed him 30 years prior — and what Sartain got was an outright revolt from the pews.
Most notably, congregants formed a PAC called Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington State, which has raised $38,000. The group’s members attend masses, well, religiously, and Barbara Guzzo, who runs the PAC and is straight, ran full-page newspaper advertisements this week that listed nearly 1,000 Catholics who support marriage equality. The group marched in the gay pride parade, sharply criticized their archbishop, and even upbraided an Eastern Washington diocese that planned to collect money in the pews in a manner that would have violated state election laws (the state prohibits intermediary agents like churches from bundling donations for other campaigns).
Holden concludes that, vis-a-vis the Catholic bishops and their increasingly belligerent and intransigent position on the human rights of LGBT citizens, which conflicts with the sensus fidelium, "the flock is taming the shepherds." He notes that the bishops have a "real crisis on their hands" when their reading of the bible differs from that of their own flock regarding the humanity and human rights of gay and lesbian persons.
And then he writes,
Catholics are setting an example for elections to come. They’re refusing to let the hierarchy speak for them, and even reining them in, just as they did back when I was a kid. Given that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has proven it can shift national policy, God bless the laity for keeping them in check. They’re the only people who can.
And I believe he's absolutely correct. Yesterday's election results were, across the board, a huge defeat for the U.S. Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict, who have cast their lot with a waning demographic of aging, angry white men and the super-rich who call the shots for that waning demographic.
Meanwhile, the world--which God loved into being and reaches out to enfold in Her redemptive embrace of love--continues to spin on, and the direction in which it spins cannot be controlled by the bishops. Who are called to be sacramental signs of God's all-embracing, redemptive love.
And who do not own God. Quite the contrary.
The graphic is from the Facebook page of Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington State.