|Screenshot from PRRI report on why Americans are leaving religion behind, Sept. 2016|
Let that sink in. Almost 40% of Catholics interviewed [in a recent PRRI survey about why "nones" are leaving religion behind] cited this very specific reason [i.e., negative treatment of gay* people by the Catholic church, as their reason for exiting it]. On this point, the data is strong and getting stronger. For younger generations—and 'young' stretches into current thirty- and forty-somethings as well—the moral status of homosexuality has simply moved to another region of the brain from that of other vexing moral questions. This is a matter not of normative argument but sociological description, backed up by poll after poll and corroborated by longitudinal studies, such as Robert Putnam and David Campbell’s peerless book, American Grace. . . .
Any comment a leader makes about gays and lesbians—from a magisterial pronouncement to a small remark in a pulpit or classroom—must be chosen with these high stakes in mind. With regard to how gays and lesbians are spoken of in church settings, there is no margin of error. Any expression of negativity and ostracization from the pulpit will be heard from the pew as an irredeemable affront to friends and family—or one’s very self. And next week, that same pew will be empty.
P.S. If you expect to retain hope that the Catholic institution can change, can begin to deal with gay* human beings differently and recognize its horrendous pastoral malfeasance in driving away not only gay* members of the church but many others who care about our well-being, do not read the comments responding to Michael Peppard's valuable Commonweal posting here.
What those comments reveal — all over again — is the absolute imperviousness of many affluent or middle-class straight white Catholics, particularly in the academic and journalistic elites of the U.S. Catholic church, to their brothers and sisters who are gay*. They do not care, frankly, that we have been driven way. We live our lives. They live theirs.
And their lives constitute the church. We who are gay* have made our choice to leave their church behind, and we must deal with the consequences of our choice: this is the logic (a logic that owes far more to the winner-loser individualism of the draconian lottery that is capitalism than to Catholic social teaching) they use to justify their moral obtuseness and outright cruelty, as they define themselves — straight, white, affluent or middle-class Catholics — as the church.
Nor do they care that younger people are leaving the church in droves now due to its moral obtuseness about and outright cruelty towards gay* human beings. They, too, are making their choice. (And clubs have a way of being all the cozier when we can shove the troublesome folks out of them, don't they?)
Think they'll invite you into their cozy little Club Catholic and ask to hear your gay* voice? Think again. (And it goes without saying that I am grateful to straight white Catholics like Michael Peppard for trying to make a dent in this adamantly closed system.)
* Gay = LGBTQI.