Friday, October 19, 2012

Church-Going Latino Catholics Favor Same-Sex Marriage: The Surprise of the Centrist Catholic Commentariat

Also in the news, Latino Catholics and their stance regarding gay marriage: at the Commonweal blog site, Paul Moses notes that a recent Pew Research Center poll shows 46 percent of Latino Catholics who attend church weekly favoring same-sex marriage, as opposed to 37 percent who oppose it.  This is in sharp contrast to the findings for white Catholics who attend Mass weekly: in that group, 39 percent favor same-sex marriage, while 53 percent oppose it.

As Moses suggests (and I think he's correct about this), "Given the increasing proportion of Latinos in the U.S. Catholic Church, this portends a long-term shift in attitudes among churchgoing Catholics."  But he also states that he "would not necessarily have expected that Latino Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week would favor legalizing same-sex marriage."

And I'm surprised in turn by Paul Moses's surprise about this finding.  To me, it seems intuitively obvious that a majority of Latinos don't buy into the conservative Catholic agenda that many centrist Catholic commentariat types love to imagine the Latino community brings to the American Catholic church.  For instance, on the same day that Moses posted his piece at Commonweal, Michael Sean Winters wrote at National Catholic Reporter that he has great hope that Latinos, who have been "forced into the arms of the Democratic Party by a GOP hostile to them," will remake the Democratic party over into Mr. Winters's version of a pro-life party.  This is a recurring theme for Winters, whose primary role as a political commentator is to try in every way possible to make even the most extreme positions of the hierarchy on issues like contraception and homosexuality palatable, and to bar the door to progressives in the conversation that defines American Catholic identity.

I'm struck by Paul Moses's surprise that Latino Catholics favor marriage equality, and by Michael Sean Winters's rather insultingly reductionistic analysis of why many Latinos choose the Democratic party: they're being "forced into" that choice by the GOP, rather than exercising their autonomy, self-determination, and strong consciences--and therefore making a deliberate choice for a party whose values are more consonant with their own.

In my view, both remarks indicate the extent to which the centrist Catholic commentariat, which is cooped up in insulated, precious, navel-gazing power centers on the east coast that dominate the American mainstream media, is entirely out of touch with the real-life Catholic community throughout much of the U.S.  Though centrist Catholic media figures claim to be speaking on behalf of that very community . . . . 

Some important questions that Moses and Winters might ask themselves and the Latino community about which they enjoy commentating:

1. Do Latino Catholics understand Catholic social teaching better than many Catholics of the American mainstream, including the powerful centrist Catholic commentariat who are cozily situated within the power circles dominating the social and economic mainstream, because of the historic experiences of marginalization, discrimination, and disfranchisement of the Latino community?

2. If so, does this understanding of Catholic social teaching rooted in real-life experiences of discrimination lead to sympathy for and solidarity with others experiencing similar marginalization and discrimination?

3. And if that's the case, isn't it obvious that we Catholics of the mainstream, who assume we have all the answers already, stand to learn a great deal from inviting to our conversation table real-life Catholics about whom we like to talk, but with whom we actually spend very little time at all talking?

4. And if we do issue such an invitation, are we prepared to risk learning something that might upsets our self-serving paradigm in which we are the active, dominant agents and those Others are passive, dominated objects whom we study and use, but to whom we never really listen?  Are we prepared to change our self-serving power paradigm and become learners and listeners and not teachers and authority figures?

5. Are we prepared, in fact, to learn that we've actually been using a minority community to bolster paradigms that serve our own self-interest, without having much concern at all for the minority community about whom we're commentating?

As I say, these seem to me questions well worth asking.

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