Saturday, November 26, 2022

Commentary on Respect for Marriage Act and How Religious Groups — Notably, U.S. Catholic Bishops — Are Dealing with This Issue

PRRI, "Support for Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBTQ People, by Religious Affiliation, 2015-2021"

An offering of interrelated articles commenting on the Senate vote to advance the Respect for Marriage Act and how religious groups — notably, the U.S. Catholic bishops — are dealing with this issue:

Maggie Severns and Anna Dean, "The Senate votes to advance the Respect for Marriage Act. What’s in it, and how would it protect same-sex marriage?": 

The gap between white Evangelical Protestants and many other religious groups when it comes to same-sex marriage is striking. As of 2021, overwhelming shares of Jewish Americans, mainline Protestants and Catholics supported same-sex marriage, as did 55 percent of Black Protestants and 55 percent of Muslims. But only 35 percent of white Evangelical Protestants feel similarly, according to polling conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.

This is important because white Evangelical Protestants make up a key voting block for Republicans and have historically been very active in politics. An estimated 29 percent of Republicans identify as white Evangelical Protestants, according to PRRI surveys, more than any other religious group. Led by religious leaders like Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed, these voters helped secure Donald Trump’s 2016 nomination to be president.  

Delphine Nerbollier, "German Church changes labor law, protects gays and divorcees," reports that the German Catholic bishops' conference has just passed a new provision for employees of Catholic institutions. The provision states that  the "private life [of employees] is no longer subject to legal control and no longer concerns the employer."

This is significant because up to now, Catholic institutions in Germany have claimed a right to make hiring and firing decisions based on sexual orientation and marital status, particularly if an employee or prospective employee is divorced and remarried. 

What the German Catholic bishops are doing is in sharp contrast to how the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to want to behave. Even the Mormon church has now made a public statement supporting the rights of same-sex couples, though the LDS church does not support same-sex marriage.

But the U.S. Catholic bishops are continuing to lobby for the right of employers to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people, and have just elected national leaders who are overtly and outspokenly anti-LGBTQ — though a majority of U.S. lay Catholics support same-sex marriage.

Catholic instituitions in the U.S. continue to assert their right to fire employees solely because they are LGBTQ or because they have entered a same-sex marriage or are divorced and have remarried. At the same time, most Catholic institutions never scrutinize the sexual lives of employees who are heterosexual in the way that they seek to scrutinize the lives of queer employees. It would be unheard of for a Catholic institution to ask its heterosexually married employees if they are using contraceptives — an act forbidden by the same moral teaching that forbids homosexual acts — or even if employees are heterosexual and living together without being married.

In other words, what Catholic leaders in the U.S. are lobbying for is the "right" of Catholic institutions to target and discriminate against LGBTQ people.

In "A Battle for the Soul of the American Catholic Church," Joel Connelly discusses the battle for the soul of American Catholicism now going on between Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic bishops, who are as a body demonstrating contempt for the pope's vision of the church and bearing down on their culture-war fixations of abortion and same-sex marriage, though the pope is trying to shift the focus away from militant culture-war Catholicism.

As Connelly notes, the choices the bishops have just made for their USCCB leaders tell the story: hard-right, anti-gay, abortion-ranting bishops who want to punish Catholics Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi by denying communion to them. He notes the dismal results of the bishops' culture-war fixations in the pews, where many lay Catholics do not buy the toxic, weaponized Catholicism the bishops want to sell:

Lay people in – and leaving – the pews have become estranged from what they see as clerical error.  Attendance at mass is declining.  Dioceses are closing parishes, with the American church hit by a sharp drop in priestly vocations.  A group of lay leaders in the Archdiocese of Seattle recently warned Archbishop Etienne that young people are leaving the church in large numbers.

In national polls, Catholics voice support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage in the same percentages as those of other or no-faith traditions.  A majority believe priests should be allowed to marry. Surveys have revealed that a large majority of Catholic women have embraced contraception, despite church opposition.

As he notes, the bishops are now out of step even with the Mormons (!) when it comes to protection of the right to same-sex marriage. As noted previously, the LDS church recently put its support behind protecting same-sex marriage, even though the LDS church does not permit or approve of same-sex marriage.

But not the U.S. Catholic bishops. They're lobbying to dismantle all protections for same-sex marriage and ranting about how those protections violate their "religious freedom."

The bishops' culture-war attacks on Biden and the Democratic party are being driven by what Connelly calls the "bling wing" of American Catholicism* — super-rich right-wing Catholics who want to buy control of the Vatican and who resent Pope Francis because he has rehabilitated Catholic social teaching and liberation theology. There are bucket-loads of money behind the attack on Pope Francis — and if the U.S. Catholic bishops believe in anything at all, God knows that they believe in $$$$$$.

They're a disgrace.

*Connelly is referring specifically to the Napa Institute crowd as he uses that phrase. I find it a fine and useful phrase to describe in general the deep-pocketed right-wing Catholics in the U.S. who are using their money and the U.S. bishops to attack Pope Francis.

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