While watching the Republican primary season play out, one exit poll item caught my eye. Rick Santorum, the self-avowed Roman Catholic traditionalist, repeatedly lost the Catholic vote … to a Mormon! Similarly, during the flap over contraception coverage in the Affordable Health Care Act that riled up the Catholic Bishops, public polls showed 60% of Roman Catholics supported the provision. Clearly, there appears to be a disconnect between the hard-line conservatism of the bishops/hierarchy and the folks in the pews.
Recently a gay man who served on the board of Catholic Charities quit in a highly-public rebuke of Cardinal Dolan of the archdiocese of New York.
A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.
Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.
Today, Amodeo, the gay man, speaks out in a Huff Post blog entitled “The Pulpit vs. the Pews”. He basically makes the case that there is strong and widespread support for gays within the Catholic laity and the hierarchy is simply out of touch. His post begins with a personal story from a few years ago; his role as a Christian educator was questioned and resulted in a public hearing in the church.
The priest called a meeting of the parish on a weeknight and asked that anyone who had concerns related to my teaching should speak up publicly. The night of the meeting, I entered a packed Church and slowly made my way to a pew where I sat next to my father. As the meeting began, one-by-one congregants rose and expressed their real concern: why this was even an issue. The reality is that my experience from nearly a decade ago is representative of the vast majority of Roman Catholics. We live in a Church that is called to welcome and affirm people’s humanity and identity without exception.
Amodeo also blames the press for assuming that bishops speak for the people.
It further saddens me to think that the voices of some bishops are seen as representative of all Catholic people when in reality the vast majority of Catholics support their LGBT brothers and sisters, as evidenced by a growing number of studies. A recent study released by GLAAD showed more than 50 percent of Catholic voices presented in the media offer a negative view on LGBT issues when in reality a majority of American Catholics support LGBT equality.
How is it that the Catholic hierarchy has lost touch? Twenty years ago, I was in the midst of graduate studies with the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey and University School of Theology. Over lunch or coffee, I heard a recurring lament from the Catholic grad students … that the current pope was appointing reactionary bishops and the progressive spirit of Vatican II was being reversed. That process has continued under the current pope. Thus, since 1978, there has been a remaking of the entire episcopate under two conservative popes.
Conservative Lutheran denominations such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) have stridently anti-Catholic histories. During her failed campaign, Republican Michelle Bachman resigned from her Wisconsin Synod congregation over the embarrassment that it remained WELS official policy that the papacy was the anti-Christ. Thus, it is a fascinating sign of the times that a group of Missouri Synod pastors, congregations, the LCMS district superintendent, and a seminary professor will march to the steps of the Fort Wayne Cathedral to show support for the local Catholic bishop and diocese in their opposition to the contraceptive portions of Obamacare.
Right wing politics makes strange bedfellows.