The Catholic Laity/Bishops Disconnect on Sexuality, Homosexuality

The evidence of a gulf in thinking on homosexuality (and sexuality more generally) between the formal position of Vatican orthodoxy and the  real beliefs of ordinary Catholics is clear. To make sense of this. we need to consider two key questions: the compelling, established evidence that such a gulf exists, and the more tentative evidence that the oligarchy is starting to catch up.

In this post, I simply present a summary of the main findings on the belief of real Catholics, with some commentary and supporting links. Later, I will report on commentary elsewhere, and expand on the signs of the change that must come from the bishops’ oligarchy – and is just starting to do so.

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New Yorkers Want Marriage Equality (Poll Shows Strongest Support Yet)

Even though New York Democrats lost control of the State Senate last November, the prospects for a bill providing for full marriage equality this year look brighter than ever – senators will know that in both parties, some of the most outspoken opponents lost their re-election bids (almost unheard of in state politics) and will not want to go the same way. Undoubtedly, some of those who voted against the last gay marriage bill will change their votes the next time around – we just don’t know how many. For the waverers, this CBS6 Albany report of a new poll from  (highly reputable) Quinnipiac Research could help to sway them. Note that support for equality is strong in all geographic regions (suburban, NYC, and Upstate), and that 41% of Republican voters are also supportive. Note also that the gap between support and opposition has doubled in just 18 months, going from 10% in June 2009 to 21% this month.

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Marriage Equality Gaining Ground in Maryland.

The movement to marriage equality continues to show progress in Maryland. As lawmakers in the Maryland House and Senate formally kicked off their push for gay marriage, a new poll has shown that for the first time, an absolute majority of Marylanders now support full marriage equality.

According to Annapolis-based pollster Gonzales Research, 51 percent of Maryland residents support gay marriage. Endorsements break down along party lines, with 65 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favoring same-sex marriage, while only 24 percent of Republicans back the concept. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

-Hometown Annapolis.com

 

The steady growth in Maryland for acceptance of equality matches the trend nationally and internationally. Speaking of the US,

Tim Magrath, a lecturer in political science at Frostburg State University and a former congressional staffer, agrees that the national attitude toward same-sex marriage is changing.

“The polling data’s been incredible, the numbers have completely turned around,” said Magrath. “In the ’90s when (President) Clinton first started talking about gays in the military, the approval rating was in the 30s, but now a vast majority of people support the idea of gays in the military.”

“Public perception on marriage has been transformed in the last decade as well, and there’s been a major transformation in public opinion,” said Magrath.

The bill which is now being introduced will face strong opposition and a likely filibuster. Still, it has an excellent chance of being passed, after the mid-term elections saw an increased number of key supporters elected to the state legislature. Governor O’Malley has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk – but it will probably then face an attempt to force the issue into a voter referendum.

UPDATE: The bill has now been formally submitted to the Maryland House with58 co-sponsors. (Last week it was introduced in the Senate with 18 co-sponsors):

House Majority Leader Kumar Barve today submitted the House plan to legalize same-sex marriage — a proposal backed by 58 delegates who have signed on as co-sponsors.

Barve described the number of supporters as “pretty darn good” for a controversial issue. The House would need 71 “yes” votes to pass the legislation.

It’s another sign that gay marriage has gained traction this year. Maryland would join six other states and the District of Columbia if either full marriage benefits or a compromise civil unions plan is passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he would do so.

Notably, 12 members of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that will weigh whether to send the measure on for debate in the entire chamber, are co-sponsors, according to a list of signatures provided to The Sun this morning. That’s exactly the number needed to approve the bill in committee.

-Baltimore Sun


The Many Routes to Marriage: In China, Unofficially.

In the West, when we speak of “marriage”, we are usually thinking of something sanctioned by either church or state – or both. In Asia, it’s more fluid. Last year I reported on the first gay marriage in Nepal, which was held without waiting for the new constitution to be completed and give legal sanction to the union. Similar unofficial weddings, unrecognized by legal provision, seem to be increasingly common in many Asian countries. What I like about this report from China is not the novelty value of the report (this not new. There was a very public “gay marriage” display in Beijing for Valentine’s Day, 2009), but the argument that public recognition of such marriages, even without religious blessing or legal registration, can contribute to stable and healthy relationships – and so contribute to HIV/AIDS prevention.

When Da Wen said “I do” to Xiao Qiang at their wedding in a Beijing restaurant on Saturday it was a union aimed not only at the joining of two people in love but also a bid to strengthen the fight against AIDS.

The two men, knowing that gay marriage is not recognized under Chinese law, still wanted to declare their union in public as an example to other gay couples in China.

Although their marriage cannot be officially registered, the couple received a certificate, complete with pictures of both men and the seal of “China’s Happy Marriage Committee,” an organization that doesn’t exist.

Xiao Dong, director of a Beijing AIDS prevention voluntary team, said such gay marriages would help people in the gay community prevent AIDS.

He said marriage could seal relationships and avoid rapid changes in sex partners.

Xiao said the lack of a law to regulate same-sex marriages in China made it difficult for gay couples to maintain their relationships.

People in gay communities would often have several sex partners due to the absence of law, thus dramatically increasing the risk of them getting AIDS, Xiao said.

Read more at China.org

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12th January: St Aelred of Rievaulx, Patron of Same Sex Intimacy

St Aelred,  whose feast we celebrate today, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott.  He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron. From the website of Integrity, this Collect for the feast of Aelred:

Collect

Pour into our hearts, 0 God, the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, that we, clasping each the other’s hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred draw many into your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos, 3rd Century Lovers and Martyrs.

The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar – but should be.  John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before  Sergius & Bacchus .
Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians.  The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.

Gay Marriage – in Church: Sweden

It’s been a long time coming, but has been expected ever since same – sex marriage was approved by the Swedish parliament back in May this year – immediately before the news from Iowa.  As I predicted at the time, the Swedish Lutheran Church has now approved church weddings for gay and lesbian couples.   The interesting part of this to me is that although individual pastors are not obliged to perform same sex ceremonies, local churches do not have the same opt-out:  all churches must be available to all couples.  If the resident pastor won’t do it, a substitute must be brought in from elsewhere.

Bridegrooms on Church Steps

Once again, this advance has come after discussion that began much earlier, before the church approved “blessing of homosexual partnerships years ago.”  In so doing, the majority of the church discounted the traditional view that such partnerships were somehow “against Scripture”.  This is another very welcome step in the defanging of that fallacious argument. (See “Countering the Clobber Texts”)

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