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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The Transformation of Christian Response to Homoerotic Love

You’d never guess it if your only knowledge of the churches and homosexuality came from Focus on the Family, NOM or California Catholic Daily in the US, or from Christian Voice or the rule-book Catholic blogs in the UK, or from breakaway groups in the Anglican communion worldwide, but we are in the midst of a dramatic, wholesale transformation of the Christian churches’ response to homoerotic relationships. This is clearly leading in the direction of full inclusion in church for queer Christians, and for evaluating couple relationships and their recognition in church on a basis of full equality. This is bound to lead in time to profound improvements in the  political battles for full equality, and in the mental health of the LGBT Christian community.

These are bold statements. Am I mistaken? Am I deluding myself? It is of course possible that this is a case of wishful thinking, that I am misreading or exaggerating the evidence.  It’s possible – but I don’t think so. The evidence is compelling, if not yet widely noted. To substantiate my argument, I want to present the facts, and their implications, in some detail. As there is too much for a single post, I begin today with just a summary, as heads of argument. I will expand on the main sections in later posts, which I have in preparation.

(For now, I have made no attempt to supply detailed substantiation or links – these will follow, as I expand later on each specific theme).

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

 

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Hawaii Civil Unions Approved; Marriage Equality Update

Three significant news items yesterday illustrated the continuing momentum towards marriage and family equality.

In Hawaii, the state senate has now given final approval to civil unions for same sex couples. All that is now required is for the Gobvernor to add his signature, which he has promised he will do, adding to the number which now offer marriage equality or near equality at state level. More will follow.

In Baltimore, another state senator has stepped off the fence, and announced he will vote in favour of the marriage bill next week. This makes at least 24 votes (and possibly 25) in favour, which will be enough for approval. Passage in the lower house and the governor’s signature should follow.

In Delaware, a new group (Equality Delaware) has been formed to push for civil unions, and has announced sponsors for a bill to be introduced to the legislature later this year. (A recent opinion poll showed that a plurality of Delaware voters support full marriage. This would suggest that the early prospects for the more cautious proposal of civil unions must be good).

For the record, here is the current rundown by state, for the US a.nd internationally.
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Civil Unions Now Imminent in Hawaii

The Hawaii state Senate yesterday approved civil unions legislation for the state. Approval by the state House, which last year passed similar legislation before it was vetoed by GOP Governor Lingle, is surely just a a formality. The new governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has already promised to sign the legislation when (no longer if) it reaches his desk. Near-marriage, marriage in all but name, is on the way in Hawaii.

I particularly likes this statement from Senator  Solomon of Honokaa. In his formulation, this expression of Aloha sounds to me remarkably like a statement of the true spirit of Christianity:

“Let’s get beyond this. Let’s realize what the spirit of aloha is all about, which means including people no matter their color, no matter their gender, no matter their lifestyle,” said Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Hilo-Honokaa.

In my mind, only three questions remain:

  • When will the new legislation take effect? How long will it be before Hawaii’s same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot, and have their unions recognized by the state?
  • Which will be the next state to follow suit?
  • How long must we wait for “near-marriage” to  become full marriage equality, including the name?

From NECN:

Hawaii Senate approves same-sex civil unions

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved civil unions for same-sex couples, a major step toward the proposal becoming law.

The state Senate voted 19-6 for the bill, which now goes to the state House of Representatives, where a nearly identical measure passed last year before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.

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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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Religious Leaders Argue “Religious Freedom” Requires that Prop 8 Must Go.

Catholic Bishops are fond of arguing that “religious freedom” should require that they be granted exemptions from complying with laws on inclusion and equality with which they (but not most lay Catholics) disagree. However, some bishops conveniently ignore this principle when dealing with their own members who apply it to the right to dissent from Vatican doctrine on sexual ethics – or to the formulation of legislation in the first place. The Catholic  and Mormon churches made vigorous efforts in support of Proposition 8 to deny marriage equality. However, this is not a simple issue of civil rights in a tussle with religious principle.  People of faith disagree among themselves, and so some religious leaders argue that “as a matter of faith“,  Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that struck down Proposition 8 must stand.

Christian and Jewish clergy voice support for gay-marriage ruling

A dozen Christian and Jewish clergy offered support Wednesday for a U.S. District Court ruling in August that found California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The case is now before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At a Los Angeles news conference, the group said it planned to file an amicus brief in support of Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to strike down Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage.  The judge said the measure violated due process and equal protection for gays and lesbians.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Episcopal diocese, the United Church of Christ, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and other liberal religious groups spoke of marriage equality as part of religious freedom Wednesday in the gathering at the St. Paul Cathedral Center, the Episcopal diocese headquarters.

“It is not an issue of legal matters, it’s an issue of faith,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles.

The Rev. Fernando Santillana, pastor of Norwalk United Methodist Church, called it a Christian responsibility to speak up for equality.

“We are all divine creations. Some are heterosexual and some are not.  But we are all God’s creatures,” Santillana said. “We have to be the voice that speaks for God in a society that is divided.”

Rick Rojas, LA Times

 

 

What Constitutes a “Family”? Empirical Study Finds A Wider View

Religious conservatives are regularly referring to the “traditional family” as a foundation for their beliefs, but there is no such thing. The conservative interpretation of the so-called traditional family is  a relatively modern invention, created to fit the conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. In earlier times, and other parts of the world. family structures varied enormously from  this particular model.

Family history, like all other history, is constantly changing to fit new circumstances, so it should be no surprise that conceptions of family in the twenty first century are continuing to evolve, to fit a world that is no longer what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these changes are obvious, but like so much that is familiar, can easily be “hidden in plain sight.” A new study by sociologist  Brian Powell brings this into plain view. (His study is specifically of American views, but with the emergence of a shared world culture, many of his findings will also have relevance across a much wider geographic region.)

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