On Meet the Press earlier this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, claimed that the Catholic Church is not anti-gay. “We’re pro marriage, we’re pro traditional marriage, we’re not anti anybody. We’ve been out-marketed, we’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,” he explained to the show’s host, David Gregory. Dolan’s right. The Catholic Church isn’t anti-gay, but evidence suggests its bishops certainly are.

Catholic bishops’ opposition to marriage equality is intense, if not particularly effective. Their point man on the issue, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, was, in a rather cruel slap to the LGBT community, was appointed archbishop to San Francisco last year, a symbolic place in the fight for gay rights. When Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage last month, Cordileone used battle imagery, offering prayers to those “helped defend” marriage there. He said that their “efforts were not in vain.” In Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki held an exorcism as Gov. Pat Quinn signed that state’s marriage equality bill into law. Paprocki called same-sex marriage evil, the result of “diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture.”

The US bishops’ lobbying arm, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to Congress opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). They fear that the law would hinder religious liberty, protect “extramarital sexual conduct”, and reject “the biological basis of gender by defining ‘gender identity’ as something people may choose at variance with their biological sex.” But Freedom to Work, an advocacy group pushing the law, disagrees, saying, “ENDA exempts churches, religious organizations and religious schools.”

The list goes on. The Catholic archdioceses of Boston and Washington, DC, ended adoption programs rather than comply with laws that prevented discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some dioceses have issued guidelines that prohibit children of same-sex partners from attending Catholic schools. Effective Catholic schoolteachers who are gay have been fired. Communion has been denied. Bishops have threatened to pull support for immigration reform if same-sex couples are recognized as families. And one prominent American Cardinal even compared LGBT activists to Ku Klux Klan members.

And yet, lay American Catholics remain at the forefront of supporting LGBT rights.
Catholic legislators and governors have been some of the most vocal advocates for inclusive state laws. In Illinois, one state lawmaker said she supported the bill as “as a Catholic follower of Jesus and the Pope” and the speaker of the Illinois State House, Michael Madigan, cited Pope Francis’s question, “Who am I to judge?” as his reason for supporting the bill.

Poll after poll shows that Catholic laypeople support marriage equality. A Quinnipiac poll found that Catholics are the only Christian denomination with a majority supporting same-sex marriage in Virginia. A PEW poll found that 71% of Catholics in the US believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. All 6 New England states have marriage equality laws, and the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that overrepresentation of Catholics in the northeast compared to the rest of the US may have played a part.

The Catholic Church is actually quite supportive of LGBT people. It’s just that the sheep are well ahead of their shepherds. With Pope Francis, though, change is in the air. He wants pastors to smell of the sheep! He’s asked whom he is to judge gay people seeking a relationship with the Lord. He slapped the wrists of conservative Catholics who fixate on gay marriage and abortion. And he’s avoided preaching on the topic, instead focusing on the poor and God’s love. Might US bishops take a cue from their leader?

Here’s how the bishops could change the public’s perception of them as being “anti-gay.”
Change the emphasis. Catholic law condemns homosexual acts, but it also calls for unmitigated respect for all people, gays and lesbians included. Yet too often we hear words of condemnation. Imagine if bishops supported laws like ENDA that protect the dignity of gay and lesbian people? Might they highlight and condemn the abuse LGBT people face at home and around the world? This would be truly Christian, though radical considering the source, giving voice to the marginalized.

Include more diverse perspectives. If US bishops sought input from lay people, especially women, they might appreciate the struggles gay and lesbian people face and perhaps even advocate on their behalf. When families know gay people and understand their struggles, they’re more likely to become supportive of them. Bishops would benefit from listening to their insight.

Finally, drop the opposition to marriage equality. It’s here to stay, and young Catholics support it at overwhelming numbers. To be against marriage equality is equated with bigotry and being out of the mainstream. To lose a generation of Catholics on this issue is shortsighted and will hinder social justice efforts to alleviate poverty, prevent war, and strengthen the common good. This will be a tragedy that will take many years to overcome. It doesn’t mean supporting marriage equality, but simply focusing on other issues, much like the bishop of Rome.

Pope Francis shows that Catholic bishops can get it right. Will his American colleagues can follow his lead?

Categories: Beliefs, Culture, Politics

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on BustedHalo.com, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.


  1. A well observed and written commentary. I sense a significant component of the efforts of the Bishops is their seeking for a scapegoat for the many scandals of the past years. It is also an popular offering to conservatives as they seek to affirm their moral leadership. Hopefully, prayerfully the Holy Spirit, working through Pope Francis and the faithful will bring us to more Christ centered love and understanding.

  2. “Drop the opposition to marriage equality.”

    There’s no need for that demand, for it’s already done. Pope Francis has already publicly surrendered to the gay marriage activists. He’s already waved an unprecedented white flag and promised his “non-interference” to the gay activists. Catholic lawmakers in Illinois even quoted Francis directly to justify their adoption of legalized gay marriage. The Pope never criticized any of them — not even slighty — for doing so.

    He’s MSNBC’s official “Favorite Pope”, he’s Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year”, in large part because of his public surrender.

    Armed with all of that secular popularity, it’s only a matter of time before Francis causes the U.S. bishops to fall into total retreat and defeat (unless they are seriously prayed up and ready to take a unified, sacrificial, no-compromise, no-retreat stand in full agreement with their own Scriptures.)

    Very difficult times right now for American Christianity. Things are getting worse.

    • Its already done? Really?

      Bishops and Catholic organizations in the US and throughout the world have ceased to provide financial and political support to oppose marriage equality?

      Not even close.

      Despite the Pope’s pronouncements there has been zero change to existing church policies in place. There has been no changes to official doctrine on the subject.

      If those bishops feel their (IMO bigoted) agenda is more important than adherence to the infallibility of their pontiff, maybe they should disassociate themselves from the church and all of its resources. Stop taking the papal coin and form their own church.

      Its not a difficult time for American Christianity at all. Its just a difficult time for fundamentalists who previously enjoyed a level of privilege in government and society. A privilege they were never entitled to in the first place. The majority of people who profess adherence to the Christian faith do not oppose marriage equality.




      • “There has been no changes to official doctrine on the subject.”

        Hmm. The gay-marriage salesmen aren’t asking for “changes to official doctrine.” They’re not asking for a re-write of the statements of the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding homosexual behavior.

        What THEY want is for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have proven to be among the most faithful and effective barriers to legalizing gay marriage all across America, to simply shut up about gay marriage and let the gay marriage activists win the whole thing unopposed.

        The unprecedented and unfortunate thing is that what the gay activists and bullies want, is what the world leader of Catholicism also happens to want. Silence the US bishops, silence Catholic opposition, and simply let the homosexual movement take over.

        And THAT’s why Pope Francis, for all of his outstanding personal qualities and Obama-like secular popularity, is absolutely the wrong Pope. A potentially disastrous Pope. With him in charge, there’s no further need for RNS writers to call for dropping opposition to gay marriage. Christians, we in trouble.

        • The pope already dropped messages telling the Church to dial back the anti-gay rhetoric. Not surprisingly, it has not been followed up by any substantive change in policy. There is no actual change. The Church is still anti-gay in action if not in words. The author’s initial statements notwithstanding. So no, it is far from a capitulation.

          That being said, Catholicism by its nature bends itself to the will of its Pope, hence the doctrine of infallibility. Which doesn’t mean the Pope is always factually correct. It means the Pope is the unquestioned authority on a given subject for the church. The Pope is not answerable to any earthly authority on issues of Church doctrine and policy.

          To oppose the Pope on a subject of doctrine is to forgo the underlying basis of the church. If adherents to the church, especially its hierarchy do not wish to follow such dictates, they have no business being part of such an organization. If you don’t want to follow the Pope, you don’t have to be Catholic. Its a given to the faith.

          People seeking civil liberties (people you describe as “salesmen”) are always seen as inconvenient bullies to those who uphold and benefit from discrimination. Nothing unprecedented about it. It is how civil liberties of all stripes are handled when they are opposed. (especially when the opponents try to claim their view is religious in nature).

          The similarities are so striking that other civil rights movements have recognized them and thrown in their support for marriage equality. [MLK's niece is not a civil rights leader, don't bother trotting her out as an example to the contrary]. Pope Francis merely understands that opposing civil liberties is an ultimately pointless, self-defeating, self-destructive and very much against the Christian message of love of all humankind.

          • Where the many observers and commentators are wrong about the pope is that they had failed to look at his entire statements about the Church’s doctrinal positions. When Francis said “Who am I to judge?” he was not speaking in the context of changing the Church’s position on gay marriage but only on the specific business of judging gays within the context of who they are as people.

            Time and again the liberals who post here insist that a refusal to acknowledge homosexual marriage is discrimination. As is frequently noted, the liberal community has this peculiar habit of redefining terms to suit their own agenda. People are “bigots” for holding to the universal and traditional concept of marriage; abortion is only a “women’s health issue.”

            Why don’t the liberal secularists simply come out and say that they wish to supplant all notions of social structure, marriage, and Constitutional government and replace them with their own “progressive” notions. Perhaps they’ll also bring back eugenics and give it a new name.

            Nothing new here. What would be new is that these people publicly admit who they are and plainly state what they stand for rather than “moving on’ to other topics and refuse to respond to their critics when challenged.

        • CarrotCakeMan

          Doc Anthony is confusing the right of right-wing Catholic bishops to express their hate-filled opinions of LGBT Americans with the bishops’ actual misdeeds. The bishops are destroying their own influence, not just among lay Catholics, but among all Americans, when they shriek the most vitriolic hate speech against LGBT Americans, but what has angered Americans is the crass political machinations committed by the bishops. We know Catholic bishops have committed criminal acts in violation of California campaign finance and disclosure laws because the US Supreme Court has an email the bishops wrote to Mormon bosses agreeing to make secret, illegal contributions to the California 2008 anti-gay H8te Vote:

          Here is documentation about that email:

          latimesblogs dot latimes dot com/lanow/2010/01/documents-show-close-links-between-prop-8-campaign-and-mormon-catholic-churches.html#comments

          The email was included in the evidence the US Supreme Court reviewed before that Court affirmed the revocation of the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote. Clearly, the criminal acts committed by Mormons and other anti-gays failed.

          • So, Carrot, disagreement means “hate-filled.” That’s an emotional response which fills the vacuum in people who have no metaphysical principles upon which their “philosophy” is based. It begins and ends with the “I.” That position takes one no further than the surface of his own skin.

          • CarrotCakeMan

            You’ve ignored the central point of my documentation, Mr. Lame, the Catholic bishops didn’t just “disagree,” they committed CRIMINAL ACTS to HURT others. It’s the bishops who have the “I” problem here.

  3. Serious question from someone sympathetic to gay and divorced Catholics bc I hv tried to really puzzle this out: on what theological basis can the church allow divorced and remarried Catholics (sans annulment) recv communion, without ignoring Jesus? And on what theological basis can we allow marriage equality without ignoring Jesus re Matt 19:12?

    • CarrotCakeMan

      That’s quite a stretch trying to make that out to be Jesus trying to hurt loving, committed same gender couples, especially in light of another passage from Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus affirmed a gay couple. Read Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. Many of us are familiar with the Gospel story where Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. In the original Greek, the word that the Roman centurion uses in this passage to describe the sick man – pais – is the same word used in ancient Greek to refer to a same-gender partner.

      By the way, yes, I know some churches refuse to acknowledge the correct translation of “pais,” but how about the many churches who are marrying American same gender couples now?

      Affirming Pentecostal Church International
      Alliance of Christian Churches
      Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
      The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
      Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
      Community of Christ
      Conservative Judaism
      Ecumenical Catholic Church
      Ecumenical Catholic Communion
      The Episcopal Church
      Evangelical Anglican Church In America
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
      Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
      Inclusive Orthodox Church
      Metropolitan Community Church
      Old Catholic Church
      Progressive Christian Alliance
      Reconciling Pentecostals International
      Reconstructionist Judaism
      Reform Judaism
      Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
      Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
      Unitarian Universalist Church
      United Church of Christ

      It was disturbingly inaccurate of Doc Anthony to suggest ALL Christians want to HURT loving, committed same gender American couples.

      • To begin with, Scripture is not orignally in Greek, although the earliest specimens of much of it are found in that language. The original New Testament writers, also, did not write in a language they did not know.

        Again, you equate upholding the traditional definition of marriage with HURT directed toward gays. Emotional rubbish that does nothing more than attempt to conceal a refusal to accept the English language as it is understood by all except those who wish to change the meaning of words.

        • CarrotCakeMan

          No, Mr. Lame, you’re the one being deceptive here. My husband and I have a traditional marriage, just like anyone else. Our marriage is recognized by our state and the federal government. You aren’t “supporting” any “traditional marriage,” you are trying to HURT others by denying them a Constitutional RIGHT you take for granted. The US Supreme Court confirmed Edie Windsor was HURT when the federal government didn’t recognize her and her wife’s traditional marriage. the fact that you deny that HURT is irrelevant, especially in the light of how many churches refuse to HURT same gender couples in that manner.

          And, as I said, yes, I know, anti-gays cannot accept the correct translation. So?

          You must learn to accept this tired, deceptive rhetoric with which you’ve spammed this board is rejected by the vast majority of Americans–and more religious denominations every day. The whole point of this article is the Pope is telling his subordinates they must drop this same failed anti-gay rhetoric, and they are willfully violating his established authority.

  4. I have just read the story of Michael Griffith. Yet another beloved teacher fired for being gay.

    The Catholic Church lives in hypocrisy. If the Church just as rigorously went after those who practice birth control or divorce, or support the death penalty, they would at least have the benefit of consistency. But they would also have empty hallways.

    Mr. Griffin’s was a civil marriage, not a religious one. Should the church also expel any Catholic who marries a non-Catholic? What about those who marry outside the church? Are they expelled?

    What about the wealthy parents who don’t give a hoot about the poor, who scorn the downtrodden? When will the Church expel them?

    A cohort of the Church is obsessed with homosexuality. Even the Pope sees how damaging this obsession has been, at the expense of issues that truly matter.

    But gays and lesbians are safer victims, and they also feed the Catholic leadership’s own rage. The acceptance of gays and lesbians has not only depleted their ranks of easy fodder for the rectory and nunnery, but at the same torments their own inner devils. Ruled by a coven of closeted gay men, Church leaders absolutely hum with suppressed envy at the thought of men living out their lives with the love that each of us deserves to know in this lifetime.
    The greatest shame is for Mr. Griffin’s students. They have now been taught that he is a lesser human being who, by publicly expressing the most important aspect of who he is, does not deserve to teach them.

    Any parent who continues to send their children to such a school must ponder the lessons their children will learn. Twenty years from now, and probably sooner, they will look to you the way children today look back at those who self-righteously sent their kids to segregated schools in the South. They will be ashamed of you and your parenting.

  5. NSA and JNLWD are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police implanting people with biochips. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. G. and Katina Michael. it enables Uberveillance. “In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh – a charagma (mark). Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out.” Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. Law enforcement believes we will only be safe if they know where we are at all times, what we are doing and what we are thinking! See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. He states, “Of late, there are reports of a new and dreadful invention of weapons of violence that are called Bioelectromagnetic Weapons. According to the description by an Institute of Science in Society, these weapons operate at the speed of light, can kill, torture and enslave without making physical appearance. It further adds that voices and visions, daydreams and nightmares are the most astonishing manifestations of this weapon system, it is also capable of crippling the human subject by limiting his/her normal range of movement, causing acute pain the equivalent of major organ failure or even death and interferes with normal functions of human senses. It can cause difficulty with breathing and induce seizures besides damage to the tissues and organs. Through this form of terrorism, it is possible to persuade subjects that their mind is being read; their intellectual property is being plundered and can even motivate suicide or murder. Pulsed Energy projectiles (PEPs) are another form of weaponry that is used to paralyze a victim with pain. According to Peter Philips, a scientist from USA, circumstances may soon arrive in which anti-war or human right protestors suddenly feel a burning sensation akin to touching a hot skillet over their entire body. Simultaneously they may hear terrifying nauseating screaming, which while not produced externally, fills their brains with overwhelming disruption. This new invention is dreadful addition to the armamentarium of weapons of abuse and torture. Manifestations of the effects of these occult weapons can mimic mental ill health and add further to the misery of the victims.” See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! You can check your upper right buttock, upper right shoulder. They are just under the skin.

  6. Contrary to popular belief, Pope Francis I does NOT support gay marriage. He only said he does not have the authority to judge homosexuals, and he is right, that’s God’s job. He has never said anything that condones homosexual behavior or “marriage”. As a matter of fact, he excommunicated a Australian priest for advocating gay marriage and the ordination of women, so to say he’s waving a white flag is ridiculous. He’s simply chosen to invest his attention to other issues in the world instead of focusing exclusively on gay marriage and abortion. Being accepting of homosexuals in no way means supporting gay marriage. In addition, the Catholic Churches’ job is to spread the Gospel, not conform to the latest social trends. Just because the “majority” of “Catholics” approve of it does not mean the Church has to go along and it shouldn’t. Finally just like you have the right to support gay marriage they have the same right to oppose it, so if you don’t like it you should probably leave the congregation, but do not force your opinion on an entity who you know is opposed to it.

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