Yesterday, in direct defiance of Pope Francis's recent call for Catholic leaders to stop obsessing about same-sex marriage, America's Catholic bishops voted at their meeting in New Orleans to continue their unholy crusade against civil marriage equality.
The Associated Press reports:
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to make only limited revisions to a guide they publish every presidential election year on church teaching, voting and public policy. The bishops also reaffirmed their fight for broader religious exemptions to laws recognizing gay marriage and a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide health insurance covering birth control.
Francis has said the church has been alienating Catholics by focusing more on divisive social issues than on mercy and compassion.
The bishops' document on political responsibility, titled "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," has been published every four years since 1976, and has become a point of contention within the church over which issues voters should consider most important: abortion or social justice. The bishops voted Wednesday to incorporate Francis' teachings into the document, but rejected a complete rewrite in favor of limited changes instead.
More details, after the jump.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone -- a notoriorious homophobe who leads the USCCB's fight against marriage equality and is widely known as the "Father of Proposition 8" -- said that the recent spate of pro-equality court victories proves that the country is at a "critical point" on same-sex marriage and that a federal marriage discrimination amendment is needed to fight "judicial activism."
Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia and another outspoken opponent of LGBT rights, noted the massive cultural shift taking place on marriage equality but advised his brother bishops not to give up fighting against it. Instead, he said, they must retrench: "being discouraged would be the worst thing that we could do." And Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops' "religious liberty" committee, compared the USCCB's ongoing effort to prevent legalized same-sex marriage with its decades-long fight against legalized abortion. "It's a major task on a generational scale," Lori said.
In a post for Religion Dispatches, Patricia Miller explains why that comparison should send chills up the spine of every equality-minded person in America:
[I]t was the bishops' early efforts to oppose the legalization of abortion that created the modern anti-abortion movement more commonly associated with the Christian right. It was the bishops who created the first state right-to-life groups and who united them under the umbrella of the National Right to Life Committee.
Sociologist John McCarthy says that it was the Catholic bishops' initial organizing that made the anti-abortion movement a potent, grassroots force... After Roe v. Wade, many assumed that a woman's right to abortion was a done deal. But in the ensuing 40 years, anti-abortion opponents have managed to put significant limitations on abortion that while stopping short of overturning its legality, have curtailed access and put many young and poor women back to a pre-Roe situation.
The Catholic Church has the financial and organization resources to conduct a long-term rearguard effort against same-sex marriage much the way it did against abortion, though these efforts would more likely focus on creating "carve-outs" where individuals and institutions wouldn't be required to recognize same-sex marriage as legitimate, similar to "conscience" exemptions from providing contraception.
Miller notes that some thinkers on the Catholic right have even advocated for anti-equality states to secede from the union rather than recognize same-sex marriage.
How sad that instead of focusing on important issues like poverty, income inequality, economic justice, racism, immigration reform, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or healing the sick, the U.S. Catholic bishops have once again decided to devote their energy to attacking loving same-sex couples and families, undermining the freedom to marry that our secular Constitution guarantees, and perpetuating the lie that marriage equality represents a threat to religious liberty and an attack on Christianity.