There has always been a strong sense of social justice in the catholic tradition- especially in the minds of the people in the pews. The great advocates of social reform and justice more often come from the laity and monks and nuns- persons more in touch arguably, with the gospel and real life in general. Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Francis of Assisi, all railed against the marginalization of human beings- creating real social change in the world. Bishop Oscar Romero and Pope John XXIII were the exception more than the rule.
So, it was with a lot of hope that I read this:
Last month, the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group, reported that 74 percent of American Catholics surveyed supported the rights of same-sex couples to marry or form civil unions (43 percent and 31 percent, respectively). The telephone survey asked more than 3,000 adults to choose among three options: whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, should be allowed to form civil unions or should receive no legal recognition. By comparison, 16 percent of white evangelical Christians approved of same-sex marriages; 24 percent approved of civil unions. Among the general public, those rates climb to 37 and 27 percent, respectively — still lower than among Catholics.
Catholics have always had a great sense of the social justice elements of issues- a strong sense of the suffering of humanity, I believe. They take the mandate of service very literally- the Sermon on the Mount and the Corporal Works of Mercy were always stressed in my own religious upbringing.
Evangelical Christians are more likely to struggle with fundamentalism on this and other issues, citing (often unclear or inconsistent) scripture passages, and tending to ignore social science or scientific evidence in favor of the bible.
I do know one thing: Last week, at my mother’s Catholic funeral, I introduced my partner to everyone I knew and grew up with in that little church and we were received with nothing but warmth.
If only the leadership would get it- and all those gay clergy (and bishops!) would share their experience- we might have a shot at addressing reality….
No matter- the people in the pews have always been ahead of the curve. It’ll happen eventually.