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Monday, January 19, 2004

Bishops vs. Supreme Judicial Court.

The Boston Globe reported this weekend on the efforts of the state's four Catholic bishops to fight the Supreme Judicial Court's decision to recognize same-sex civil marriages. Needless to say, after all the criticism the church brought on itself in the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the bishops don't have quite so much clout. Catholics dominate the state legislature — "A Globe survey of the current Legislature found that 67 percent of the 199 current lawmakers are Catholic — a disproportionate share in a state where roughly 50 percent of the population is Catholic" — but even House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, "a devout Catholic and an opponent of same-sex marriage," says the church has lost a lot of its influence:

"I don't think it's a secret — they acknowledge themselves — their voice, their moral authority has been compromised by the sexual abuse scandals, and they know it. . . . How do you rally and restore the influence of the church at a time when it's probably at its lowest point with regard to public regard? . . . If the Catholic Church locally is to recover a lot of its strength in attendance and respect and the like, it might not be for a period of 50 years."

But that's not to say the church has lost all its influence. Far from it. On Friday, the Globe reported that a recent poll of Massachusetts voters "asked whether the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage would affect their decision. The poll found that 58 percent said the church's position had no effect on their decision to support or oppose gay marriage, but 25 percent said the church's position made them less likely to support gay marriage, while just 17 percent said the church's position made it more likely that they would support gay marriage."

Meanwhile, the bishops' effort is turning off some Catholics. Lisa Williams (who reports some positive experiences with Unitarians and Episcopalians) writes on her blog:

This morning I walked out of Mass because the priest was using the Marriage at Cana as a pretext for preaching from the pulpit against gay marriage.

I was there because I took Baby Joe, now nine days old, to Mass, to get a blessing, because Evan and I have decided to wait a little while longer than we did with Rowan, our older son, to get him baptized. . . [The priest] started going off after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling on gay marriage, and I started muttering at the ceiling. Why, Lord; why on the first day I bring my new baby to you, to thank you and praise you for bringing us this far in safety, do you have to present me with the hateful face of your church? Why must I present your miracle in this atmosphere of hatred? There may have been some curse words crossing my brain, too.

So she tried another parish:

[A]s the Homily began, I thought, Please, please, please, not another screed. It was going okay, and then the priest at this church, who has a very digressive style that goes off on a bunch of tangents said, "The bishops are meeting about that court order," and my heart fell. Then the priest paused, said, Humph. And changed the subject and did a homily instead on the Holy Spirit in the letter of St. Paul, and never mentioned it again.

In otherwords, They ordered me to mention it and I mentioned it. And that's all I'm gonna do. Later on, as the priest emerged from the Sacristy, he was dressed in a pair of droopy chinos and a tab collar shirt without the tab that had seen much better days. He was shutting out the lights as I asked him for a blessing. "I don't see why not," he said.

("Weaker church tested on marriage", Michael Paulson and Raphael Lewis, Boston Globe 1.18.04; "Bishops try to mobilize on marriage", Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 1.17.04; "Walking out of Mass", Lisa Williams, Learning the Lessons of Nixon 1.18.04, via Boston Common)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 19 January 2004 at 2:15 PM

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