Last weekend, conservative Catholic Rick Santorum, who is considering another run for president, stunned critics when he said we should all “love and accept” Bruce Jenner, who’d just told Diane Sawyer and 17 million TV viewers that he’s becoming a woman.
Santorum has since backtracked a bit. Still, here was a politician who disapproves of birth control and who once compared LGBT activists to Nazis suddenly whizzing right by gay rights to compassion for transgendered Americans, the next frontier.
It was just one more painful reminder of how extreme the Catholic Church appears today in its continued discrimination against gays. At the warp speed at which attitudes are changing, the Church may soon become the major defender of anti-gay bigotry in the world, standing almost alone with aged evangelicals and the most repressive governments on earth.
Is this really where the Church wants to be?
As polls show ever-increasing numbers of Americans, including Catholics, favoring gay marriage, big business and big sports are reaffirming their support as well. And as the Supreme Court is poised to rule on gay marriage nationwide, numerous political analysts say the court’s okay could let anti-gay marriage Republicans off the hook. What could they do and say if it becomes the law of the land? Socially moderate Republicans such as Jeb Bush of Florida and New Jersey’s Chris Christie may be thrilled for an excuse not to talk about it.
Firebrand Texas Senator Ted Cruz publicly insists on traditional marriage, as most GOP voters do. But days ago, at an intimate New York City event hosted by a wealthy gay couple, Cruz said he’d be fine if his daughters grew up to be lesbians. He’d love and accept them unconditionally.
Meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, hoping to appeal to younger voters who overwhelmingly support gay rights, has said he’d have no problem attending a gay wedding, and that homosexuality is not a choice. When gay marriage became legal in Florida (as it is now in 37 states) ex-governor Bush did not boldly vow to fight, but instead said, simply, “We have to respect the rule of law.”
“Settled law” is the term he could apply to gay marriage should the court rule for it and he becomes the Republican nominee.
Other Republicans, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, remain ardent culture warriors. Jindal just wrote a New York Times op-ed: “I’m Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage.”
In the column, Jindal appealed to businesses to hold firm with him at the same time businesses are doing the exact opposite: 379 major businesses and business organizations signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage. The biggest retailer in America, Wal-Mart, now provides health insurance for same-sex couples. Last month, its CEO joined with other large corporations, including American Airlines, in opposing Indiana legislation that would have permitted discrimination against gays.
None other than the NBA and the NCAA trashed the law as well. This came a year after the NFL reconsidered holding the Super Bowl in Arizona unless the state, also under big business pressure, ditched a bill that would have allowed discrimination against gays there.
I think you get my point.
Wall Street, Main Street, the ultra-macho world of organized sports, most of America, Europe, and the industrialized world has done an about-face on gay rights and even gay marriage. Republicans are looking for a way to finesse the problem away. Yet the catechism of the Catholic Church, like some “Reefer Madness” denial of reality, still describes a “homosexual inclination” as “objectively disordered” and homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic Charities around the country would rather children be reared in multiple foster homes than adopted into a stable and loving gay family. Gay workers at Catholic organizations still face firings based solely on who they are.
It’s been two years since Pope Francis uttered, “Who am I to judge?” It’s been months since cardinals conceded during the Vatican synod that there is, indeed, great worth in the devotion of gay couples. And those scraps from the table are the apparent extent of Church rethinking on its increasingly fringe position.
You know American Catholics are divided over the Church’s position on many issues, including abortion, immigration, and women’s ordination. Rick Santorum notwithstanding, most are not divided on the Church’s completely fringe position on birth control. They just ignore it, yet still show up for Communion on Sunday.
But the Church’s denying of full rights to gays, in 2015, based on St. Paul’s 2,000-year-old objections, is a fundamentally different matter. It says gay men and women are not fully human. There’s just no getting around it. And it’s no less bigoted than using the Bible, as Catholics did, to justify anti-Semitism, miscegenation, and slavery.
I ask again: is this really where the Church wants to be?