...Catholics in the United States appear to be more, not less, progressive about gay rights than Americans in general are. In an especially ambitious survey conducted over the course of 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute, about 60 percent of Americans who called themselves Catholic said that they approved of same-sex marriage, versus about 30 percent who didn’t. The spread among all respondents was 54 to 38, and the group that clearly stood in the way of same-sex marriage wasn’t Catholics. It was evangelical Protestants.
And yet, interestingly, the qualms that certain public figures have about same-sex marriage are routinely explained — by the media, and sometimes by those people themselves — as ineluctable consequences of their Catholicism.
“We need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage,” Jeb Bush, who converted to Catholicism as an adult, said during a recent TV interview. “It’s at the core of the Catholic faith.”
Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, among others, have cited their Catholic devotion as a barrier to embracing same-sex marriage. But seldom does anyone point out that this explanation puts these men in the minority, not majority, of Catholics in the United States. Their stances win them more political favor among Baptists than among Catholics.
That’s because “Catholics” includes not just worshipers who attend Mass weekly and perhaps tilt in a more conservative direction but those who go less frequently and those for whom Catholicism is as much an ethnic as a religious identity.
For this large and diverse group in the United States and other Western countries, same-sex marriage has rapidly gained favor and Catholic leaders’ expressions of protest, such as firing employees who marry same-sex partners orspeak up for marriage equality, are becoming untenable.
Cognizant of that, Catholic bishops in Germany voted earlier this month to relax morality clauses in contracts with lay workers so that those who remarry after a divorce or enter into same-sex civil unions (same-sex marriage isn’t yet legal there) needn’t fear losing their jobs.
Is this a sign that in Europe and the Americas, same-sex marriage could become analogous to divorce: something that Catholic leaders technically frown upon but don’t bother to inveigh against all that much?