MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell could maybe, as Jon Stewart says, “Take it down a notch for America,” but he makes a sound enough point; anyone who refers to America’s “Catholic vote” is not saying anything coherent.
But I think O’Donnell misses the most important comparative statistic. He overemotes the fact that 56% of American Catholics don’t believe same gender sexual relations are a sin, which is ten points higher than the general population.
True enough. But far more important is the fact that this number is a full 56% higher than the figure for Catholic leadership on that supposedly doctrinal issue.
This is unsurprising to anyone who knows or loves an American Catholic. But it’s importance goes much further than religion. It’s not out of the question that the Catholic hierarchy is viewed favorably — at least on sexual morality — by about the same percentage of American Catholics as Muammar Gaddafi is, on any issue, by the Libyan people.
The difference, of course, is that Gaddafi has arms and the Vatican doesn’t — any more, at least. But the larger point remains. When leaders get too far out of touch with the people they’re supposed to lead, they lose their credibility. The Vatican has credibility on many other, real moral issues, but its positions on sexuality have become bizarre through neglect or just stubbornness. Catholics can freely ignore the Vatican since it has no real enforcement authority. They can go to church (or not) for the good things the church stands for, and shake their heads at the more ludicrous positions.
With luck, we’ll be able to help a coalition deprive Gaddafi of his enforcement authority, and help the Libyan people enact the revolution of disregard for incompetence and malfeasance that this country’s Catholics have successfully fought and so happily won.