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.

3 Comments for “Authoritah!”

  1. posted by Houndentenor on

    I can’t be the only one who laughs out loud when the current pope (the one who sent out the letter to bishops instructing them not to cooperate with local authorities investigating molestation complaints) and the bishops (many of whom shuttled pedophiles around the country to harm yet more children, an act which would land anyone not int he clergy in prison) make statements as if they still had any moral authority? What a joke! Everyone already knows that American Catholics ignore the Vatican whenever they feel like it since they use birth control and have abortions just as often as non-catholics. Perhaps it’s only the non-Catholics who still take these pronouncements from Rome seriously?

  2. posted by Jorge on

    So WHY is it that Catholics are more liberal than everyone else?

    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.

    As usual when you write about Catholicism, you overplay a hand that’s missing a few cards. A link or citation would be nice.,2933,186381,00.html

    “MONTREAL — In a rare public dissent, 19 Catholic priests have denounced the Vatican’s opposition to gay marriage and allowing homosexuals into the priesthood.”

    This next one speaks slightly more to “Catholic leadership” and less to gay marriage.

    “Jesuit officials in Rome and the United States, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said some American bishops had contacted the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about articles in America over the years that had presented both sides of controversies over sensitive church issues….

    …The magazine had made a point of publishing broad points of view — including some that clashed with church teaching — irking some Catholics in the United States and Rome, the officials said.

    Some of the hot-button issues included gay priests, stem-cell research, whether Catholic politicians can be denied communion if they support abortion rights, and same-sex unions.”

    Even this paltry dissent poses serious problems for your backhanded suggestion that 0% of the “Catholic leadership” believes gay sex is not a sin.

  3. posted by David SR on

    I’ve known lots of impressive Catholics, but the individuals in the Church and the Church itself seem to be distinct. What are these other “real, moral issues” on which the institutional Church has moral authority? And moral authority for whom? It seems to me a more compelling argument could be made that the institutional Church has a long record of being on the wrong side of key developments in human history — and I see no evidence that they’re changing at this late stage.

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