Very Catholic states here, and countries to the north and in Europe seem filled with communicants who do not take any of the theater too seriously. Spain beat Canada to same-sex marriage. Italians use their birth control and have their mistresses. Even in Boston, being excluded from communion and threats of hell do not force politicians to act obediently.
Diversion: One self-described secular Catholic we know offers the historical and sociological view of the conflict, inside the church and related to Protestants. For example:
The secular Catholic is heir to the healthy tradition of anti-clercialism, which deftly draws a line between the spiritual aspirations of the laity, and the political aspirations of the clergy in general and the hierarchy in particular. The anti-clerical finds the former as admirable as the latter is despicable.In terms of current politics, outsiders might imagine that half of the two million Massachusetts Catholics would have rushed to obey their Pope and Archbishop. They would have crammed the churches to sign the odious petition to rescind same-sex marriage in 2008. Yet, in their big weekend push, they managed to get 10K, maybe 20K from the churches to bolster what the paid folk were bringing in.
So, we are left wondering what is the role and influence of the Roman Catholic Church in this? We know that Benedict XVI has a horse in this race, but the laity seems rather indifferent. Apparently the WWII generation Catholics are cheering and obeying, but little else is obvious.
Most Baby Boomers grew up inculcated with ideas of freedom and liberty and fairness that our parents provided. Even discovering that they often did not live these principles themselves has not deterred us. By and large, we are an idealistic generation, who do not buy into ministerial malice.
Polls say that we find any church trying to legislate its morality for all of us unAmerican and offensive. They also report that those now in their teens and twenties do not share their grandparents' homophobia and are much more laissez faire about personal behavior. As long as you are not hurting someone else, you are cool.
Interestingly enough the Gen-X and Gen-Y crews self-report that they are much more attune to the Christian and Jewish teachings than their grandparents. One thinks of the Talmud — If a thing is hateful to you, do not do it to another. That is all the law. The rest is commentary.
So, where does a heavily creedal religion fit in such a world? As the WWII generation disappears, what political power can a Catholic church wield in the First World?
Certainly if the European nations are indicative, there will be much head nodding and "Yes. Yes." followed by ignoring the orders and pleas of the hierarchy.
That makes for great theater. The script is clear and complete. The few actors speak their lines clearly and with both authority and emotion. The audience is distracted, chatting and snacking.
We can assume a diminishing authority and influence in the Northern half of the world. Among the Third World, among those of color, among the poor, perhaps the politics of infallibility and fiat have a chance to prosper.
Those are areas where the Catholic Church would certainly have the opportunity and need to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and house the homeless. That is all goodness.
Elsewhere, for such a massive church to separate itself from the realities and needs of its parishioners is madness.