Monday, October 03, 2005

Poison Pens to Petitions

The rushes from Saturday and Sunday masses seem acceptable, but not breathtaking. The four Massachusetts Roman Catholic bishops told their priests to have anti-same-sex-marriage petitions circulated at those masses.

Other than the Boston papers, there was not much press this morning. However, as one might expect, some churches had protestors outside. Some parishioners stayed away. Others eagerly signed.

Analytically, we can consider the possible and probable. In theory, with over 2 million communicants, the Church should have whipped out that necessary 66,000 signatures (about 3% of their members) is a flash. They did not. The anti-folk say the combined total from sidewalk and church together is about one third of what they need.

With such a low bar for signatures and for legislators (one-fourth of the General Court), no one expects the initiative drive to fall short. They are doing respectably so far.

However, the anti side having to hire professional signature gatherers and take their plea directly to area Catholics is both damning and amusing. This people's petition, as they are wont to call it, must be bought and coerced. Yet, that is legally permissible.

As to the Catholics, we must adjust for their realities. First, nothing like 2 million attend mass on a given weekend. Like Protestants and Jews, many attend services a few times a year. Also, some will have stayed away because they disagree with the aim or the method of this effort.

While Archbishop Sean O'Malley may have wanted to show some political muscle this weekend, if he gathered 10,000 or so, that's not a bad showing. Unfortunately for the cause, it was not a slam dunk. There was no ground swell rushing to the pews to bring down gay marriage. He, Mass Family Institute and Catholic Citizenship will have to spin that.

Both the Globe and Herald reports quote older parishioners. Some signed to get it on the ballot, others as one said to the Herald said to "Put it on the ballot and let the people outlaw it."

That is unscientific polling, but it fits well with what professional pollsters and political analysts are reporting. When the WWII/Korean War generation dies out, the Gen-X and Gen-Y folk will manifest their support for same-sex marriage, among other social liberalisms. It is the Baby Boomers who are fretting about what to do. They tend to mirror their local cultures.

On the religious side, a telling exchange appears in the Globe:
Most times, it seemed, the demonstrators found the parishioners less than receptive to their message. When Baarsvik told one woman entering the cathedral, "Marriage is a civil law," she spun around and replied, "No, it's not. It's instituted by Christ."
That sort of confusion seems widespread. Without a theocracy, we deal with laws made by humans for humans. Neither Jesus nor Benedict XVI nor Sean O'Malley drew up the colonial or commonwealth laws and regulations governing marriage here. As the expression goes, thank God.

1 comment:

Uncle said...

There is more in the numbers than either party on the extremes cares to admit...and both are more alike than they wish to imagine.

O'Malley again shows a political deafness exceeded only by Mitsy. From bishop on up, the Church hierarchy still believe they command an obedient "faithful." Curiously, many supporters of gay marriage agree. Brought up on Protestant canards that were old when Boston was founded, they're as surprised as the Archbishop that the Catholic laity think for themselves.

Most Catholics go to church for the Eucharist, not for politics. Many hold to their faith in spite of, not because of, the clergy. My late mother-in-law for one, who would be badly perplexed by gay marriage, would nevertheless have resented such a blatantly political intrusion into this sacred hour, and would have pointedly snubbed the solicitation. She was, I suggest, an archetype of her generation.

The indifferent results of this weekend can be an opportunity for gay marriage supporters able to shake off the dogmas of the past, more interested in dialogue with Catholic individuals who do not shout slogans, and less interested in reinforcing their own biases.