The divide between the Catholic Church and its members

If there’s one thing that Minnesota’s marriage amendment results showed, it’s that the Catholic leadership severely underestimated individual Catholics’ abilities to think for themselves. What started firmly with JFK — the lines drawn between personal beliefs and governing practices — still holds true.  While there are no polls out yet that I’ve found about how Minnesota Catholics voted as a whole about the marriage amendment, I will point out results from two places that my family hails from: St. Paul and Chisholm, both very Catholic areas. St. Paul is about 51% Catholic and trounced the marriage amendment as a city: only 29.95% of all their citizens voted yes. Chisholm is about 49% Catholic and 48.57% of their city voted yes and, obviously, that does not consist solely of Catholics.  For all of the Church’s work — the bigoted DVDs, the amazing amount of money poured into the election, and the constant drumbeat of YES, YES, YES in the churches and schools — they still couldn’t turn the amendment out.

While, yes, it was close in Chisholm — consider the location.  It’s a small town in the more socially conservative Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. What a great job MN United did in having the conversations to get them on the right side of history.  I like to think I helped a bit there, though.  It’s really hard to vote against family.

With all the talk of mandates floating around, I would argue that if there is any mandate worth looking at it’s the mandate the Catholics are giving to their church.  In sanctioning nuns for caring more about the poor than the bigoted social issues of the day, in never reporting pedophiles who were priests to authorities, and in pouring resources into political campaigns that promote inequality, they have made egregious mistakes.  Like the Republican Party, rather than face reality they have doubled down on veering to the hard right.  They have also put a higher value on protecting individuals who do not deserve it, predators, and I’ve never understood why.  Is it personal affinity? A fear of a PR problem? A fear that if people see that predators exist in the priesthood that they won’t trust priests?  I mean, that kind of backfired and hurt a lot of kids in the process.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that the Church needs to get its priorities straight.  That’s not going to happen with an entrenched, right wing, male-only hierarchy and so I don’t believe that it will get its priorities straight. But all that means for the Church is dwindling U.S. membership, dwindling money, and dwindling influence.  Archbishop Neinstedt and the Catholic Church’s leadership in Minnesota and at the Vatican put their impotence on display yesterday.  I don’t believe they will learn from it, but they should.

On a slightly different note:

Not so confidential to Republican party folks who don’t understand why you got trounced yesterday: Compromise does not mean that Democrats must meet your demands or face an intractable opposition who will not let any legislation pass.  Compromise means that you actually need to compromise and give up things that you want to come to an agreement about how to make things better for the country.  If you can’t understand that, expect to keep getting kicked out after the fad of an anti-incumbent wave.   I wish this election was about the resurgence of American progressivism, but it wasn’t, it was about the desire for government to just get things done without having giant hissy fits every other week.  So stop saying that Obama has to learn to compromise.  He does. Constantly.  He just isn’t going to turn into a GOP party member.

Not so confidential to the media: Quit pretending that the issue is both sides compromising. You know it isn’t. Just stop it. It’s a malicious narrative and keeps the GOP from being held accountable for their intractability.

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