Surprised by the intensity of the uproar over a conservative nun’s remarks about homosexuality to students at Charlotte Catholic High School? You shouldn’t be.
It’s part of a cultural war within American Catholicism pitting traditionalists – including many bishops – against those who want to see changes in the church.
Headline: U.S. Catholic bishops cast the Affordable Care Act as an attack on religious liberty, citing provisions to include contraceptives.
And yet: A 2012 Gallup poll found that 82 percent of American Catholics consider birth control “morally acceptable.”
Headline: U.S. Catholic bishops help lead campaigns to ban same-sex marriage.
And yet: About half of American Catholics say gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, according to a 2012 Pew poll. That’s up from 40 percent who said so in 2001.
Headline: U.S. Catholic bishops stand by celibacy requirement for priests.
And yet: In a 2013 Pew poll, 58 percent of American Catholics said letting priests marry was a good idea; 35 percent said it was a bad idea.
Headline: U.S. Catholic bishops feud with President Barack Obama on a host of issues.
And yet: Obama won the Catholic vote in 2012 (50 percent to Mitt Romney’s 48 percent) and in 2008 (54 percent to John McCain’s 45 percent).
Given this division, it’s easier to understand the polar-opposite reactions to the local storm that followed Sister Jane Dominic Laurel’s remarks at Charlotte Catholic.
Most parents who spoke up at a meeting with high school officials last week criticized the sister and the chaplain who invited her. But Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the Diocese of Charlotte, found major fault only with parents who had exhibited a “lack of charity.”
Traditionalist Catholics are quick to point out that Catholicism is not and never has been a democracy. It’s a hierarchical church, they say, with the pope in Rome and bishops around the world explaining and enforcing church doctrines and rules.
But a big percentage of the flock, at least in the United States, also consider the church a community. And they’re hoping that Jugis and his fellow U.S. bishops will start to take seriously Pope Francis’ recent suggestion that leaders do more listening.
-- Tim Funk
Friday, April 11, 2014
Posted by Tim Funk at 7:00 AM