Sunday, May 22, 2011

Equality, the Roman Catholics, and Religious Freedom

One of the current arguments against equality is that allowing LGBT people to marry in their own faith tradition, is an unacceptable transgression against the religious freedom of those who oppose equality.

An analogy is that letting me eat a ham sandwich is an unacceptable transgression against the religious freedom of orthodox Judaism. Since I'm not forcing any orthodox Jew to eat a ham sandwich, it's not clear how his freedom is in any way impinged.

Writing in the HuffPo, Marrianne Duddy-Burke , an equality supporter, callsout the RC Bishops for the selective hypocrisy of their opposition:
[T]he bishops of my church and their allies have demonstrated no interest in reconciliation. Rather, they have taken an uncompromising stand based on principles that they readily ignore at other times, and blurred the distinction between freedom and entitlement in troubling ways.

To be taken seriously, appeals to religious freedom must be rooted in consistent teaching and practice. The arguments advanced by opponents of marriage equality do not meet this standard.The Catholic Church, for instance, recognizes only marriages conducted under its own auspices. It does not recognize marriage after divorce, unless the partner seeking to remarry has obtained an annulment. By Catholic standards, then, most of the marriages in this country are null and void.

Yet the bishops, bankrolled in large measure by the Knights of Columbus, have spent millions of dollars to keep gay and lesbian couples and their children from achieving equality under American law, while maintaining a discreet silence about the rights of heterosexuals whose marriages do not conform to church teaching. It is easy to grasp the political reality that informs this strategy: gays and lesbians are few, while what the church regards as unsanctioned marriages are legion. But in deploying arguments rooted in religious liberty only when they are politically advantageous, the bishops have diminished the currency in which they trade.
RC doctrine considers divorced-remarried people to be living in a state of adultery. But you do not hear the bishops calling to abolish civil marriages between such people. As Andrew Sullivan wrote some time back,
Catholics, for example, accept the word marriage to describe civil marriages that are second marriages, even though their own faith teaches them that those marriages don't actually exist as such. But most Catholics are able to set theological beliefs to one side and accept a theological untruth as a civil fact. ..... Catholics can tolerate fellow citizens who are not Catholic calling their non-marriages marriages - because Catholics have already accepted a civil-religious distinction. They can wear both hats in the public square.
In a somewhat different route to the same conclusion, equality opponent and theologian Tim Muldoon writes,
Christians are at a Gamaliel moment with gay marriage, meaning that we must relinquish the legal battle in order to refocus on the moral one. ….

[I]nstead of targeting gays, we must turn the focus on ourselves and ask why our impoverished understanding of marriage has led to widespread non-marital sex, divorce, cohabitation, adultery, and general misery—especially for children, teens, and young adults.
Coming from opposite sides of the battle, both of these voices call out the hypocrisy of scapegoating gays for broader questions. They call for the Roman Catholic Bishops to be morally consistent in how they apply civil law to doctrine. ALthough ironically, the Roman Catholic laity are amongst the strongest supporters of equality.

Perhaps we can try to move to a time when we do allow true religious freedom--where the Episcopalians are as free to marry a gay couple as the Roman Catholics are free to refuse. But right now, we are all unwilling Roman Catholics.


Erp said...

Strictly speaking the Catholic Church does not oppose civil divorce in the United States; I suspect because they know it is a battle they have lost. They did recently oppose no fault divorce in New York.

In countries where they have more clout they do oppose it. See countries like Malta (no divorce and the church is opposing a change to allow it), Ireland (bitterly fought the 1995 amendment to allow divorce, it had been banned in 1937 with the support of the Catholic church), Spain, etc.

dr.primrose said...

Have you seen the great cartoon posted on MadPriest's website?