Predictably, the Roman Catholic Battling Bishops are loudly denouncing this. But perhaps they should consider the lessons of the last election. In the four elections in November addressing issues of LGBT marriage equality, the Roman Catholic Bishops were financially and vocally active. And they lost, in no small part because lay Catholics support equality, and Catholics for Equality were strong voices particularly in Washington and Minnesota.
And stories like this don't help, of a boy denied confirmation because of a pro-equality photo on his Facebook page. There are stories of arguments in the parking lots and parishes divided over this issue. All that, and the hierarchy lost--and the price has been steep. Still, apparently, they are willing to pay it.
Writing the the National Catholic Reporter, writer Micheal Sean Winters counsels withdrawal.
The church has every right to oppose proposals for same-sex marriage. But, the leaders of the church must ask themselves whether or not such opposition increasingly looks less like a defense of traditional marriage and more like an attack on gay people. There are other provisions of civil marriage law, such as no-fault divorce, that run counter to church teaching, that "redefine" marriage, and we are not chomping at the bit to have those provisions changed. Here is an issue on which the old-style conservative position commends itself: withdrawal. The Church should announce that her ministers will no longer have anything to do with the conferral of civil marriage licenses. They will sign no documents. Church marriage ceremonies will be distinct entirely from civil ceremonies. If a couple wants a civil license, let them go to the civil authorities. If they want the sacrament of marriage, defined as the church defines it, they should come to the Church.That's one way to look at it.
In Religion Dispatches, there's a description of the conflict between "civil marriage and uncivil religion" that seems likely to continue.
The message from the hierarchy doesn’t seem like it’s going to change. The Pope ended the year denouncing gays as contrary to nature in his Christmas message, and started this year, in his New Year’s Peace Day message, denouncing marriage equality as a kind of “false peace.” Meanwhile, in Illinois, Cardinal Francis George and his fellow bishops released a letter denouncing marriage equality as a “fiction” that “nature itself tells us is impossible.” Marriage equality, the letter says, would be in opposition to “the common good of society” and “the common sense of the human race.” The bishops even announced they’llrepeat this year’s failed “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign in 2013.I think the support for equality from people of faith has been a major reason for the change in opinions. Keep talking!
But as last year’s elections made clear, the Pope, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and their allies in the Knights of Columbus and National Organization for Marriage can rageabout threats to the family and religious liberty, and they can even go after the Girl Scouts, but they cannot, for all their rhetoric and deep pockets, hide the fact that they have lost the hearts and minds of most American Catholics on this issue.
They have also, notably, lost the ability to keep all their priests on message. ...
Look for more Catholics, Mormons, and evangelicals to be emboldened to publicly support equality, diversifying the increasingly vibrant religious coalitions that will be part of this year’s LGBT rights campaigns.
Update: A coalition of nuns has spoken out in favor of equality in IL. You go, sisters!