Some of the feedback I got about my prior post about the Catholic Church excommunicating women who tried to become priests was of this variety: why should the Church care what you (a non-Catholic) think? On one level that’s fair (a group of which I’m not a member need not take my views into account), though on another level it’s not: I’m an American and a professor of employment discrimination, and a major employer in my country is blatantly discriminating in its hiring.
But let’s assume that the “who cares if non-Catholics perceive sexism” perspective is fair. The real problem for those who defend Church orthodoxy is this: most Catholics agree with me, not them. That’s not just my hunch: it’s the result of a Zogby poll commissioned by Jesuit priests reported in an “orthodox Catholic perspective” publication:
[In a] poll of Catholics … 53% want women to be priests, and 54% want priests to be allowed to marry…. 61% rejected the statement that “artificial birth control is morally wrong.” Even among the 46% who are weekly Mass-goers, 54% disagreed with that ancient, papally upheld condemnation of contraceptive sex.
This shows a puzzling anomaly … , since 72% strongly agreed they should stand up for and live according to Catholic values, … accept the Pope’s infallibility, and believe their bishops and pastors are doing a good job. Even so there is not only dissent on the above-mentioned issues that both Pope and bishops insist are binding, but 64% think the Church is wrong to withhold Communion from Catholics in invalid “marriages.”
Don’t respond by telling me, “this is a biased poll”: Zogby is a respected pollster; and the self-described “orthodox Catholic” publication reporting this didn’t attack the methodology, but instead simply blamed the results on the following:
(1) a bizarrely condescending view that Catholics can’t answer such questions accurately (“these issues touch too close to home for a majority of Catholics to make an objective judgment”);
(2) the decades-old Vatican II reforms that are today quite uncontroversial (“more than a generation of post-Vatican II catechetics has failed to hold a majority of Catholics to Catholic thinking,” this paper dubiously asserted as a reason Catholics are more progressive on gender than is their Church), and
(3) “the damaging role of the press” — the last resort of those who simply dislike some piece of news that the press report.
In short, y’all are right that my opinion isn’t what the Church has to worry about; it’s the opinion of a majority of Catholics, mainly on gender discrimination, family, and sexuality, that the Church has to worry about. I doubt that it’s a great long-term strategy for Church orthodoxy defenders to ignore the issue by trying to pass the blame to past reformers, the media, and the ignorance of dissenting Catholics.
- Scott Moss