In today’s non-surprising news, new research shows that American Catholics are more in line with other Americans than the Catholic church on gay marriage. That Catholics as a group are more liberal than the church is nothing new. Catholics tend to fall in line with other Americans when it comes to birth control, abortion, and premarital sex, as well. Of course, none of this ever means that the mainstream media will stop letting pedophilia apologist who doesn’t even accept the Vatican II Bill Donohue go on TV and speak as if he’s speaking for Catholics, but it’s important to remember that a church’s ideology and its people are not the same thing. And often, the main victims of a church’s ideology are its people, and that’s certainly true with the Catholic church. The majority of victims of its anti-choice, anti-gay ideology are Catholics who are gay or in need of reproductive health services, and are blocked by guilt tripping, community standards, or even laws imposed by the church.
What I think is important to understand from research like this is that people aren’t members of churches, usually, because they agree with the dogma or find that much meaning in the teachings. It’s mostly for community, tradition, and family. You average Catholic—or whatever member of a religion—is such because they were born into that faith, full stop. Not that church teachings don’t have influence, but by and large, it’s foolish to suggest you can tell much about people from their religion. This seems obvious, but it’s an error you see all the time, particularly with conservative writers, who are prone to arguing that Group X does Y because of their faith, when a lot of the time, it’s probably more because of economics, community standards, whatever. The faithful aren’t really that faithful. But they do want a place to get married and be buried. Even with evangelical Christians, I think this holds more than you’d think.
Not that I’m letting Catholics off the hook. If you disagree with the church, you really should leave as a moral matter. Money and esteem given to the church allows them perpetuate their evil on the world. That money and power goes towards depriving women of choices, oppressing gays, spreading HIV by limiting access to condoms, and whatever else they do that you disapprove of. Particularly in America, there is no reason to think that you need a church for marrying and burying. We have sufficient civil avenues for that. It doesn’t mean you can’t believe in god or family. There’s no reason that perpetuating evil should be the price you pay for community and tradition. That said, it’s really important to realize that for a large chunk of Catholics, being Catholic has nothing to do with the church, and everything to do with community.