It’s quite an interesting subject just from a religious dynamic. Ken Wilson, an affirming Protestant minister, and I once had an informal talk about it. In the United States at least, Protestants tend to choose their churches rather freely. If they don’t like doctrine or policy, they just go somewhere else. So the laity and the leadership tend to match fairly closely in terms of belief systems.

Catholics are a bit of a different kettle of fish. The church is highly authoritarian, and lay people have not traditionally had any say in doctrinal policy, and no freedom to change churches, not if they wanted to continue to identify as Catholic.

So the thinking goes that Catholic lay people have been effectively trained to just ignore things about the Church they don’t like. Like contraception and divorce, for example. The church categorically prohibits both of those things, but according to well-documented studies, Catholic lay people engage in them as much or more than any other Americans.

The Church has become pretty soft on those issues in actual practice. You never see Catholic teachers fired, for example, for practicing family planning.

Church leaders have found ways to ignoring doctrines like that and pretending they don’t exist.

But the institutional Church hasn’t gotten used to LGBTQ issues. They’ve drawn a line in the sand, as it were.

This leaves most American LGBTQ Catholics in a pretty tough spot. A lot of accepting cis/straight lay people don’t really get how serious the problem is for us, because they’ve trained themselves to ignore doctrines they don’t agree with. They don’t understand why we don’t just do the same thing.

Sometimes, I think what they fail to appreciate is how much in a majority they are, and how relatively safe they are in consequence. The Church can’t effectively persecute them, because nobody would be left in the pews if they did.

LGBTQ people, especially transgender people, make much easier targets. The church faces no serious existential consequences for enforcing doctrine on us as members of their Church.

Clearly, this is where true allyship can make an enormous difference.

Anyway, those are a few random thoughts on the subject, if they might help with any article ideas.

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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