With a small gesture -- a Catholic cardinal at an ecumenical worship service asks a woman to bless him -- a prince of the Church opens a tiny window of hope.
With a small gesture -- a Catholic cardinal at an ecumenical worship service asks a woman to bless him -- a prince of the Church opens a tiny window of hope.
From NYT. Yes, staff can be such a disappointment. I remember when Dick Nixon needed new staff (as the old were headed to the slammer), but it turned out he was stuck with himself.
An eloquent piece by Israeli writer Etgar Keret on the effort there to ban the word "Nazi."
Gawker nails the Gray Lady. Oh, pardon me, that sounded indelicate.
Being gay is not a crime. It is normal for a small portion of the population. If it is not considered icky or disreputable, then the basis for taboos like that of NYT make no sense. Their policy and squeamishness are vestiges from another time. They can hardly cite standards of evidence while forbidding the gathering or reporting of such evidence.
A senior Italian IOC member criticized the United States on Wednesday for including openly gay athletes in its official delegation for next month's Sochi Olympics.
"It's absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have (been established)," Mario Pescante said at an Italian Olympic Committee meeting in Milan on Wednesday, in comments widely reported by Italian media. "The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports daily."
Sorry, Mr. Pescante, but the situation is inherently political, as it was in Berlin in 1936. Politics is an aspect of human interaction. It is not a detachable accessory.
Think Progress reports.
Right Wing Watch shares the latest lunacy from Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
I almost thought this idiotic old argument had been dropped out of embarrassment, but here it is rearing its silly head: If homosexuality is normalized, everyone will turn queer and stop reproducing, and humanity will die out.
It's just that irresistible.
You do the math on this one.
Fox is 137 percent committed to accuracy.
(Hat tip: Cathy Renna)
At a hearing on January 9, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, denied Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) the courtesy of testifying on his bill, H.R. 7, which would, among other things, permanently prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, and define the D.C. government as part of the federal government for the purposes of abortion. (At present, the prohibition against the District spending its own locally-raised tax revenues on abortions for poor women is prohibited by a rider to the District's annual appropriations bill.)
It is a standard courtesy for a member whose district is targeted by a bill to be allowed to testify on it. All Rep. Franks would do was to point out that the single witness the Democrats were allowed at the hearing could be Norton (the Republicans were allowed three witnesses), despite the fact that the bill also had nationwide implications and the Democrats needed a witness to discuss those provisions. The normal practice would be to allow the affected member to testify over and above the witness allocation. But Franks, in addition to being opposed to women's reproductive freedom and to the District's right to govern its own affairs, is opposed to basic courtesy toward a colleague.
I attended the Congresswoman's news conference on Thursday morning protesting the action by Franks. Speaking at the news conference, in addition to Congresswoman Norton, were Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), ranking member of the subcommittee, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The District of Columbia government is not part of the federal government. That is a fact that no law can change. The law, however, can make a mockery of itself, and can cause injustice. Fortunately, H.R. 7 has no chance of passing in the U.S. Senate. This bill is but one example of the mischief that we can expect from Congress if Republicans take control of the Senate in this year's midterm elections.
The Congresswoman's statement, and the testimony she would have given against this egregious infringement on the rights of the District and of its women, can be read here.
Political Blind Spot reports.
Sure. Just think of all the black women who cringe in terror when I walk into an elevator. And all the times I was stopped on the highway by cops just for being white. And being the last served in a restaurant despite arriving long before groups that are already eating. And being followed around stores like I'm a criminal. And being seated at the boss's table at the annual banquet because I'm the only white manager in the company and they want to show their commitment to diversity. Oh, wait. None of those things ever happened to me. Never mind.
Or, as my friend Denise put it when she shared this article, "Some white folks are completely clueless." Denise herself is white, and is a veritable font of clues, which is a good thing. Here's to more people getting a clue.
Chris Johnson at the Blade raises the question of what will happen to the more than 900 same-sex couples who legally married in Utah between December 20 and January 6, before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of Judge Shelby's ruling pending appeal.
I agree with Shannon Minter, Suzanne Goldberg, and the ACLU that the existing marriages should be deemed valid.
Apparently some people are comparing these 900+ SSMs in Utah to the ones done in 2004 in San Francisco by then-mayor Gavin Newsome. But as noted by the Blade, Newsome took executive action. Here we are talking about a federal court order. I cannot imagine how those marriages that were legal when entered into could be set aside pending appeal. The fact that these new facts-on-the-ground are inconvenient for our opponents might make an alternate version of me in a parallel universe weep for the phobes' wounded sensibilities, but they and alt-me can get over it.
This in-between state of being married pending appeal makes more visible the reality of our lives that are affected by this. It's hard for me to see the down side of that, notwithstanding the crocodile tears being shed by Utah Attorney General Reyes on the gay couples' behalf.
The Daily Show takes on the smirking ignoramuses who don't get the difference between weather and climate, who mock climate scientists as if the latter had ever said there would be no more winter. But this is no joke. America's ability to compete globally is under serious threat from aggressive know-nothingism, as illustrated by anti-science congressmen on the House science committee. Fight back!
Mike Rogers, talking to Dave Weigel, has an interesting take on the sort-of outing of Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock:
"Republicans want this," said Rogers. "They want him to come out. They want him to come out before the election. The Louie Gohmert voters aren't going anywhere. Anyone who's nutty enough to vote for Gohmert will stay with him. And the power structure in the gay community will literally and figuratively be on its knees the minute he comes out. He'll get awards, he'll march in parades—an Aaron Schock outing, for the GOP, is a gift!"
Small stylistic point: When Mike says "literally" here, he is being figurative, as when someone says "I literally hit the ceiling." No you didn't. But he has a point. Collaborating with nativist, bigoted know-nothings does not becomes okay just because you stop denying your gayness.
Update: Jonathan Capehart points out that gossip is not evidence.
The internet has been having a lot of fun recently at Representative Aaron Schock's expense. It started with this that made for chatter on the gay blogosphere. Then he made his Instagram account private -- getting more chatter. And for a local angle the DC Center added the above tweet to the mix. All good fun. Now I have nothing to add to whether or not Aaron Schock is gay. If I had a pair of pants or a shirt with DNA evidence to contribute I would gladly do so (you know what I'm talking about). But I've never even met the guy.
Things took a more angry/philosophical turn with this post by Itay Hod. Read the whole thing, but here is a taste:
let me ask another question... doesn't the media have an OBLIGATION to expose his hypocrisy? if he had done something so hypocritical and he wasn't gay, wouldn't we demand journalists do their job? but they can't... because we won't let them. you're not allowed to out ANYONE, we tell them.
The thing is, it is the Washington political media that cover Aaron Schock. And Congressmen being hypocrites is not new to them. My guess is the answer to his question is no. The media likely does NOT feel they have a obligation to expose hypocrisy. If all the hypocrites in Washington turned orange everyone would look like John Boehner. Drunken telephone calls to Congressional pages is news. Beating your wife or girlfriend (not an issue for Schock) is news. Getting busted for drugs will also get a mention by the press corps. But being a hypocrite is not news.
You've probably heard about the gay couple that's getting married atop a giant wedding cake on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. And someone's pushing a boycott of the parade. Personally I think the whole thing sounds tacky, but whatever whips your cream, I guess. John Rogers reports at HuffPost.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay of Judge Robert Shelby's December 20 ruling overturning that state's ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional. The state wants gay Utah couples to stop being allowed to marry pending its appeal of the case. The stay request will be handled by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is likely to refer it to the entire court. Associated Press reports.
Somehow, an Alabama town invited a troupe of black drag queens to dance in its Christmas parade. This took some parade-goers by surprise. The above news clip includes footage of them in the parade.
My year-in-review for 2013 was published before the news broke of Her Majesty's Alan Turing pardon; but it was already a jam-packed year for the LGBT community. Here are a few excerpts:
2013 was a momentous year for the LGBT community, with nine states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah) joining the marriage equality ranks; landmark marriage rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court; the Social Security Administration making it easier for transgender people to obtain Social Security cards reflecting their true gender identity; strong moves in sports and the arts; and Presidential Medals of Freedom awarded posthumously to Bayard Rustin and Dr. Sally Ride….
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered historic rulings in the Windsor and Perry cases, overturning the federal denial of recognition to same-sex marriages and restoring marriage equality in California. Edith Windsor, whose irrepressible personality made her the perfect "poster girl" for marriage equality at age 84, was a finalist for Time's Person of the Year….
The cause of marriage equality grew more bipartisan in 2013, when former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman organized a pro-equality amicus brief in the Perry case signed by more than 100 Republican officials; Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) endorsed marriage equality after learning his son was gay; and former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara served as witnesses at the wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen in Maine.
The year's remarkable string of marriage equality victories ended on an exhilarating note when U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, an Obama appointee, ruled Utah Measure 3 unconstitutional, setting off a rush of same-sex couples to county clerk's offices in the conservative state ahead of an expected stay of the ruling. Shelby deliciously cited Justice Antonin Scalia's bitter dissents in Lawrence and Windsor to bolster the argument in favor of marriage equality.
I also touch on sports, the arts, and the international front. Read the whole thing here.
A lot of us were pinching ourselves over the news from Utah since Friday, but I doubt any of us expected a picture like this one on our Twitter feed: Boy Scouts bringing pizzas to the county clerk's office in Salt Lake City for the clerks who had skipped their lunch breaks to keep processing marriage licenses for the hundreds of same-sex couples lined up, and for the couples too. That was gracious and moving enough. On top of that, to spot a rainbow-colored kerchief well here's to peace on earth and good will toward men. What a year of change this has been.
In the above clip, Rick Santorum agrees with suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson's views on homosexuality but distances himself from Robertson's crude language. This is the same former U.S. senator who compared homosexuality to "man on dog" relationships.
In reactions ranging from relatively polite to unhinged, conservatives have rushed to portray A&E's suspension of Robertson as part of an assault on free speech and an attack on Christianity, despite there plainly being no shortage of outlets for conservative and anti-gay viewpoints. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had previously warned that the GOP needed to "stop being the stupid party," called Robertson and his family "great citizens of the State of Louisiana." Meanwhile, GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz was the target of a death hoax.
What do you do when you are stuck in bed with whack jobs and unvarnished bigots? These days, Republican office holders who make the slightest move to pull back from the most extreme intolerant rhetoric are vilified by others on the right. This does not mean that the GOP's control of the U.S. House of Representatives is in serious danger; gerrymandering will make it hard to dislodge them. But their ability to govern, to do anything but hurl rhetorical bombs and threaten to wreck the country if they do not totally get their way, is gone. If this is not starkly clear, it is only because the media is doing so much to fuel every controversy, generating much heat and little light.
If Democrats do not confront head-on the damage being done to the country by right-wing intransigence, obstruction, hate-mongering and political blackmail, they will be aiding and abetting that damage. As the midterm elections heat up in 2014, those aware of what is at stake must press Democrats to find their backbone and press the fight for our country. The more we allow America to be held hostage by know-nothing fanatics, the less our economy will be able to compete internationally with the likes of China, India, and Brazil. Smirking ignoramuses like Sarah Palin, and demagogues like Ted Cruz who exploit them, are not going away. The signal-to-noise ratio will remain low as the media continue behaving like nihilist whores. It is time to step up, organize, and speak out using all the tools available to us.
The only time I met actor and GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz was at the White House in June 2009 when I was Frank Kameny's date for the Stonewall 40th anniversary reception. (He came up and introduced himself to me, and I right near melted into the carpet.) But Cruz was on TV this week, addressing the furor over anti-gay remarks by Phil Robertson of A&E's Duck Dynasty (in the above clip he squares off with Dr. Albert Mohler on CNN), and yesterday I got the following email from someone named Seth, who confused GLAA for GLAAD:
I am completely disgusted with comments made by your spokesperson in regards to Phil Robertson's interview and his response regarding homosexuality. First of all, what do you think a Christian minister is going to say when asked if he approves of that lifestyle???
A "true Christian" would READ and PRACTICE God's word. Homosexuality is not part of God's plan. If it was, there would be no reason for the creation of 'woman'. Phil reiterated that and was chastised and berated by your spokesperson for not only sharing God's word, but also expressing his opinion on the subject matter. That is his right as an American. The automatic response from the media and your organization is that he is essentially a closed-minded bigot going on an anti-gay tirade and not a true Christian. Really???
The irony of the response expressed by your organization is that there was more anger and hatred in those few lines than ever expressed by Phil. In fact, he spoke plainly as he always does; not with bitterness, but consideration and without a constant agenda to push his sexual preference down the throat of America.
Funny how so many people think that the freedom of speech guaranteed everyone by the US Constitution includes a right to a cable TV show. I think this is an indictment of our civics education system.
Queerty debunks the recent Salvation Army claim that it is not anti-gay. There are plenty of worthy charities; no need to give your money to an anti-gay sect.
President Obama today delivered a sweeping, eloquent, and insightful eulogy today in Johannesburg at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. A friend in Johannesburg, after watching the speech, told me that Obama is the best orator he has ever heard. You could tell from the crowd's reaction that they were welcoming a son. South African President Jacob Zuma received a very different reaction: loud boos. Thank you, President Obama, for representing our country so magnificently. (Note: the video skips a couple of times; if I find a better version I will replace it.)
WaPo has the transcript. Here is a portion that includes a reference to the gay rights struggle:
Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa -- Ubuntu -- a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us....
The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.
And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
Right Wing Watch shares the latest lunacy from disgraced former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who has been filing bogus complaints with YouTube to shut down RWW's fair-use clips of his deranged rants. RWW is winning.
Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch reported yesterday:
Last night, Stan Solomon hosted Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly to discuss his latest conspiracy theory that liberals intend to take kids away from conservatives and give them to gay people, some of whom will inevitably molest them.
Why haven’t you and I heard of this plot? Because the media is covering it up, of course!
Schlafly also criticized President Obama for “insulting” Americans when he “omitted” the word “God” from his recent recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Of course, her claim is completely false: Obama was reading the first draft of the speech, which did not include a reference to God.
Many people become depressed during the holidays. If you find yourself in that boat, just watch one of these RWW videos of right-wing loons and remind yourself, "At least I'm better off than these lying bastards."
Bryan Fischer at AFA says that with the man-woman "guardrail" is crossed, "there is no logical place to stop in the kind of sexual relationships you will support, you will endorse, you will embrace as a culture." Therefore the next shoe to drop is pedophilia.
Dear Mr. Fischer: Making one legal change does not require making every conceivable legal change. Legislatures make choices all the time, deciding to make one change but not a host of other possible ones. Gay people have sought the right to marry a single partner, not multiple partners and not underage ones. We have fought for equal protection under the law, not to set aside the law altogether. You are lying. You are hyperventilating. Try putting a paper bag over your mouth and breathing into that.
David Edwards at The Raw Story reports that Bill O'Reilly at Fox News is now channeling Jesus. He (O'Reilly, not Christ) criticizes Democrats and even Pope Francis for advocating public resources to help the poor, because, he says, the poor have only themselves to blame.
When an on-air personality like O'Reilly establishes a long record of reckless disregard for the evidence, and becomes distorted by his own sense of self-importance, his assertions stop being merely disagreeable and become lies. He is justifying harsh public policy positions with distortions of the facts and a ludicrous travesty of the Gospel.
Think of a hungry child, and ask yourself is this is just about some media blowhard being a jerk. No. This is depraved indifference to human suffering. It is hard to think of anything more contemptible. But it is the policy of the Republican Party. As Salon reports, evidence shows that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program actually increases self-sufficiency.
Lynette Holloway at The Root reports:
Donald Maiden Jr., who celebrated his 8th birthday on Sunday, is struggling to recover at a Texas hospital after a 46-year-old white man shot him in the face on Tuesday, as the child played a game of tag outside his apartment complex, according to the Raw Story. Police have not been able to determine a motive.
Witnesses told police that 46-year-old Brian Cloninger had been seen waiving a handgun at people prior to the shooting, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Police reports said that Cloninger was seen standing beside his pickup truck as the boy was bleeding, and a witness asked him if he shot the boy.
"Yes, I shot that kid," Cloninger reportedly said.
Dear God. Why do some people hate so much? To harm a child. It just boggles the mind. And an awful lot of these stories come from Florida and Texas. When politicians and people in the media stoke this for votes or ratings, they are helping to pull the trigger. If all the haters woke up dead tomorrow, maybe then we could rebuild our country into a civilized place.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who was raised in Israel but founded the Kiruv Organization in New York in 1995, smirks as he explains that the Torah allows no room for mercy or distinctions: all who commit the sin of homosexuality must be stoned to death.
(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)
Joe Jervis reports on the latest anti-gay attack by a Russian neo-Nazi group that films its humiliating assaults (which I won't show here):
According to a report filed by Spectrum Human Rights, the Russian anti-gay and neo-Nazi group Occupy Pedophilia has posted a video that shows the torture and humiliation of Alexander Bohun, who recently appeared on Ukraine's version of X Factor. A Russian news site reports that Bohun had responded to a personal ad posted on the social media site VK, only to find the thugs waiting for him.
Parker Marie Molloy writes at HuffPost Gay on why gay men and drag queens should not use the term "tranny":
A common argument in favor of using "tranny" is, "But that word is just part of drag culture!" Here's my rebuttal: I don't care. "Drag culture" or not, that's not a word that's appropriate to throw around. It's a hateful slur that is often the last thing that trans women hear before being beaten or murdered. Just as it wouldn't be acceptable for me to go around using the word "f*ggot," as I'm not a gay man, it's inappropriate for gay men and male-identified drag queens to use "tranny."
Parker, you are right. I am sorry that you had to spell that out at this late date, but thanks for it.
The Economist reports on the dilemma faced by biblical literalists contending with genomics that shows homo sapiens is not descended from a single pair. Happily, young evangelicals are less inclined to insist that their religion be at war with science. Tick tock, Know-Nothing Party.
Jennifer Rubin at WaPo, in pointing out that the National Organization for Marriage is operating in the red, points out that there are no longer enough states to ratify a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. In the unlikely event houses of Congress passed such an amendment (requiring two-thirds of each chamber), it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38 out of 50. We now have 16 marriage equality states. That would mean that four equality states would have to ratify such an amendment, which is not about to happen.
Mind you, we have not heard any talk about the Federal Marriage Amendment lately; the momentum is on the pro-gay side. Another route to a constitutional amendment would be to call a constitutional convention, but that too is not about to happen. And one sign that our opponents know this is that NOM, as Rubin points out, is in debt. Like Oliver North when he ran for the U.S. Senate from Virginia years ago, they spent a lot of money to lose.
Think Progress reports:
On Monday, the United Methodist Church convicted Rev. Frank Schaefer on two counts against the Church for officiating his son's same-sex wedding. On Tuesday, the impaneled jury determined his sentence: Schaefer is suspended for 30 days, and if it at the end of that time he has not renounced his support for marriage equality, he will be defrocked.
Schaefer, however, was unapologetic, refusing the invitation to "repent of your actions" ...
D.C.'s Foundry Methodist Church, an LGBT-welcoming congregation located a block from my home (and which is also my polling place on election day), issued this statement on Wednesday standing with Rev. Shaefer:
Sean Bugg has a good commentary in Metro Weekly on the sibling flap between carpetbagging Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney and her sister Mary, whose marriage to Heather Poe was judged inconvenient to Liz's political ambitions. Sean writes:
I'm glad that Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, lashed out publicly. It must hurt to have your sister turn her back on you as part of a carpetbagging campaign quest that can best be described as quixotic. But in 2004, when gay marriage was the electoral wedge Karl Rove and his then-closeted henchman Ken Mehlman pounded into the nation, Mary Cheney kept her mouth firmly shut. Even as that wedge created dozens of constitutional amendments banning any recognition of her own relationship, she said nothing that might interfere with the re-election of her father.
Yep. Meanwhile, in the video below, Bryan Fischer of AFA explains that it's Mary who is the intolerant bigot.
Our old friend Jonathan Rauch has a piece at Time Ideas titled "The End of Gay Victimhood." He writes:
[T]he civil rights model was an imperfect fit for gays. It cast us as victims who need the state’s protection, and it encouraged us to think of ourselves that way. In doing so, it bolstered the stereotype of the weak homosexual.
In the 1990s, a younger generation brought forward a different agenda, one that focused on the two most egregious forms of governmental discrimination: the bans on gay marriage and military service. Around the same time, the “gayby boom” took off, as openly gay couples became parents. Marriage, military service and child rearing: these were not extensions of the 1970s gay-rights agenda but departures from it. Taken together, they constituted a gay-responsibility agenda. We were seeking the burdens of adulthood instead of running to Mommy; asking to serve our communities and country instead of demanding that they serve us; declaring our strength instead of our perennial weakness....
I would never deny the continuing and often harsh reality of anti-gay discrimination, especially for kids. And I would agree with anyone who points out that allowing gays to sue discriminators in federal court is fair and reasonable. (Federal antidiscrimination law, after all, already protects other groups, like Christians, that endure far less social hostility.) But at this point, the right to file federal lawsuits is unlikely to make a big difference in gay people’s lives, and the 1970s civil rights model has become a warhorse in need of retirement.
I think Rauch sets up a false dichotomy here between a gay-rights agenda and a gay-responsibility agenda. I myself over the years have criticized approaches based on victimhood; but there is nothing inherently victim-based about demanding equal protection of the law, which is guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Jon's "running to Mommy" line is gratuitous.
Many of the same activists and organizations have fought for both ENDA and marriage equality. For example, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin was previously the co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, whose fight against California's Proposition 8 led to last June's ruling in Perry that returned marriage equality to the state.
Surely Griffin embraced responsibility in his marriage advocacy as much as anyone else. Rauch married his husband Michael in 2010 here in D.C., thanks in large measure to decades of work by my colleagues and I in GLAA. In my 35 years of activism, I have never seen myself as a victim. I simply wanted my birthright of equality.
My column this week looks at ideological purity, from the Tea Party to LGBT leftists to anti-war activists to the former Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict XVI. Here's a portion:
His Former Holiness Benedict XVI was bent on enforcing doctrinal purity within the Catholic Church even as its membership in the West shrank and his bishops' scolding letters were read to increasingly empty pews. The bishops' refusal to respect church-state separation, as seen in their relentless efforts to make the civil law conform to Catholic doctrine on abortion and homosexuality, implies a different America than the one they inhabit. They appear convinced that an American theocracy would somehow be cut to their measure despite their minority status.
But Benedict is retired. Last week, the Roman church under Pope Francis did something almost unheard of: It sought the opinions of the laity. Instead of just another lecture, the leader of a 2,000-year-old organization that claims a divine mandate is choosing consultation.
If Francis can deal with the fact that his followers are not sheep but humans able to think for themselves, those with no hereditary hotline to heaven can learn from his humility. None of us has all the answers.