A national poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS has found something every America politician must remember: The leaders claiming to represent America's 77 million Catholics represent a fraction of those people.
In fact, it's the very issues that the Catholic Church has been out front on—their crusade to stymie gay families, build a Checkpoint Charlie outside every uterus, and operate an underground railroad for pedophile priests—on which the church's leaders speak least for the flock. From ordination of women to gay marriage, American Catholics are way ahead of their hierarchy:
Seven of 10 Catholics polled said the next pope should let priests marry, let women become priests and allow the use of artificial methods of birth control. Nine of 10 said they wanted the next pope to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and other diseases.
Sixty-two percent of Catholics said they were in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Catholics approved of same-sex marriage at a higher rate than Americans as a whole, among whom 53 percent approved.
John Sadel, 28, a supervisor in a plastics production facility in Bethlehem, Pa., said, “I’m not saying change everything the church stands for, but you need to evolve with the times if you want to remain a viable religion.”
Catholic leaders have claimed to speak for one-quarter of the country, acting on behalf of tens of millions of Americans who purportedly think women and gays deserve to live a second-class life. The hierarchy claims it's got authority to interpret the word of God. And what Catholics are saying—and I don't think this can be overstated—is that they don't think that the bigoted pope and sure as hell not the neo-con US Conference of Catholic Bishops can divine how the scriptures apply to American life.
One of the most interesting parts of the entire poll was the question of who is "more in touch." The least "in touch" in the entire Catholic Church are the bishops. These are the people who were at the forefront of efforts to stop gay marriage in four states last fall (Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington). These are the bishops who stood up at the DNC and made thinly veiled attacks on a woman's reproductive freedom and gay rights. These are the bishops suing to let Catholic-affiliated institutions, like hospitals and universities, opt out of health care obligations because it violates their moral conscience.
Well American Catholics are only listening to their own moral conscience on the leading issues facing the church. With the exception of opposing abortion, their moral conscience is mostly liberal.
And guess what? The radicalized bishops have the least moral authority of anyone in the church—only 38 percent said they were in touch.
The only Catholic leaders with considered markedly "in touch" were US priests and, by far and away with 72 percent, "your parish priests." What have we seen from our parish priests? They're the ones who have been dissenting from the bishops: Seattle priests have stood up to defend the "feminist" nuns and they have blasted their bishops' attempt to turn masses into anti-gay organizing meetings.
The bishops are going to stick their fingers in their ears at this news. They're probably going to elect another pope just as Victorian as the last one while praying to sky-daddy that they can drive godless, baby-murdering, faggot-hugging Americans to all become protestants. But they can pray all they want, because if they don't speak for their own church, they don't speak for anyone. After years of duping the Obama Administration into compromise and scaring Congress into thinking that these bishops represent a massive bloc of voters, this should confirm that they don't: They can officially be ignored.