Are Lay Catholics Less “Catholic” than Church Leaders?

From today’s Washington Post about Maryland’s movement to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry:  “But the presence of three Catholics at the helm in Annapolis hasn’t stopped a same-sex marriage bill from wending its way through the legislature, triggering deep disappointment among church leaders as it suggests a waning of Catholic influence in this heavily Catholic state,” (emphasis added).

Some see the role of Catholic politicians in advancing Maryland’s soon-to-be enacted (hopefully!) legislation recognizing same-sex marriage as indicative of decreased “Catholic influence.” Such a conclusion would be justified if only bishops and other “official” Church leaders were seen as the bearers of that influence.  But Catholics know that the Church is more than the pope, more than bishops, more than those who hold a particular office or position. The Church is — as the Second Vatican Council taught so clearly — the People of God. From this perspective, the roles played by Catholic leaders in advancing the rights of God’s gay and lesbian children — especially when the positions those leaders take are rooted in Catholic ideas on human dignity and justice — can be seen not as a diminution but rather an expansion of influence of true Catholicism in the public square.

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