The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 12, 2012

Catholic bishops stay course on gay marriage fight

(Continued)

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the newly installed leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said gay marriage opponents were outspent by gay rights groups, and bishops are grappling with how they can be more persuasive. Surveys by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have found that the number of Americans who say they have no religion is at a high of 20 percent, while the number of former Catholics is so large that ex-Catholics collectively include more people than many denominations.

"The election is a symptom of a much larger problem," Cordileone said. "Most people don't understand what marriage is."

Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic groups that advocate for gays and lesbians, including Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry, said it had hoped that the votes on gay marriage last week would "drive home the need for the bishops to take seriously the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families." The group said Monday that it was "profoundly disappointed" that the bishops plan to continue their current approach to advocacy.

On health care, the Obama administration's birth control requirement exempts houses of worship, but does not exclude religiously affiliated hospitals and nonprofits. Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies and not faith-affiliated employers would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out. And not only the bishops, but Catholic hospitals and some other religious leaders generally supportive of Obama's policies are saying the compromise appears to be unworkable.

Dozens of dioceses and Catholic nonprofits are suing the Obama administration over the mandate, arguing the requirement violates religious freedom.

Steve Schneck, a political scientist at the Catholic University of America who campaigned for Obama, said the bishops need to quickly reach out to the administration because the opportunity to strike a compromise will be limited once the court cases move forward.

"It's something that I think the bishops should be working for if they're serious about trying to win exemptions for hospitals and charities and similar nonprofit institutions," Schneck said. "It's in the interest of the administration to resolve this thing ahead of the lawsuits."

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