Well, Cardinal Timothy Dolan isn't exactly wrong when he insists that the Catholic Church is being "out-marketed" when it comes to gay rights, but his reasoning that the powerful Hollywood marketing machine has somehow distorted the issue and undermined the Church's once-powerful propaganda machine is bullshit. The Catholic Church has done that all by itself.
Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press — that news program tailor-made for self-justifying blowhards all over the country — Dolan all but admitted that the Church is losing the argument about gay rights (because the Church would more or less like to deny gay people certain critical elements of what it means to be a full-fledged person).
When asked whether the Church is "losing the argument" about gay rights, Dolan said:
Well, I think maybe we've been out-marketed, sometimes. We've been caricatured as being anti-gay. And as much as we'd say, 'Wait a minute, we're pro marriage, we're pro traditional marriage, we're not anti anybody,' I don't know. When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle.
Yeah, because Hollywood has forced the Church to take a stance against same-sex marriage.
On the one hand, the Church does get picked on an awful lot these days, both here and elsewhere in the world of people too hip and post-modern to take the anachronistic machinations of a desiccated religious bureaucracy seriously. It's trendy and easy to pick on the Church, even if Pope Francis gives reasonable Catholics hope for a brighter, more inclusive future.
The biggest problem, though, with Church leaders such as Dolan is that their authority derives, in part, from doctrine that is very behind the times. If the Church hierarchy all of a sudden decided that, hey, condoms are nbd and, YOLO, sex before marriage is totally cool too, from where or what does it derive its authority? That is, if the Church leaders aren't dictating preconditions for Catholic belief and club membership, why do they need to exist at all?
That question has some pretty easy, rational answers, and it's not like the Church hasn't been at the mercy of social changes since its inception. Any institution that's been successful for as long as the Catholic Church has been successful knows how to appeal to a lot of people. But rather than get out ahead of these discussions about social change, leaders like Dolan seem to double-down on the old party line, hedging and prevaricating when faced with the cold facts of their failure to adapt. It's fear that keeps them from moving forward — fear of losing whatever authority the Jesus wizards of an ancient Roman cult carried into the 21st century.
Image via AP, Patrick Semansky