Catholic Bishops acknowledged Monday that voters rejected their stances against gay marriage and birth control, but church leaders are holding fast to their strategy.
BALTIMORE — A subdued U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged Monday that voters rejected the stands they took against gay marriage and birth control, but the church leaders gave no sign they would change their strategy ahead.
Same-sex marriage supporters made a four-state sweep of ballot measures last week, despite intensive advocacy by Roman Catholic bishops in favor of traditional marriage.
Bishops also spoke out sharply against President Obama’s mandate that most employers provide health insurance that covers artificial contraception. Critics accused the bishops of going so far that they appeared to be backing Republican Mitt Romney.
The bishops insist their complaints were not partisan. Still, they face four more years with an administration many of them characterized as a threat to the church.
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“We’ve always maintained our openness to dialogue, and that will continue,” said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who leads the bishops’ committee on religious liberty. Regarding the birth-control mandate, Lori said, “As this evolves, as rule-making gets a little more clear, then our range of options will be clearer.”
The bishops reviewed plans they developed well before Election Day to expand outreach to Latino Catholics on traditional marriage and organize events on the importance of religious freedom.
Obama won the overall Catholic vote, 50 percent to 48 percent, but Catholics split on ethnic lines. White Catholics supported Romney, 59 to 40 percent. However, Latino Catholics went for Obama, 75 to 21 percent.
Last week, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states ever to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. In Minnesota, voters rejected placing a ban on gay-marriage in the state constitution, while 30 other states ban it.
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 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.”