It's time for the Church to stop talking so much about sex

It’s on matters of sexual morality that the church has lost much of its authority. And it’s on matters of sexual morality that it largely wastes its breath. By insisting on mandatory celibacy for a priesthood winnowed and sometimes warped by that, by opposing the use of contraceptives for birth control, by casting judgment on homosexuals and by decrying divorce while running something of an annulment mill, the church’s leaders have enraged and alienated Catholics whose common sense and whose experience of the real world tell them that none of that is wise, kind or necessary…

To many Catholics, active and lapsed, the beauty of the faith and the essence of Jesus Christ reside in a big-hearted compassion that has been eclipsed and often contradicted by church leaders’ excursions into the culture wars…

I know more than a few Catholics who, despite no other involvement in the church, make it a point to have their children christened. I always figured them to be superstitious. They’re hedging their bets.

But there’s more to it. On the far side of all the church scandals and all its misspent energy, these Catholics still see a fundamental set of values, a compass, that they don’t want to lose touch with or give up on. The church’s stubborn attachment to certain negotiable traditions and unenlightened positions has distanced them, but they’re not entirely gone. It’ll be interesting to see how, and if, Francis tries to bring them back.