To be clear, I’m not exactly praising the Catholic Church nor Pope Francis for social liberalism. The pope has said, “The teaching of the church” on issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception “is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” And indeed the Church remains dangerously out of touch with the modern lives and needs of its flock, whether the upwards of 90 percent of Catholic women in the United States who use birth control or the 62 percent of American Catholics who support marriage equality. Still, what’s fascinating is that the Republican Party and social conservatives in general continue to wave the banner of backwards social norms despite all the self-marginalizing and self-destructive pragmatic reasons not to, while here the very arbiter of those social norms—who obviously has more reason to proselytize that morality than any political party—is recognizing the need to, at the very least, tone it down.
Certainly not all Republican political leaders fall into the offensive and out-of-date category with respect to social issues. Despite the massive rightward shift of the party in the last few years, there remain some social moderates who believe that women should make decisions about their own bodies based on consultations with their doctors, not tyrannical laws. And more Republican figures are coming out in support of marriage equality every day. Yet when conservative leaders flock to defend the ugly racist and homophobic remarks of Phil Richardson or try and dismantle Obamacare based on contraception mandates, they reveal how woefully disconnected conservative leadership is from not only the majority of Americans but the majority of Republican voters.