church ban on the practice of homosexuality when they express their opposition to allowing homosexuals to teach in the schools. They may not view this as a civil rights issue, as many bishops do.
Nevertheless, on most other issues, Catholics who attend church regularly are closer to their bishops' political views than are Catholics in general.
It would seem that the official church social teaching and the teaching of American bishops does trickle down to the parish level. Catholics by large margins support the reforms of Vatican II and are generally receptive to the political activism of their bishops, so long as that action remains nonpartisan. If this is the case, the message of Vatican II can be expected to continue to influence American Catholics and may work to move Catholics toward more liberal politics.
To the extent that conservative leaders within the Church seek to slow the reforms of Vatican II and return to more authoritarian practices, however, the implementation of Vatican II may be slowed. 80 But most signs continue to indicate a Catholic backlash to such efforts, particularly when the authoritarian tactics are used in the area of sexual ethics and abortion. It is in these areas that Catholics are least receptive to church authority. Nevertheless, the more progressive political and economic message of Vatican II and American bishops is getting through.
The bishops are faced with a dilemma. Do they emphasize issues where they have greater influence, or do they push an unpopular agenda and risk being ignored by their followers?