LGBT Rainbows Are Appearing Over Ireland

March 14, 2014

In the very, very Catholic nation of Ireland, LGBT equality has been growing by leaps and bounds among the populace. Yet, the negative approach that many Catholic institutions and leaders still take to LGBT issues still exerts an out-sized influence over practices and policies.  Over the past month, several news items have emerged from Ireland, and in this post, we will try to provide a survey of the major developments.

Perhaps the biggest news is that a recent survey by RTÉ, Ireland’s public television company, finds that an overwhelming majority of citizens support the country’s proposed measures to institute marriage equality.  The Guardian reported:

“A new opinion poll shows that only just under 20% of voters will oppose introducing same sex marriage into the Irish constitution.

“More than three-quarters of voters say they support marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in a proposed referendum by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

“The survey by the Red C opinion poll firm for Irish public broadcaster RTÉ and The Sunday Business Post found that 76% would be in favour of allowing LGBT couples to legally marry in the Irish Republic. Around 5% of voters were undecided and 19% opposed the law reform.”

Ben Kelly

For Irish musician Ben Kelly, who is gay and Catholic, the news of support rang true to his personal experience growing up in Ireland.  In an essay titled, “To Be Young, Gay, and Catholic” on the website IrishCatholic.ie, Kelly explains that acceptance has been growing for years, and that is a natural progression for many Irish citizens:

“I feel a huge shift in opinion has happened over the past few decades in Ireland, and the country now has many evolved Catholics who are happily rejecting the more damaging rules on how we live and love. After the cultural traumas of the abuse scandal, the ghosts of the Magdalene laundries and other scars inflicted by Church teachings which are increasingly at odds with the lifestyles of the general congregation, Catholic Ireland is accepting gay people. It’s hardly surprising that people who have felt so much hurt are happy to accept a little love.

“Former President Mary McAleese was right: being gay is no longer seen as ‘evil’ or ‘intrinsically disordered’. I was relieved when my parents didn’t have a problem with me being gay, and surprised further when my grandparents didn’t either. But, come to think of it, they belong to generations who quietly disregarded the Church’s teachings on divorce, contraception, and sex before marriage – all of which were condemned from the pulpit, but ignored by many outside the church gates. Homosexuality is just another thing that the Church must realise is being accepted and incorporated into the lives of Irish Catholics.”

Jerry Buttimer

Such an outpouring of support probably did not come as a surprise to Jerry Buttimer, a gay member of the Irish parliament,  who said he sees a lot of progress in the Catholic Church on LGBT issues.  Speaking at a debate at Dublin’s Trinity College on the topic “The Catholic Church can be salvaged,” Buttimer was quoted by The Irish Times

 

“He said Christian understanding was exhibited far better in Catholic communities than in the hierarchy, and there was now a need for a third Vatican council dealing with the issues of morality and sexuality, as the current model of morality was from a different society.

“He praised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for sending a ‘message of conciliation, of tolerance and respect’ to the gay community, in remarks made on RTÉ Radio One last week.

“Pope Francis had indicated a similar message recently when he spoke to the world’s media. ‘You have to have the hope that the man at the top can lead that change,’ he told students. ‘We now need a church that reflects the values we now have of love, of peace and of justice.’ “

Also speaking at the debate in support of a positive future for the church was Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, who was relieved of priestly ministry because of his support for progressive reform topics, including LGBT equality.

The experience of lesbian and gay teachers in Ireland was also in the news recently, as The Journal, a national publication, published personal stories of lesbian and gay educators about their professional experiences.  (All accounts were written anonymously because of the fear of being fired.) The Journal notes the extensive role that the Catholic Church plays in Irish education and their exemption from an important anti-discrimination policy:

“In Ireland, schools run by the Catholic Church (which is the vast majority) are allowed exempt from certain aspects of equality law because of their religion’s ethos and teachings. They were given an exemption to the European Equality Directive back in 2000 which allows for this ethos to be upheld during recruitment.”

The stories recount being passed over for promotion, being ignored at staff meetings, having the principal drop in unannounced on lessons and parent meetings, and suffering verbal and sometimes physical abuse, to name a few experiences.  One teacher’s description is particularly disturbing:

“I have witnessed homophobia and what can only be considered gay bashing in both the classroom and the staff room, unfortunately. I was targeted by two separate students on two separate occasions in two different schools and, both times when I complained, the reaction of school managers was more lenient that I had expected or than I wanted.

“On both occasions, the students chose to make the comments in a very public forum – in front of large groups of people. The intention of which was to publicly humiliate me as the teacher.

“What can one say about these types of experiences other than when you consider that I actively choose to keep my private life separate to my public life because I believe my private life has no place in my career, only to be targeted by teenagers who’s intention is public humiliation is pretty depressing?”

You can read all of the accounts of these teachers here.

Panti Bliss

In a story that made headlines around the globe, a drag queen named Panti Bliss, made a speech at Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre about homophobia, as a response to criticism she had made on public television about critics of LGBT equality.  Bliss (who is also known as Rory O’Neill) made reference to a Catholic notion about homosexuality in her speech. The following excerpt is from The Billerico Project:

“Have any of you ever come home in the evening and turned on the television, and there is a panel of people — nice people, respectable people, smart people… and they’re all sitting around, and they are having a ‘reasoned’ debate on the television: a reasoned debate about you?”

“About what kind of person you are, about whether or not you’re capable of being a good parent, about whether you want to destroy marriage, about whether or not you’re safe around children, about whether or not God herself thinks you’re an abomination, about whether in fact maybe you are intrinsically disordered. And even the nice TV presenter lady… even she thinks it’s perfectly okay that they’re all having this ‘reasoned’ debate about you and about who you are and about what rights you deserve or don’t deserve.”

You can watch the 11-minute video of her speech here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 


How Did Catholics Fare in the Latest Report on LGBT Acceptance in the U.S.?

March 4, 2014

While we have known for a long time that church leaders spouting anti-LGBT messages has been bad for sexual and gender minorities, a new study shows that there’s another group that is being harmed by these messages:  church institutions themselves.

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a report last week entitled A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues which documents the rapid rise of LGBT acceptance in American society, and looks at how this social change impacts religious institutions.   Overall, the report showed significant progress over the past decade in all sectors of American society and in religious denominations in regard to LGBT equality, according to a news story in USA Today.

One of the report statistics that grabbed the headlines is that young people of the Millennial  generation are leaving churches because of anti-LGBT messages. On The Huffington PostJaweed Kaleem reports:

“In a survey released Wednesday, nearly one-third of Millennials who left the faith they grow up with told Public Religion Research Institute that it was ‘negative teachings’ or ‘negative treatment’ related to gays and lesbians that played a significant role in them leaving organized religion.

“Specifically, 17 percent of Millennials, or adults between 18 and 33-years-old, said negativity around LGBT issues in religion was ‘somewhat important’ to their departure, while 14 percent said it was a ‘very important’ factor.”

“A majority of Americans, 58 percent, also said that religious groups are ‘alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.’ Among Millennials, that percentage jumped to 70.

” ‘While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this issue have hurt churches’ ability to attract and retain young people,’ PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones said in a statement.”

The report also broke down some their questions by denomination, and the numbers for Catholics were  mostly positive, except for two disturbing items.  Among the positive results:

  • In 2003, 65% of Catholics said that same-sex marriage went against their religious beliefs, while in 2013, that number dropped to 53%.  When broken down between white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics, the figures show that 58% of white Catholics report a conflict, while only 45% of Hispanic Catholics feel the same way.
  • Today, 58% of white Catholics and 56% of Hispanic Catholics are in favor of same-sex marriage.
  • When asked if religious groups are alienating young adults over LGBT issues, 55% of Catholics believed this was true, but again an ethnic difference existed: 62% of white Catholics believe this to be true, while only 42% of Hispanic Catholics do so.
  • 61% of Catholics polled said they believed that people were born with a homosexual orientation, as opposed to being formed that way by upbringing or environment.  This was the second highest number of any religious group, after Jewish people (64%) who held this view.
  • With the exception of white evangelical Protestants, most religious groups felt that gay and lesbian couples were equal in parenting to heterosexual couples.  Catholics polled high in this regard, with 72% of white Catholics and 66% of Hispanic Catholics believing so.
  • Catholics also polled high in regard to favoring laws that protect gay and lesbian people from employment discrimination:  73%  of both white and Hispanic Catholics favor such laws.
  • 19% of LGBT Americans identify as Catholics, which is comparable to the general American population, of which 20% identify as Catholics.

The first disturbing statistic is that the report states:

“. . .the Catholic Church is perceived to be the group most unfriendly to LGBT people.  Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Ameri;cans believe the Catholic Church is unfri;endly to LGBT people, more than twice the number (27%) who believe the Catholic Church is friendly.”

The Catholic Church came out ahead of the Mormon Church (53%) and Evangelical Christian Churches (51)% in terms of the numbers of Americans who perceive them as institutions unfriendly to LGBT people.

Clearly, the Catholic Church is presenting a very negative image, even though, statistically Catholics are strongly supportive of LGBT issues. Since the Catholic hierarchy has such a powerful and negative voice in the media, it is not surprising that such a large number of Americans have this perception.  Let’s hope and pray that Pope Francis’ more accepting and pastoral voice will soon be heard louder and clearer by the majority of Americans.

The second disturbing statistic from the report was in how Catholics perceive what their fellow church-goers think about same-sex marriage.  From the report’s Executive Summary:

“Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics believe that most of their fellow congregants are opposed to same-sex marriage.  However, Catholics who regularly attend church are in fact divided on the issue (50% favor, 45% oppose).”

What this says to me is that even supportive Catholics think they are in the small minority of their faith group.  That phenomenon speaks to the power that negative messages from church leaders have.  Such messages can make it seem like more people agree with those ideas than actually do.

Another reason that this false perception exists may be that Catholics who support marriage equality and LGBT people may not be making themselves and their opinions be known in their faith community.  There is probably still a lot of  fear of being ostracized for holding such views, and that is understandable.  But the fact that such a false perception exists means that supportive Catholics need to muster their courage and speak their opinions whenever they can in their faith community.  Everyone will decide when it is appropriate to do so, but some times we all need to move out of our comfort zones a little and test the waters.  Even small gestures and statements can go a long way to help move the issue of LGBT equality forward in the Catholic community.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Advocate: Religious Americans Support Marriage Equality

National Catholic ReporterSurvey: Americans turn sharply favorable on gay issues


The Worst of 2013 in Catholic LGBT News

December 30, 2013

As the year 2013 winds to a close, it’s time to review the news of the Catholic LGBT world of the past 12 months. In today’s post, we will look at the  stories of the worst happenings of the past year, and in tomorrow’s post, we will look at the best stories.  Bondings 2.0 asked you for your feedback on what the worst and best news stories of the past year were, so the ranking of these stories is based on your responses.  The percentage following each story is the percentage of people who chose this item as one of their top five. Thank you to all who participated.

One comment before we get to the list.  As we prepared the list of 20 “nominees” for the top 10 worst stories, we were struck by the fact that it was difficult to find 20 big stories to fit the bill.  As you will note, many of the “nominees” were reports of one-time statements by bishops.  Though many of these stories reveal that much work remains to be done in terms of educating the hierarchy and other church leaders about LGBT issues, we thought it was remarkable that there were really only a handful of negative stories that maintained any “staying power”  this year.

Conversely, we found it difficult to keep the list of “nominees” for the “Best” list to only 20.  We’ll see the results of that survey tomorrow,  but on the whole, it looks like 2013 has had more good than bad happen for those interested in Catholic LGBT issues!

The Top 10 Worst Stories:

1. On the day that Illinois’ marriage equality bill is signed into law by its Catholic governor, Springfield’s Bishop Thomas Paprocki holds a public prayer service, including the rite of exorcism, against the new legal reality.   15%

2. The trend of firing LGBT teachers and church workers from Catholic institutions grows markedly in 2013. 13%

3. The U.S. Catholic bishops oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, provisions in the immigration reform bill, and portions of the Violence Against Women Act—all because they would provide equality for LGBT people.  11%

4. Pope Benedict XVI opens the year with a New Year’s Day message on peace which says, in part. that allowing same-gender couples to marry is “an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.  9%

5. The Parliament of the heavily Catholic nation of Uganda passes its infamous bill to impose life sentences and other severe penalties on those convicted of homosexual acts.  8%

6. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan says that asking lesbian and gay people to follow official church teaching on sexual expression is no different than asking dinner guests to wash their dirty hands. 7%

7.  Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron states that Catholics who support marriage equality should not present themselves for Communion. 5%

8, 9, 10 (TIE).   Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services writes a letter to chaplains discouraging them from ministering to lesbian and gay couples.  4%

The Pew Research Center released a report that the overwhelming majority of LGBT people find organized religions “unfriendly,” with the Catholic Church coming in third place behind Islam and the Mormons.  4%

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is also the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Defense of Marriage, states “Legislating for the right for people of the same sex to marry is like legalizing male breastfeeding.”  4%

Other Items which garnered votes:

Catholic Campaign for Human Development in Illinois cuts funds from an immigrants’ rights organization because of the group’s tenuous ties to organizations which support marriage equality.   3%

The Dominican Republic’s Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez uses an anti-gay slur to refer to James Brewster, President Obama’s choice to become U.S. Ambassador to that island nation.  3%

Kenya’s Cardinal John Njue criticizes President Barack Obama for speaking out against the criminalization of homosexuality in Africa.  2%

South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier declares “I can’t be accused of homophobia because I don’t know any homosexuals.” 1%

Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Philippines approves the idea of gay men and lesbian women marrying each other because “The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”  1%

In Croatia, the Catholic Church hierarchy leads a successful campaign to constitutionally ban marriage equality.  1%

Write-in:

One respondent wrote in what he/she considered to be one of the worst Catholic LGBT stories of 2013:

“U.S. bishops withhold survey, answer it themselves.”

This is in reference to the reluctance on the part of many U.S. bishops to solicit feedback from the laity on marriage and family matters, as requested by the Vatican to help bishops prepare for the upcoming synod on marriage and the family.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


More and More U.S. Congregations–Including Catholic Ones–Are Welcoming LGBT People

November 17, 2013

Regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know that we like to promote the growing trend in the Catholic Church of parishes opening their doors to LGBT people and their families.  New Ways Ministry maintains a list of gay-friendly Catholic parishes and intentional eucharistic communities which has grown from its origin in 1997 with 20 listings to currently having well over 200 listings.

A new report from Duke University’s National Congregations Study confirms that this trend of gay-friendly faith communities has been growing rapidly across denominational lines in recent years.  The Association of Religion Data Archives’ website reports on some of the major findings from the study, noting that overall the changes seem to be connected to changes in society generally:

“The massive cultural changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians in American society are also being reflected in religious sanctuaries, the study indicates.”

Some of the major findings from the study show a definite trend in acceptance:

“Twenty-seven percent of congregations in the 2012 study allowed gays and lesbians in committed relationships to hold volunteer leadership positions, up from 19 percent in the 2006-2007 study.

“Nearly half, or 48 percent, of congregations in 2012 reported that gays and lesbians in committed relationships may be full-fledged members; in the 2006-2007 study, 38 percent of congregations allowed such membership privileges.

“Seventeen percent of congregations reported having openly gay and lesbian worshipers. But those congregations were also relatively larger, so 31 percent of people in congregations are part of communities with gays and lesbians who are open about their orientation.”

The study’s director, Duke University’s Mark Chaves, a sociologist noted that the study shows that the perception that faith and LGBT equality are opposed is not, in fact, a reality:

“Chaves notes that an analysis of the 2006-2007 study found that religious communities who were politically active on the issue were about evenly split on both sides.

“And the latest study shows an increasing acceptance that is consistent with cultural changes in the nation.

“ ‘It’s not right to think of religion in an organized way … as being only on the conservative side of the gay-rights issue,’ Chaves said.”

While the study does not single out data on Catholic congregations, it’s clear that the Catholic community is definitely part of this growing trend.  Many recent studies have shown that Catholics are often ahead of the general U.S. population when it comes to societal acceptance of LGBT people (including support of marriage equality).   Hispanic Catholics, in particular, show strong acceptance.  (To learn more about these past studies, click on “Statistics”  under the “Categories” heading  in the right-hand column of this page.)

Why is Catholic acceptance so strong?  I think this has less to do with the general growing acceptance of LGBT people in the wider culture, and more to do with Catholic people living out their church’s social justice teaching with emphasizes the equality and dignity of all people, and that all people must be treated respectfully and fairly.  I think the Catholic emphasis on family also contributes to this strong acceptance.  Catholics are concerned with keeping their families together, and they want to make sure that all families are protected in society.

Whatever the reasons, it’s important to remember that the U.S. Catholic bishops, who speak strongly and loudly against LGBT equality, do not reflect the voice of the Catholic people in this matter.

If you are interested in helping your own Catholic parish or community become more LGBT-friendly, you can start by looking at the installments of Bondings 2.0′s occasional series “All Are Welcome” by clicking on that title under the “Categories” heading in the right-hand column of this page. You can also contact New Ways Ministry by phone, 301-277-5674, or email, info@NewWaysMinistry.org, to obtain additional resources and consultation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article

November 13, 2013:  “Gay-Friendly Churches And Houses Of Worship Growing, According To National Congregations Study” (HuffingtonPost.com)


Why Bishops’ Religious Liberty Arguments on ENDA Fail

November 9, 2013

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide federal job protections for LGBT employees, passed a major hurdle this week when the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 to pass it. The bill now passes to the House of Representatives, where a less certain fate awaits it.

As Bondings 2.0 reported earlier this week, the U.S. bishops are opposing the legislation based on a variety of reasons including their concerns that the law will separate gender from biological sex, that it will promote homosexual activity, and that it will infringe on religious liberty.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson reflected this week on the bishops’ opposition to to ENDA, noting that it seems that their major concern is the religious liberty claim.  After summarizing their objections, Manson writes:

“All of this adds up to their ultimate concern: ENDA threatens religious liberty. The bill threatens to punish the church by treating the teachings of the Catholic faith as discrimination. The exemption for religious employers is uncertain, they insist, and they are convinced that even exempted employers will face government retaliation.

“Even with this litany of complaints, the bishops conclude their letter insisting that they are ready to work with ‘all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction.’

“The bishops declare they want to work to fight LGBT discrimination in the very same document where they use remarkably discriminatory ideas.

“Not only do they want to continue to fight for their right to fire and discriminate against LGBT employees, they call all same-sex relationships extramarital behavior unworthy of protection, and they negate the deep experience of transgender persons. With thoughts like these, one shudders to think what their version of ENDA might read like.”

And, as is true with many issues of LGBT equality, the bishops’ opinions are not in synch with the rest of the U.S. Catholic popoulation, the majority of which support ENDA’s principles.  Manson writes:

“Perhaps saddest of all, the bishops make these claims even in light of a recent poll that 76 percent of Catholics in the U.S. support ENDA, marking yet another episode in which the conscience of the majority of Catholics is at odds with the unabashed monologue of the Catholic hierarchy.”

The religious liberty arguments the bishops make are not even relevant since ENDA already supplies exemptions for employment sites that are primarily religious in nature.  The bishops’ insistence on maintaining this claim seems more like fear-mongering than legitimate objections.   It’s time for them to retire this song.

David DeCrosse, the director of campus ethics programs at Santa Clara University, California, offered the bishops a new way of discussing religious liberty.  In a National Catholic Reporter essay, DeCrosse, writing about religious liberty generally, suggests a new theological approach to the topic:

“The great 20th-century theologian Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Häring proposed a better way for the church to promote religious freedom in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Häring argued that the church should not primarily seek freedom for itself — a seeking that regrettably characterizes the bishops’ religious liberty campaign — but should instead consider itself a sacrament of the liberty and liberation of all. Thus the church must both seek its own freedom and proclaim the freedom of conscience of all, whether or not such freedom has any immediate connection to the church’s doctrine or practice. In Häring’s arguments, we see the balance missing from the religious liberty campaign of the bishops in which concerns for the freedom of the church subsume concerns about freedom of conscience.”

He makes an important point which explains why so many religious people are uncomfortable with the way the bishops have been using religious liberty language.   Many religious people (and non-religious people, too) want church institutions to be able to exercise their faiths freely, but they also want, as a matter of religious principle, for all people’s consciences to be respected.

In the particular case of ENDA, Manson points to how this principle of balancing liberty and conscience can be applied by the bishops:

“Ultimately, the only way to get the hierarchy to call off the religious liberty dogs will be by transforming their understanding of the dignity, value and gifts of LGBT employees.”

Until the bishops start to show that they respect LGBT people as full human beings and citizens, their laments about religious liberty will continue to ring hollow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Words Swayed Illinois Lawmakers to Support Marriage Equality

November 8, 2013

Pope Francis

This week, Illinois became the 15th state to pass marriage equality legislation, and it’s becoming clear from news reports that this was done in no small way because of Catholics in the state, and Pope Francis, too.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” comments from July seemed to persuade some Catholic lawmakers to vote in favor of marriage equality.  The news story stated:

“The comments sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed.”

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

As evidence, they offered a quote from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Catholic, who echoed the pope’s famous line as he adapted it to the marriage equality debate:

“For those that just happen to be gay — living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal — who am I to judge that they should be illegal?”

The Chicago Sun-Times  was more expansive in citing Madigan’s remarks:

“House Speaker Michael J. Madigan was one of the final speakers in the debate, giving the bill his blessing, pledging to vote yes and quoting Pope Francis.

“ ‘My thoughts regarding this legislation were formulated before the quote I’m going to offer to all of us,’ Madigan told colleagues, as the packed House chamber fell silent. ‘And the quote that I offer is a quote from Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic church, who is quoted as saying, “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord, and he has good will, who am I to judge?”

“ ‘Pope Francis has spoken, and he has articulated the basis of my thinking on this issue,’ said Madigan, who later acknowledged having personally lobbied between five and 10 House Democrats to support Harris’ bill.”

Another Catholic lawmaker who was obviously influenced by Pope Francis is Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (who we quoted yesterday) who explicitly referenced the pope in her explanation of how her faith motivated her to vote for marriage equality:

“As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people.”

Representative Linda Chapa LaVia

The Tribune noted that Chapa LaVia had been undecided about her vote, even as late as this past summer.

The Beacon News interviewed Chapa LaVia for an article about how she came to her decision.  The news story stated:

“Over the past two years, Chapa LaVia met with her priest, made visits to area churches and fielded constituent calls. Chapa LaVia faced competing protests at her district office this summer after declaring she was ’50/50′ on the gay marriage issue.”

In addition to her Catholic faith, Chapa La Via also cited her constitutional oath to uphold the law:

“Besides her husband, developer Vernon LaVia, no one knew exactly which way she would vote until she took to the House floor Tuesday. In her speech, Chapa LaVia said she raised her right hand twice on oath to the Constitution of Illinois and to the Constitution of the United States.

“ ‘Both times it was a promise to promote justice for all, not just some people,’ she said.”

LaVia mentioned that”it’s going to be difficult to walk into church,” but she was not the only Catholic who supported the bill:

“Chapa LaVia noted that many other ‘high-ranking Catholics,’ such as Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan and state Rep. Ed Sullivan, one of three GOP House members to vote ‘yes,’ also supported the bill Tuesday. All Latino state House lawmakers and 16 of the 24 Black Caucus members voted in favor of the bill, too, her office said Wednesday.”

Governor Quinn, who signed civil union legislation a few years ago, is ready to sign the marriage equality bill, too.

These high-ranking leaders joined the thousands of ordinary Catholics in the state who supported marriage equality, many of whom were members of the Catholics for Marriage Equality Illinois coalition.  The Illinois Observer reported on a recent state poll which showed that “Illinois voters who identified as Catholic favor gay marriage by a 2-to-1 margin.”

Some Catholic leaders, of course, were vocal opponents of the bill, and were disappointed with the outcome.   RRStar.com reported:

“. . . the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement that said the vote went ‘against the common consensus of the human race’ and undermines the institution of marriage.

” ‘The Catholic Conference of Illinois is deeply disappointed that members of the General Assembly chose to redefine what is outside of its authority — a natural institution like marriage,’ the statement said. ‘We remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill.’ “

Cardinal Francis George

Similarly, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who spoke out numerous times against the bill had this reaction, reported by the Sun-Times:

“It’s no enormous surprise. There was a lot of effort placed into passage of this legislation. I think it’s bad legislation, but we’ve lived with bad laws before. It’ll make some people happy … but it will also, I think, change the nature of our society over a period of time.”

The cardinal also indicated that gay and lesbian couples who marry legally would not be eligible to receive communion:

“If someone is living in a lifestyle that is publicly against the Gospel as interpreted in the church, whether heterosexual or they’re gay, no, they don’t take communion. But that’s the discipline of the sacrament that applies to everybody, not just to gays.”

Yet, it seems that Catholics in the state are paying more attention to Pope Francis than to the local hierarchy when it comes to LGBT issues.  In fact, the bishops’ opposition seems to be having a somewhat  counter-productive effect for their position.  The poll mentioned above also had results that showed that when Catholics were told that bishops opposed marriage equality, this information actually increased support for the legislation.  The Illinois Observer reported:

“Catholic voters actually offered more support for marriage equality legislation when told that some public figures, including Cardinal George and Catholic bishops, oppose marriage between same-sex couples, according to a new poll by Fako & Associates of Lisle, IL, a national public opinion research firm. . . .

“Catholics supported marriage fairness 61 percent to 32 percent; Catholic support increased to 63 percent, 31 percent opposed, when read the balanced statement that included the bishops’ opposition.”

For more information on Catholics who support marriage equality, visit the Catholics for Marriage Equality website and “like” them on Facebook.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Survey Shows Hispanic Catholic Support for Marriage Equality–With a Twist

October 2, 2013

Hispanic gay coupleA new survey report from the Public Religion Research Institute provides further evidence that Hispanics, especially Hispanic Catholics support marriage equality.   The statistics in his report, however, provide a new view of the support that Hispanics have for this issue.   While close to a majority feel that sexual relations between people of the same gender is immoral, a definite majority believe that marriage equality should be legal.

Here’s a description of the results from the report’s executive summary:

“A majority (55%) of Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry, compared to 43% who are opposed. . . .

“Hispanics appear willing to support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, even if they personally hold reservations about the morality of sex between two adults of the same gender. Hispanics are twice as likely to believe that sex between two adults of the same gender is morally wrong as believe it is morally acceptable (45% vs. 18%). Roughly one-third of Hispanics say either that it depends on the situation (8%) or that it is not a moral issue (26%). . . .

“Hispanics are sharply divided by religion on the issue of same-sex marriage. More than 6-in-10 (62%) Hispanic Catholics and 8-in-10 (80%) religiously unaffiliated Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Hispanic mainline Protestants are divided, with 47% supporting same-sex marriage and 50% opposing it. In stark contrast, 8-in-10 (79%) evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage, while just 1-in-5 (21%) support it. . . .

“A slim majority (51%) of Hispanic Catholics say it is possible to disagree with church teachings on the issue of homosexuality and remain a good Catholic, compared to 44% who say this is not possible.”

You can view the full report here.

This evidence proves the claim that many Catholics hold social justice as a more important value than sexual ethics in the discussion of LGBT issues.  If a person disagrees morally with a person’s same-gender relationship but still defends that person’s right to have such a relationship, one obvious explanation is that sexual ethics are not considered paramount in the evaluator’s eyes.

In a sense, it shows that these Hispanics are living out Pope Francis’ famous remark:  “Who am I to judge?”

Speaking of Pope Francis, Religion News Service highlighted another important piece of data from the report:

“The survey found that most Hispanics are delighted with Argentine-born Pope Francis, but they hold slightly less favorable views of the Catholic Church. While nearly 69 percent look favorably on the pope, only 54 percent see the institution in a favorable light.”

Catholic support for LGBT people in all quarters of the church is bound to continue to grow.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Los Angeles Times:  Many Latino Catholics Back Gay Marriage, Survey Says.

Bondings 2.0: Catholic Latino Voters Support Marriage Equality, Oct. 22, 2012

Bondings 2.0: Strong Support for LGBT Issues Among Hispanics–Especially Catholics, April 18, 2012


New Survey Indicates British Catholics Support Marriage Equality

September 15, 2013

survey resultsThanks to Terence Weldon, at the blog QueeringTheChurch.com, we’ve been made aware of a new survey in the United Kingdom which shows that British Catholics are strongly in support of marriage equality–similar to U.S. Catholics on this side of the Atlantic.

The new report comes from the British Social Attitudes Survey.  The section regarding attitudes toward homosexuality are covered under the topic “Personal Relationships.  After noting a growing positive trend for marriage equality in the nation as a whole, Weldon turns to the religious analysis of the report.  He states:

“Predictably, religious groups are less tolerant of same – sex sexual relations than those who are not religious, and although disapproval is declining among people of all religions, this decline is slower than for those of no religious belief. What should be of concern to the defenders of the orthodox Catholic position, is that self- identified Catholics are more tolerant than Protestants. The published report does not present full tables for a breakdown by religion, or a full trend comparison, but this written summary makes the core message clear: barely a third of British Catholics agree with the CDF position, that all same – sex genital interactions are morally wrong/

“Not surprisingly, religious belief is closely linked to attitudes to homosexuality. Those who aren’t religious are the least likely to see it as always or mostly wrong, only 16 per cent do so. This compares to disapproval rates of over a third among Anglicans (40 per cent) and Catholics (35 per cent). “

Personal relationships, British Social Attitudes Survey

Why do surveys like this one matter?  Weldon rightly points out that while the church is not a democracy, Catholicism does operate under the principle of honoring the “sense of the faithful”–meaning what the Catholic laity actually believe–in evaluating church teaching.   He observes:

“Nevertheless, [we have] the important principle of ‘sensus fidei’ ['sense of the faithful'] to consider, by which any church doctrine which is not accepted by the church as a whole, which has not been “received” and accepted by the faithful, cannot be held to be valid and binding. In the half century since the publication of Humanae Vitae, it has become abundantly clear that it has been rejected in good conscience, or even simply been ignored, by the overwhelming majority of married Catholic couples, and there is simply no evidence that the prohibition on artificial contraception does in fact have the authority of the sensus fidei behind it. It is now becoming equally clear that the absolute prohibition on same – sex sexual acts, and those on premarital sex, sexual relationships after divorce, and masturbation, are going the same way, When something like two thirds of Catholics, in very substantial parts of the Catholic world, disagree with the total proscription by the CDF – what possible justification can there be for continuing to defend the rigidity of current CDF sexual ideology?”

I think Catholics who work for equality and justice for LGBT people can be heartened by these survey results.  It shows that support from U.S. Catholics for marriage equality is not just an anomaly.  Despite bishops mounting strong campaigns opposing marriage equality in both the U.S. and the U.K., Catholic lay people have taken a different approach to this issue.  Catholics are relying on their deep sense of justice and their deep sense of the importance of love in a relationship.  These two senses are helping them to see that marriage equality is, in fact, a very Catholic concept.

To order or download a copy of New Ways Ministry’s booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Surveys Continue to Show Catholic Support for LGBT Equality

July 28, 2013

polls 1Some recent polls have come up with interesting developments about Catholics and LGBT issues.  The findings are summarized for each poll under the sub-headings below.

Quinnipiac Poll of Virginians on Marriage Equality–Including Catholics

Washington.CBSLocal.com reports that a recent poll from Quinnipiac University found

“Fifty percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage compared to 43 percent who don’t, with a clear majority of women approving it.”

Among the statistics for sub-groups in the poll were those for Catholics in the state:

“Catholics favored gay marriage 56 percent to 40 percent, while Protestants opposed it 57 percent to 36 percent. Among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, 74 percent opposed it.”

U.S. Catholics Disagree with Vatican on Homosexuality

The above sub-head is starting to sound a little bit like the proverbial “Dog Bites Man” headline because such news is becoming so commonplace.  Yet another poll, this one from the Pew Research Center, shows that U.S. Catholics do not support the Vatican’s opposition to LGBT equality.

CathNewsUSA.com reports:

“While the Catholic Church officially maintains that homosexual relations are sinful, many Catholics in the U.S. have a more accepting view. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Just a third (33%) say they believe homosexual behavior is a sin, down from nearly half who said this in 2003. However, fully half (54%) of American Catholics say there is at least some conflict between their personal religious beliefs and homosexuality, with 42% saying there is ‘a lot’ of conflict.”

Are Catholics the Reason for Marriage Equality in New England?

All six New England states have marriage equality laws.  That’s almost half of the 13 states plus the District of Columbia which allow marriage for lesbian and gay couples.  Could the reason be because there are so many Catholics in those states?

The Public Religion Research Institute released a report this year as Rhode Island was enacting marriage equality.  The report notes, among other things, that Catholics, a significant population bloc in those states, also have a strong record of supporting marriage equality:

“New England has a low percentage of groups opposed to same-sex marriage. Only 7% of New Englanders identify as white evangelical Protestants, compared to nearly 1-in-5 (18%) Americans overall. Only 24% of white evangelicals favor same-sex marriage (71% are opposed). Black Protestants, who also oppose same-sex marriage (37% favor, 57% oppose), are also underrepresented in New England compared to the national population (3% vs. 8%). Instead, Catholics (30%), mainline Protestants (22%), and Jews (6%) are overrepresented among New Englanders, and majorities of these groups favor same-sex marriage (57%, 55%, and 81%, respectively). In addition, 1-in-5 (21%) New England residents are religiously unaffiliated, a figure that’s similar to the rest of the country. More than three-quarters (76%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor same-sex marriage.”

It looks like Catholics are going to continue to be key figures in marriage equality and other LGBT equality debates for years to come.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Survey Notes the Great Strides Catholics Have Made for LGBT Equality

July 16, 2013

statistics

It is almost becoming a commonplace to note that majorities of Catholics support LGBT equality.  Poll after poll keeps confirming that fact.  A recent poll approaches the idea of Catholic support from a unique angle that makes it newsworthy to report its results.

Elizabeth Tenety, editor of The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog reports on a survey from the Barna Group which tracks how quickly Americans, and in particular religious Americans, have become supportive of LGBT equality.  Tenety notes:

“Among the most consequential findings are dramatic changes in how Catholics and Protestants have changed their views on the definition of marriage. Catholics in particular demonstrated some of the most sizable shifts in their attitudes about homosexuality. “

Comparing survey results from 2013 with those from 2003, Barna found that  Catholics have been the faith group to make the biggest advance in supporting LGBT equality.   In 2003, 35% of Catholics were in favor of changing laws to allow more freedom for LGBT people.  In 2013, that number soared to 57%.  That’s a 22% advance, the highest of all the groups studied except for those who have no faith, who advanced 23% from 66% to 89%.

In 2003,  64% of Catholics agreed with the idea that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman.  In 2013, that number dropped to 54%,  a 14% change, which, again, was the largest change of any group, without qualification.

In terms of accepting the morality of same-sex relationships,  Catholics rose from 19% to 37%, an 18% increase, once again, the largest of any group.

You can look at the survey’s report here, and observe how Catholics fared compared to other Christians, people of faith, and the American population.

There are probably many reasons to explain these developments for Catholics.  Greater visibility of LGBT people and families, particularly in faith settings probably is a major factor.  As more and more LGBT people show up to parishes to become members, more and more Catholics are learning about the reality of their lives.  Catholics, too, are increasingly viewing LGBT issues less as sexual topics and more as social justice concerns.  They are seeing the broad scope of LGBT lives, and recognizing the inherenthuman dignity that LGBT people have.

What do you think?  Why are Catholics becoming more supportive of LGBT equality?  Offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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