Why Did Catholic Numbers on LGBT Acceptance Dip So Much In Recent Study?

September 16, 2014

On this blog, we are always very excited to report on statistics and surveys which show that Catholic lay people’s support of LGBT people and issues continues to grow. We also like to report on the many ways that Catholic parishes are welcoming and including LGBT people as full members of their communities.  But last week, a Duke University report showed that while in most Christian denominations acceptance of LGBT people is on the rise, the only group which the study said showed a decrease is Catholicism. What gives?

An Associated Press article describes the good news and the bad news in Duke University’s National Congregations Study:

“Overall, the study found acceptance of gay and lesbian members in American congregations increased from 37 percent to 48 percent over the six-year period. Acceptance of gays and lesbians as volunteer leaders increased from 18 percent to 26 percent. . . .

“Perhaps surprisingly, given the support for gays and lesbians among Catholics in general, representatives of the Catholic churches surveyed expressed less acceptance of gay and lesbian members in 2012 than in 2006. Interview subjects were asked specifically whether openly gay or lesbian couples in committed relationships would be permitted to be full-fledged members of the congregation.

“In 2006, 74 percent of those surveyed said yes. That number decreased to 53 percent in 2012. While the decrease is large, the rate of acceptance still remains higher than that for all congregations surveyed, 48 percent.

“Asked whether the same couples would be permitted to hold any volunteer leadership position that was open to other members, 39 percent of Catholic respondents said yes in 2006 but only 26 percent said the same in 2012. That is the same as the number for all congregations surveyed.”

So, while Catholics still are more accepting than all other Christian denominations surveyed, the statistics seem to show that acceptance is dwindling.

Or is it?

The news story provided some interpretations of the data from several Catholic scholars and analysts:

“Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, thought it might reflect the fact that younger Catholic clergy tend to be more conservative than their older counterparts. Mary Ellen Konieczny, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, suggested the change might reflect a growing emphasis by the bishops on issues of homosexuality over that period.

“Both agreed that those attitudes were not indicative of what people sitting in the pews think.

“Konieczny and others said they thought the answers might be significantly different if the same questions were asked today.

“The survey was taken ‘before Francis got into the papacy, and I believe he would have made a difference,’ said William D’Antonio, a senior fellow at Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. ‘Francis has lowered the focus on sexual matters and increased the concern for the poor and needy.’ “

A Religion News Service story adds another voice which offers similar analysis:

“The Rev. James Martin, editor at large for the Jesuit magazine America, observed, ‘During those years, U.S. bishops were much more vocal against gay marriage. It’s only been in the last year or two — since the election of Pope Francis — that the church has begun opening up on this.’ ”

The Huffington Post’s Antonia Blumeberg offers a comparative analysis for why Catholic numbers are going down while other Christian churches’ numbers are going up:

“While the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality remains seated in the somewhat vague but hopeful words of Pope Francis, ‘Who am I to judge?’, other church bodies have taken more definitive action to promote LGBT equality. In June the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in a landmark decision to allow same-sex marriages, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Episcopal Church which made the same decision two years prior.”

In an interview with London’s Daily MailMark Chaves, the author of the study, provided his own interpretation for the decline in Catholic numbers:

“Chaves suggested this may be due in part to fallout from the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, which some associate with homosexuality.”

But, perhaps the most important reason for the change is in how the data was collected. Ned Flaherty, a writer in Boston, provided the following information:

“The National Congregation Study data were collected 2 to 2.5 years ago, in 50-minute interviews with each congregation’s key clergyperson. Roman Catholic rules, including LGBT acceptance, are set by the Vatican, regardless of local public policy. Therefore, the answers from the Roman Catholic clergy reflected Vatican rules, whereas the answers from other clergy reflected local democratic policy.

“Consequently, the very low acceptance rate for LGBT worshipers reported by Roman Catholic clergy would be very high if reported by Roman Catholic congregants.

“The survey’s apparent discrepancy arises only because the interviewers didn’t adjust the survey to accommodate the uniquely Catholic gap between what clergy dictate vs. what congregants believe. Other faiths don’t have this gap.

So, while the Catholic statistics appear sobering, there does seem to be some explanation for them, and they may not accurately paint the full picture of the Catholic community.  Still, even though the report reflects only Catholic leadership’s views,  that is evidence that there is still work to be done with Catholics, especially their leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Are Latino Catholics Leaving Catholicism Because of Anti-LGBT Messages?

June 12, 2014

We’ve often commented on this blog about how negative sentiments expressed by Church leaders toward LGBT people harms not only the LGBT community, but the entire Church as a whole.  As more and more Catholics accept the full equality of LGBT people in church and society, negative statements, policies, and practices from those in authority are causing more and more Catholics to leave the institution.

One of the most significant populations in American Catholicism currently are Latino people, since they make up such a large section of the church community.  Yet it seems that while Latinos make up a large portion of the church in the U.S.,  Catholicism is losing its position as the predominant religious affiliation among Latinos. A recent report from Pew Research shows that many Latinos are leaving Catholicism, and it seems that one of the reasons could be because of their support of LGBT people.

First, let’s look at Pew’s statistics.  Pat Perriello in The National Catholic Reporter summarized some of Pew’s most important findings:

“The data from the Pew survey raises some significant issues. The first of these issues has to do with the large number of Latinos who are abandoning Catholicism. In 2010, 67% of Latinos identified themselves as Catholics. That figure is now down to 55%. This change represents a drop of 12 percentage points in just four years.

“A significant percentage of these Latinos are joining Evangelical churches, but there is also a considerable number of Latinos that are simply unaffiliated. Evangelical Latinos are now 16% of the total population while 18% are unaffiliated. About 6% are joining mainline Protestant denominations.

“The exodus seems particularly acute among the young. While a trend persists among foreign born Latinos to join Evangelical communities, this does not appear to hold with those in the 18-29 age group. This group is moving more and more toward no religious affiliation. Less than half of Hispanics (45%) under the age of 30 are now Catholic.”

According to Pew’s report, Latino Catholics tend to leave the church in large part due to disagreement with church teachings:

“Latinos who have left the Catholic Church are especially likely to say that an important reason was that they stopped believing in its teachings; 63% of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated and 57% of former Catholics who are now Protestants give this reason for having left the church.”

We’ve reported before on the growing majority of Latinos, and Latino Catholics in particular, who support LGBT issues, including marriage equality, and the Pew report confirms those findings:

“Like the U.S. public as a whole, Latinos have become more inclined to favor same-sex marriage in recent years; support among Latinos has risen from 30% in 2006 to 46% in 2013. However, there still are sizable differences in views about same-sex marriage among Hispanic religious groups. Religiously unaffiliated Hispanics favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally by a roughly four-to-one margin (67% to 16%). Hispanic Protestants tilt in the opposite direction, with evangelical Protestants much more inclined to oppose same-sex marriage (66% opposed, 19% in favor). Hispanic Catholics fall in between, though more say they favor same-sex marriage (49%) than oppose it (30%). Mainline Protestants are closely divided on the issue, with nearly four-in-ten (37%) opposed to same-sex marriage and 44% in favor. These differences among Hispanic religious groups are largely in keeping with patterns found among the same religious groups in the general public.”

So is support for same-gender marriage part of the reason that Latinos are leaving Catholicism?  It seems likely that it is at least one of the factors and very likely an important one.  I think it is very relevant that when Latinos leave Catholicism, a large portion of them, particularly the younger ones, do not go to the Evangelical churches, which, on the whole, tend to be strongly negative about LGBT issues.  We know from other reports that the younger generation tends to be skeptical about any religious institution that does not welcome and embrace LGBT issues.

On a related note, a recent Gallup poll confirmed that the American population as a whole accepts gay and lesbian relationships as morally acceptable, with 58% of the respondents categorizing them as “largely acceptable.”  For comparison, the largest item in the “largely acceptable” category was divorce, with 69%.

The fact that church authorities do not recognize the pastoral harm done by negative statements is particularly troubling.  No church leader should make any statement without considering how it will be heard by the diverse audiences that exist in the church and outside it as well.

While I agree that church teaching should not be decided by simple majorities, I think that if I were a bishop, I would want to at least understand why so many Catholics find negative statements about LGBT issues so distasteful.   If bishops did ask the faithful about their views, I think the leaders would learn a lot about how lived experience helps faith to grow in new ways.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Bishops and U.S. Evangelicals Make Strange Bedfellows

May 25, 2014

One of the more unusual political alliances that has developed over the past two decades has been the deepening relationship between U.S. Catholic bishops and Evangelicals in this country.  Not surprisingly, one of the areas of common ground for these otherwise seemingly disparate groups is their opposition to marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

Yet recent research confirms what other reports have shown:  that U.S. Catholic lay people strongly support marriage equality, unlike their counterparts in Evangelical churches. The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released statistics which show that while 69% of Evangelicals in the U.S. oppose marriage equality, only 37% of Catholics do.  On a related issue, PRRI reports the following data:

“Fewer than half (49 percent) of American Catholics agree with the traditional Catholic teaching that sex between two adults of the same gender is sinful, while nearly 8-in-10 (78 percent) of white evangelicals agree.”

Writer Patricia Miller notes that for a long time now, Catholics have been outpacing Evangelicals on support for LGBT people.  In a Religion Dispatches article, she reports:

“On the . . . . issue of same-sex marriage, Catholic opinion has tended to be slightly more favorable than the population as a whole and way more favorable than Evangelical opinion. The 2007 Pew Poll found that 42% of Catholics expressed support for same-sex marriage versus 36% of the population as a whole. In terms of trends, 40% of Catholics supported same-sex marriage in 2001 with that number increasing to nearly 60% by 2014. By contrast, only 13% of Evangelicals favored same-sex marriage in 2001 and just 23% approve of it today.”

As for the latest data, Robert Jones, the head of PRRI, points out an interesting twist for those who thought that they knew the difference between Catholics and Evangelicals.  It turns out that Evangelical Christians are more in line with official Roman Catholic positions on some social issues than Catholics are.  In an article in Tbe Atlantic, he notes the following results from his research, in addition to the two statistical comparisons mentioned above:

“Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared to less than half (47 percent) of Catholics. Perhaps most surprising is the white evangelical Protestant view on whether employers should be required to provide employees with no-cost contraception coverage. Despite their history of criticizing Catholics for opposing artificial means of birth control, white evangelical Protestants are far more likely than lay Catholics to oppose mandated contraception coverage (58 percent vs. 37 percent).”

Jones notes, however, that the role Pope Francis will have in politics can complicate this alliance between Catholic bishops and Evangelicals.  Of the pope, he states:

“On March 31, for example, he met with 18 members of the Green family, staunch Southern Baptists and owners of the billion-dollar Hobby Lobby empire that is suing the Obama Administration over the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. But the pope’s call for economic justice complicates the relationship, because it calls both Catholics and evangelicals to cooperation beyond a narrow band of cultural politics. It remains to be seen whether this evangelical flock will hear in Pope Francis’ broader message the voice of a shepherd they can follow.”

Miller’s analysis shows that not only is it unusual that so many Evangelicals are following the Catholic bishops on politics, but that few pundits are picking up on the fact that Catholics, in fact, are not following their bishops.  She writes:

“The real Catholic-Evangelical convergence is between the Republican leadership, the Catholic bishops, right-wing Catholics, and rank-and-file Evangelicals, a coalition that was cemented by Karl Rove with his aggressive outreach to ‘conservative Catholics during the Bush administration. But the fact that a big chunk of moderate and progressive Catholics are missing from this coalition continues to be lost on many in the media. It’s as if as long as the bishops are vocal in their objections to progressive polices and someone in the public is making noise, there’s a tendency to attribute it to “Catholics.” How else to explain the PPRI number that only 37% of Catholics oppose the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, when the widespread perception that Catholics were broadly disapproving of it helped gin up early and critical opposition?”

While ecumenical networking is definitely a positive development, it is troublesome that the U.S. bishops seem to have more in common with members of another denomination than they do with their brother and sister Catholics.  This news should be a wake-up call to U.S. bishops that they need to be in better dialogue with lay Catholics, particularly on issues of sexuality.  At stake is the very unity of the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Gay Star News: US Catholics more liberal on gay issues than white evangelical Protestants

Religion News Service: Evangelicals and Catholics Together marks 20 years

 


Are Catholic Nations Friendlier for LGBT People?

May 9, 2014
Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as morally acceptable. (Source:

Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as morally acceptable. (Source: Pew Research Center)

Is it possible that religious, and specifically Catholic, nations are more LGBT-friendly than others? Data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Views on Morality survey seems to suggest so, but questions have been raised about just what that means in practice or if it is even true.

The poll released in April shows a strong correlation between nations that are predominantly Catholic and those which view homosexuality as morally acceptable or not a moral issue altogether. Eight of ten nations whose respondents affirmed homosexuality are either majority Catholic or have large Catholic populations, including the Czech Republic and Spain in the number one and two slots. Nations like France, Italy, and Poland led among nations whose respondents largely view the issue amorally.  The poll confirms findings of a similar survey done in 2013.

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Top 10 nations which view homosexuality as not a moral issue. (Source: Pew Research Center)

The data revealed highly religious nations to be more accepting of homosexuality overall, but religious nations also led the list of least accepting places. Nations with large Catholic populations like Uganda and El Salvador were among those nations whose citizens overwhelmingly viewed homosexuality as morally unacceptable. In the United States, the percentages for the general population broke down as follows: 37% viewed homosexuality as immoral, 23% moral, 35% amoral.

That’s the facts according to Pew. The reality in these nations and how religion has influenced LGBT-inclusion practically might be different. HuffPost Live hosted a segment which asked, “Why are Religious Places the Most LGBT-Friendly?” It featured two LGBT people from Brazil, Nathalie Vassallo, a blogger, and Thiago Araujo, a journalist with the Brasil Post.

Vassallo rejected Pew’s findings that Brazil was a positive place for LGBT people, which was confirmed by Araujo. She questioned the survey’s wording and asked “What does it mean to be an accepting country?” Government policies which protect gay people do not necessarily mean there is cultural acceptance, and even respondents who said homosexuality was morally acceptable would be uncomfortable with a family member coming out to them. Even though Brazil scored highly in the Pew data, it may not be a truly LGBT-affirming nation.

And what role has religion played in cultural and societal acceptance or rejection? Araujo said he would feel more comfortable walking into a Catholic church than a Protestant one, but that neither would be truly comfortable and safe places. Addressing Catholicism in the segment was gay priest Gary Meier of St. Louis, who said the following of the Pew data:

“I don’t think it was anything that I was surprised to find out. I’ve known for a some time and a lot of folks have known that the people in Church, in the pews are predominantly supporting LGBT issues…

“The hierarchy in the Catholic Church has been very vocal about condemning homosexuality, homosexual acts, and things like that. But the people from the pews, and again the poll reflects that, the people in Spain were folks that are predominantly Catholic, they’re from the pews…the voices from the pews are quite different than from the pulpit…

“The Church is the People of God and the People of God are very clear that homosexuality is not a moral issue. It just isn’t. And we need to grow in acceptance and love and tolerance for all people, regardless of who they love.”

Meier was hopeful at how Pope Francis has softened the institutional tone around LGBT issues, while reminding viewers that a change in Church teaching is probably not imminent. He said further:

“That tone is rooted in the teaching. We’ve got to change the teaching. We’ve got to get this out of the realm of morality. Homosexuality is not a moral issue. You’re gay or you’re not gay. You’re bisexual or you’re not bisexual. We don’t go around asking people if heterosexual people are morally correct…

“If anyone can move that forward it’s somebody like Pope Francis, but he’s got a lot of opposition in the hierarchy putting pressure on him to not move this issue too far, too fast…In the end, I’m confident that the truth will win out and the truth will be told that all people are created in the image and likeness of God for love.”

The truth about the Pew data and Catholic nations’ acceptance of LGBT people seems to be found somewhere in the middle of all this. It is certainly true that predominantly Catholic nations, and Catholic states within the US, have been at the forefront of passing laws and policies protecting LGBT equality. It is also true that support for laws does not eliminate internalized homophobia and transphobia, meaning cultural change is ongoing. Finally, there is the sad truth that in places like Uganda, the Catholic faith is being used to propagate anti-LGBT discrimination and hatred.

What do you think? Are nations with large Catholic populations generally friendlier places for LGBT people or is the Pew data incorrect?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


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

 

 


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