U.S. Catholics Overwhelmingly Reject LGBT Discrimination by State Legislatures

March 4, 2016

RuizNondiscrim.jpgMarriage equality’s legalization in the United States last year has prompted an anti-LGBT backlash at state and local levels. Bills ostensibly defending religious liberty  allow legal discrimination for opponents of equality. Conversely, ordinances to expand non-discrimination protections  for LGBT people face strong religious opposition. Where are Catholics amid these debates?

New polling from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows 73% of U.S. Catholics support LGBT nondiscrimination protections, two points higher than the 71% U.S. average. 61% of Catholics oppose allowing business owners to deny service to LGBT people. Even those opposed to marriage equality are far more approving of non-discrimination protections, according to PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones.

This widespread Catholic support for civil rights is driven by strong support from the lay faithful. For instance, James Rowe, a Catholic who is and the executive director of Believe Out Loud, said it is the mission of LGBTQ Christians and allies to “mobilize love” when anti-LGBT religious groups seek to institutionalize their discriminatory theologies. Rowe reflected on his own Catholic faith in view of South Dakota’s HB 1008 which would have mandated students use restrooms and locker rooms according to their assigned at birth sex:

“The very idea behind this harmful law is discrimination, plain and simple—and discrimination has no place in Christianity.

“My Catholic teachings tell me that Jesus stood in solidarity with those who are most often bullied and ostracized by others—and I believe today, Jesus would have been in Pierre, South Dakota, standing at the steps of the Capitol building demanding that Governor Daugaard veto this harmful bill.”

Believe Out Loud joined LGBT, educational, and civil liberties organizations in delivering 80,000 signatures opposing the bill, which was thankfully vetoed by the governor earlier this week.

Buzzfeed reported at least 105 similar pieces of legislation at the state level which seek to curtail civil rights rooted in sexual and/or gender identity, or allow the denial of services to LGBT people. None have yet passed, but there is momentum in at least eight states.

Unfortunately, the church’s leadership differs from the faithful, despite Catholic teachings which say every sign of unjust discrimination must be opposed. South Dakota’s bishops, Robert Gruss of Rapid City and Paul Swain of Sioux Falls, released a letter expressing their support for HB 1008. Religious leaders’ opposition and legislators’ questionable coupling of Church and State can create a belief that LGBT and religious belief are at odds with one another in these debates. It is a frequent refrain here at Bondings 2.0 that Catholics support LGBT justice because of their faith and not in spite of it.

Mychal Copeland, who co-edited Struggling in Good Faith, an interfaith anthology about LGBTQI inclusion, challenges the idea that LGBT justice and religious belief are at odds.  In Copeland suggested that currently “every American religious tradition is engaged in a struggle about LGBT inclusion” and there are changes happening, even if quite slowly. He continued:

“[T]here is a prevailing assumption that individuals will hold anti-LGBT religious doctrine above other religious ideals. More and more religious leaders and lay people are prizing overarching principles of faith, such as compassion, love, dignity, and welcome over negative religious legislation. . .Americans are more likely to see that [LGBT] individual as someone who should be able to rent an apartment, keep a job, and even marry the one they love.”

Church teaching does not allow for discrimination, meaning it should be unthinkable that Catholics would support any “right to discriminate” bills or oppose nondiscrimination protections. Sadly, this is not the case. If church teaching does not suffice, then perhaps we need to appeal to the deeper love expected of Christians by Jesus. It is Jesus’ kind of love which led early Christian writer Tertullian to note how his pagan contemporaries said, “See how those Christians love one another.” Catholics are certainly supportive of LGBT communities because of this love, but we must keep working to ensure that our church and our Christian faith are not used any further to deny the civil rights due to LGBT communities.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


70% of U.S. Catholics Accept Homosexuality, Says Survey; Millennials Ensure Future Growth

November 5, 2015

Pew Research Center data on acceptance of homosexuality

70% of U.S. Catholics say homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.  The data also suggests that this number will surely grow as generational shifts continue in the church.

The data, part of the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study released by Pew earlier this week, identify generous gains in religious Americans’ acceptance of LGB people since the first survey in 2007. [Editor’s Note: transgender topics were not addressed by the survey.]

Catholic approval was merely 58% in 2007, reported Crux, gaining twelve percentage points in just a handful of years. Evangelical Christians and Mormons jumped about ten points in their acceptance, though acceptance is still just about one-third.

While the new numbers reveal the percentage of the U.S. population who identify as Christians declining, as well as overall drops in religious adherence, those who are religiously affiliated remain as observant of their faiths if not more so. Taken together, this strengthens the truism that Catholics support LGBT equality because of their faith, not in spite of it.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Jay Brown expressed a similar sentiment, saying:

” ‘Despite attempts to paint religious people as monolithically opposed to LGBT rights, that’s just not the case and these numbers prove that. . .There’s growing support of LGBT people and our families, often not in spite of people’s religions but because the very foundation of their faith encourages love, acceptance and support for their fellow human beings.’ “

Pew’s latest survey backs another report released for Pope Francis’ visit earlier this fall which stated 46% of Catholics approved of same-sex marriage and 66% approved of same-sex couples raising children. At the time, I suggested those numbers were low and offered some thoughts as to why, which you can read here.

70% acceptance of LGB people seems more on point, and the good news is Catholics’ support for LGBT equality stands a good chance of rising as more and more Millennials come of age and come into leadership. Pew explained:

“Changing attitudes about homosexuality are linked to the same generational forces helping to reshape religious identity and practice in the United States, with Millennials expressing far more acceptance of homosexuality than older adults do.”

Why are Millennial Catholics supportive of LGBT equality beyond reflecting views of their generational cohort? Faith is a clear reason, say some commenters.

Catholics for Choice’s Jen Girdish wrote in Crux about a July survey which explored the divide between the views of young adult Catholics and their bishops. She suggested that Millennial Catholics more strongly oppose discrimination (71%), embrace diversity in the church, and practice a faith that respects conscience while emphasizing justice.

Keystone Catholics Stephen Seufert echoed this, writing at the journal Millennial:

“When millennial Catholics see friends and family members who feel isolated and unwelcome because of their sexual orientation, they too feel alienated. And when necessities like healthcare are denied, they often think the Church is being unjust. They see the Church as embracing a narrow commitment to man-made rules and traditions rather than a more loving, compassionate approach. Pope Francis understands that Catholics everywhere are living, breathing testaments to God’s uncompromising love. We must have a real discussion about how that love translates into welcoming gay, lesbian, and transgender people into our communities.”

How much more accepting U.S. Catholics will become and over what period of time depend on two questions. First,  how Hispanic Catholic youth respond  to LGBT acceptance is key. More than 60% of U.S. Catholics under 18 are Hispanic and its unclear whether they will tend towards their parents’ more conservative values or match their peers’ broader acceptance. Second, Millennial Catholics desire for spirituality does not guarantee they are bound to the Catholic Church, and 41% can envision leaving it. LGBT harm, such as sacramental denials and the firing of church workers, unfortunately will make such an exodus a reality.

Whatever is to come, that 70% of U.S. Catholics accept homosexuality is progress worth celebrating now.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


10 LGBT Insights from the Pew Survey of U.S. Catholics for Pope Francis’ Visit

September 5, 2015

As the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the U.S. approach, a new Pew Forum poll revealed that the majority of U.S. Catholics’ support nontraditional families. When it comes to LGBT issues specifically, we might have to dig a little deeper to understand the significance of the numbers.

First lets look at some of the facts from the Pew Research Center’s “2015 Survey of U.S. Catholics and Family Life.” Of the 1,016 self-identified Catholics surveyed:

  • 70% accept cohabiting same-sex couples;
  • 66% accept same-sex couples raising children, including 43% who believe this is as good as any other arrangement;
  • 46% believe the church should recognize same-sex marriages.

Reading through the report, I thought Catholic numbers about LGBT families were somewhat down from other surveys. Here are a few thoughts about what is going on and why any conversations about family life should critically use such data, but to do so with some caution.

First, the Pew Research Center splices and dices U.S. Catholicism into groupings. They separate those who attend Mass weekly from those who do not. They separate Catholics from cultural Catholics and from ex-Catholics. Sometimes, sociologically, these are helpful, if imperfect, categorizations, but we cannot rely on them to tell the People of God’s story.

Mass attendance does not a Catholic make. We are united as the Body of Christ through baptism, whether we attend weekly liturgies or have not stepped foot in a church for years. Some of the most faithful Catholics I know, who have offered their entire lives to God, do not attend Mass weekly. And some weekly Mass attendees stop living their faith after that hour on Sunday.

Faith journeys, if embraced with critical reason and open to the mystery of God, may shift us from “Catholic” to “ex-Catholic” and back again over the course of several years or even decades. These categories do not allow for the tenuous relationship with the church so many have, or for our prioritization of being faithful to God as known through Christ rather than adherence to the edicts of human beings. They do not emphasize those who choose to be foremost catholic instead of Roman Catholic or those who yearn to come home, but are kept out.

Second, those identifying as cultural Catholic or ex-Catholic are far more affirming of LGBT issues. The church should listen closely. There are countless reasons why someone raised Catholic decides to leave the church (often to join another faith community), but high among these reasons is the hierarchy’s condemnation of LGBT people and its public campaigning against equal rights. Simply writing off their views because they are “non-practicing” does not allow the true costs of the bishops’ LGBT-negative views to sink in. These costs have included not only damage to LGBT people and their families, but the deep harm such views have inflicted on the church as a whole.

Third, 45% of the American population has a Catholic connection. Pew’s categorization attempts do reveal the interesting reality that when Catholic parents, spouses, and personal religious histories are included, almost half the U.S. population is heavily influenced by Catholicism. I bet this bumps higher if Catholic school is added to the mix. Further evidence for the truism that where there are Catholics so is there greater LGBT equality? I think so.

Fourth, age matters. The younger the Catholic, the more affirming they are. 63% of Millennials (those ages 18-29) say same-sex relationships are equivalent to opposite sex ones. Only 16% of this age bracket condemn same-sex couples compared to 38% of those over 65. The overall acceptance of such couples may be 46%, but pure demographics mean it will not be long before that number tops 50% and keeps climbing.

Fifth, while 44% of Catholics surveyed believe homosexual behavior is a sin, there are 39% who say it is not. For whatever reason, Pew does not include demographic breakdowns among Catholics for this statistic. From everything else I know, I bet age matters here most of all. Millennials overwhelmingly understand oft-repeated refrains: “love is love,” and “love wins.”

Sixth, Hispanic youth are the central question when it comes to age. Hispanic Catholics will be the majority of U.S. Catholics in just a few years. According to some surveys, Hispanic Catholic adults are less affirming of homosexuality than their counterparts, but whether emerging generations will tend towards their parents’ beliefs or those of their more affirming non-Hispanic peers is unclear.

Seventh, U.S. Catholics surveyed are overwhelmingly more accepting of heterosexual ‘sins’ like cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, or the use of artificial contraception. Given that only 4% of Catholics identified as LGB in Pew’s 2014 Religious Landscapes survey, these current numbers suggest people are far more lenient when it comes to their own sins. Might they be a little biased?

Eighth, 42% of Millennials expect the church will recognize same-sex marriages by 2050 and 36% of all Catholics surveyed agree. Could there be ecclesial recognition in just 35 years? A not negligible number of younger Catholics think so — and they will be the ones rising to leadership in coming years.

Ninth, this same group of under-30 Catholics is also far more willing to leave the Catholic Church if they have not done so already. 41% say “they could see themselves leaving the church,” reported Pew, and if LGBT equality changes are not forthcoming, many of them very well may walk away.

Tenth, the Pew numbers reveal Catholics  love their church and have hopes it will change, but they are refusing to tolerate intolerance much longer. As Pope Francis prepares for his first trip ever to the United States, he should consider first just how affirming and inclusive U.S. Catholics really are, and  the precarious position the U.S. bishops put this national church in by their unceasing campaign against LGBT justice and inclusion.

For ongoing LGBT-related updates for the World Meeting of Families, papal visit, and Synod of Bishops in October, subscribe to the blog (for free) by typing your email address in the “Follow” box in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and then click the “Follow” button.

For those attending the World Meeting of Families, or anyone who wants to come to Philadelphia at the end of September, consider attending New Ways Ministry’s half-day workshop on gender diverse families entitled TransForming Love: Exploring Gender Identity from Catholics Perspectives, on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 North Broad Street, Philadelphia.  For more information, click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: “Most US Catholics are fine with nontraditional families”


U.S. Catholics Like Pope Francis, But They Differ With Him on Marriage Equality

August 31, 2015

One benefit of a papal visit is that the media focuses its attention on the Catholic Church for a while. With Pope Francis set to arrive here in under a month, the media have ramped up their coverage of our church and its various controversies. Of course, LGBT issues are right up there among the key topics covered.

Pope Francis

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), in partnership with Religion News Service released the results of a survey this past week in which Americans, and particularly American Catholics, were asked about the papal visit and what they think about church teachings and policies.

The main overall finding was that 67% of Americans and 90% of American Catholics give the pope a favorable rating.  But when it comes to knowing or agreeing with some of his policies, there are some discrepancies, said Robert Jones, president and CEO of PRRI. In an article published in The National Catholic Reporter, Cathy Lynn Grossman analyzed some of the report’s data:

“The majority share his top priorities — on concern for the poor, the environment and the economy. But the flock veers from the shepherd on doctrine, particularly on sexuality and marriage.

“However, on question after question, Jones said, 1 in 5 Catholics said they didn’t know the pope’s views. And when they think they do, they’re sometimes wrong.”

The issue of same-sex marriage received specific attention in the survey.  Grossman reported:

“Consider the confusion over same-sex marriage. Francis has not changed the Catholic church’s official position opposing its legalization. Yet many U.S. Catholics (38 percent) believe he supports it. . .

The confusion might be because people like to believe the pope — famous for his  ‘Who am I to judge’ comment — thinks as they do: 49 percent of Catholics who support same-sex marriage mistakenly think the pope does as well.”

In other areas of LGBT issues,  U.S. Catholics showed strong support for equality, as has been the case for a several years now:

The Catholic church preaches against homosexual behavior. But PRRI finds most U.S. Catholics either don’t know or don’t heed that teaching:

  • 53 percent of Catholics say they don’t think same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs.
  • 60 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
  • 76 percent favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination.
  • 65 percent oppose a policy that would allow small-business owners to refuse, based on their religious beliefs, to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people.

According to the PRRI summary of the report, U.S. Catholics think Pope Francis has a better understanding of their needs than the U.S. bishops do:

“By a margin of 20-percentage points, American Catholics are more likely to say Pope Francis (80 percent), as opposed to U.S. Bishops (60 percent), understand their needs and views well.”

The survey also polled former Catholics, and while it showed that they think favorably about Pope Francis, the same positive evaluation is not given to the U.S. bishops.  According to the PRRI summary of the report:

“Nearly 2 in 3 (64 percent) of former Catholics hold a positive view of the pope and 59 percent say he understands U.S. Catholics well, but only 35 percent say the same for the American bishops. That aligns with their sour view of the institutional church: Only 43 percent hold a positive view.”

LGBT issues were not the only focus of the survey.  Attitudes on economics, environment, immigration were among the other issues surveyed. You can read the entire report here or PRRI’s summary of the report here.

In one sense, there is no surprise in this survey. We have known for years now that Catholics overwhelmingly support LGBT issues.  Just review the posts  in our Statistics category to read about the overall increasing trend of support over the last few years.

To me the two most important facts are:

  1. U.S. Catholics incorrectly assume Pope Francis agrees with them on same-sex marriage
  2. U.S. Catholics–and former Catholics–believe Pope Francis understands them better than the U.S. bishops do.

These data should be wake up calls to both laity and hierarchy in the U.S. Catholic Church.  Laity need to have a more realistic view of Pope Francis’ position on same-sex marriage–though as we have pointed out before, even as recently as yesterday, Pope Francis can send mixed signals on this issue.

The greater challenge, though, will be for U.S. bishops to recognize that Pope Francis’ gracious, welcoming style and his openness to dialogue and discussion are factors that U.S. Catholics admire and would like to see more of in their Church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Associated Press: “Ahead of pope’s visit to US, some friction over LGBT issues”

Think Progress: “On Almost Every Major Issue, Catholics Are More Progressive Than The Average American”

 

 

 


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

 


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