Illinois Catholics Stand Up to Bishops As Marriage Equality Progresses

Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate passed a marriage equality bill on Valentine’s Day,moving that state closer to equality for every committed couple.  The Chicago Tribune reported:

“The Democratic-led Senate delivered a Valentine’s Day victory to gay and lesbian couples today, passing legislation for the first time that would allow same-sex marriage in Illinois.

“The gay marriage measure now goes to the House, where the fight is expected to be tougher. [Catholic] Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.”

 As expected, the state’s Catholic bishops’ efforts to deny LGBT couples their rights has been strong, but so have been those of pro-equality Catholics.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield wrote a message for Valentine’s Day condemning equal marriage rights. Think Progress summarizes the bishop’s message:

“Catholics who support their LGBT friends and family are destroying society, and gay people have a ‘condition’ that can be addressed by living a life of chastity. In other words, Catholics aren’t allowed to love gays and gays aren’t allowed to even experience love. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a man committed to a life of celibacy defines a ‘more authentic understanding’ of love as no love at all.”

Catholic laywomen directly challenged the bishop’s comments in a piece at The Huffington Post, arguing their case for Catholic support of marriage equality. Citing the bishops’ support for social justice as an extension of the Catholic call to hospitality, Cristina Traina and Karen Allen write:

“In any of those [anti-LGBT] positions, the bishops’ words sound cold rather than hospitable.

“They are distressing, too, because they imply that same-sex marriage destroys fidelity, commitment and family rather than affirming their value for individuals and society. Gay and lesbian couples who seek the full rights (and responsibilities) of marriage are far from the enemies of the ‘common good of society.’ In an era of cohabitation and serial monogamy, they and their allies may be marriage’s biggest champions.

“Despite our leaders’ profound ambivalence about us, gay and lesbian–and bisexual and transgender–Catholics and their allies contribute joyfully and faithfully to the life of the Church. We hope that our leaders will think twice before labeling us destructive, disordered, and unnatural. And we hope that they will reconsider their opposition to same-sex civil marriage, which puts them in a position of inhospitality rather than welcome.”

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago continued his long history as an outspoken anti-LGBT activist. Medill Reports describes the Cardinal’s efforts and how increasingly removed he is from mainstream Catholic thought.  They quoted Andy Thayer, the co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, who led a protest recently at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral:

“‘Cardinal George has rarely let an opportunity to vilify our community go by, and so we are really angry with his opposition to our legal equality.’

“Many LGBT activists say they believe Cardinal George’s positions do not reflect the views of the majority of Catholics in Illinois…

“A majority of Illinois Catholics approve of gay and lesbian unions, according to polling data released in October 2012 by The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, as reported by Capitol Fax, a news organization covering state government.”

In the Chicaago Archdiocese, faithful Catholic laity used their Catholic faith as the basis for challenging Cardinal George’s actions. Parishioners of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston, which hosts a Gay and Lesbian, Family and Friends Ministry, wrote a letter to George inviting him to dialogue after harshly toned letters on marriage equality were read at Mass.

They emphasized their shared experiences of the goodness that LGBT relationships and families contribute to Church and society, saying in part:

“It is precisely because of this that we ask you to consider that the gay and lesbian couples who seek the full rights (and responsibilities) of marriage are far from the enemies of the ‘common good of society’ that you identify them to be. Such characterizations run completely contrary to our experience, leaving many of us disappointed, frustrated, and angry. This is not the truth we know, and we are compelled by our commitment out our Church and our society to speak that truth — to you and to our communities.

“In all of this, we have seen the gifts that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people have to offer our Church and our world. St.. Nicholas, the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the communities of Evanston and Chicago have been well served by the courageous and loving witness of our GLBT brothers and sisters, including those who have chosen to live in partnerships and those who have accepted the awesome responsibility of providing a loving home to children.”

New Ways Ministry applauds Catholics supporting equality for witnessing to an inclusive Gospel.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Again and Again, Statistics Tell a Positive Story About Catholics

statisticsOver the past month, several polls have confirmed what many previous polls have already shown:  the Catholic laity support LGBT equality, including marriage equality.

In the most recent survey, a Quinnipiac poll released last week, Catholics outpace average Americans when it comes to marriage equality.  According to

“While same sex unions are approved by 48 percent to 46 percent overall, Catholics give them the thumbs-up by 49 percent to 43 percent, the survey from Quinnipiac University found.

“ ‘It seems pretty clear that attitudes toward same-sex marriage in American society are changing rapidly,’ said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Connecticut university’s polling institute.

“ ‘While the country remains split on the issue, supporters have come pretty far in the last four years.’ . . .

“The biggest opposition among any group is with white Protestants who oppose it 63 percent to 32 percent.”

A Public Religion Research Institute report confirms that Catholics are ahead of the average American population on marriage equality:

“A slim majority (52%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, and 44% oppose.

“Among religious groups, majorities of Catholics (59%), white mainline Protestants (56%), and the unaffiliated (77%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.”

A recent survey of Catholics in Illinois, conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, showed an overwhelming majority support some form of  legal relationship recognition for lesbian/gay couples.  According to

“. . . 81 percent of Catholics surveyed support either full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples or the right to a civil union. Specifically, 39.9 percent said they support marriage rights and 40.1 percent said their position is for same-sex couples to have civil unions. Only 15.7 percent said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

“. . . the same poll found that 43.6 percent of Illinois residents approve of full marriage equality, 31.8 percent preferred civil unions and 20.2 percent said there should be no legal recognition. In 2010, the same poll reported 33.6 percent of people were in favor of marriage rights.”

The Illinois statistics are significant because that state, which already has a civil unions law, may well take up the discussion of a marriage equality law in 2013.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry