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

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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19 replies
  1. Sharon Willey
    Sharon Willey says:

    Perhaps more people have relatives who have actually come out of the closet instead of hiding themselves because of writings in Leviticus, all of which we do not follow. It really hurts to have someone teach from the Archbishop’s chair that I must not help my gay son. That is more unnatural to me than any other thing he might bring up.

    Reply
  2. Glenn Stockton
    Glenn Stockton says:

    Yes, it is true, the laity is confused on this issue and continues to follow the culture rather than Church teaching. The challenge for the Church and all is to offer true compassion, empathy, and understanding to LGBT individuals while at the same time inviting repentance and healing.

    I believe that we can all agree that marriage between a man and a woman is intrinsically different than “marriage” between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. In social situations, the end result of the redefinition of the word will simply require additional words to describe with precision one’s personal situation. “Sacramental Marriage” or mention of a “wife” for a man, or “husband” for a woman, will be required to define heterosexual marriages, while the mention of a “partner”, or “husband” for a man, or “wife” for a woman will be required to define homosexual “marriages”. I fear it is too late to make the change, but this confusion could have been easily avoided with the invention of a new word rather than the redefinition of an old time-honored one.

    Reply
    • thebentangle
      thebentangle says:

      Glenn, when you write that the laity “continues to follow the culture rather than Church teaching,” you are presuming that the Magisterium is the Church. If this is true, then Catholicism is really a minor world religion both in numbers of true adherents and in its influence on those who identify as Roman Catholic. I suspect this is an accurate observation.

      As for your second point, there is nothing at all unusual about refining and/or supplementing word definitions to accommodate new cultural forms.

      How many kinds of “father” are there? Birth father, adoptive father, father-in-law, Holy father, priest (called “father”), Father of our Country, step-father, etc.

      And “mother?” Birth mother, surrogate mother, adoptive mother, Mother Superior, “second mother,” the mother church, Mother Earth, etc.

      And “marriage?” The Church is the Bride of Christ. Nuns are married to Jesus. The marriage of true minds. And so on.

      All this is part analogic thinking and part refinement and elaboration of word meanings.
      I wouldn’t worry that people are going to be hopelessly confused. Since my marriage four days ago, I’ve introduced my husband several times to bank employees, hospital staff, and others. There was no sign of any confusion when I referred to him as my “husband.” They got it.

      Reply
  3. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    My personal journey involved a number of steps along the way. The first connection was back in 1950’s when I was told in my (unnamed) organization to report any homosexual behaviour. I didn’t know what that was at the time – but reporting on others just didn’t seem fair and singling out one group wasn’t just. So I didn’t do it, but I did learn that homosexuality existed, which didn’t seem important to me. Then in the 1970’s – 80’s, working in social services, I met Gay men whose families had disowned them. They were impoverished, without resources, rejected, alone, and some were dying from AIDs. One of those men was a neighbour and we became friends until he died a year or so later. Then I discovered family members, and friends who are Gay and I love them dearly as the gentle, loving, caring, smart, creative, strong, wonderful people they are. The world always benefits from love, but never from hate.

    Reply
  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Glenn wrote: “I believe that we can all agree that marriage between a man and a woman is intrinsically different than “marriage” between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.”

    I can’t agree Glenn. Seems to me that a relationship is a relationship, and if you have a need to define or explain the relationships of others and struggle for words with meaning, maybe it’s an opportunity to enlarge your vocabulary. At any rate, I experience no confusion at all and am happy to introduce Jane and Norma or James and Norman as PEOPLE who have a committed relationship with each other.

    Having met people who suffered exclusion and heartbreak because of our limited and unequal laws, I delight in opening marriage to those who seek it. Marriage has changed much over the millenia…usually for the better.

    Reply
    • Glenn Stockton
      Glenn Stockton says:

      Barbara: If marriage were only about “relationship” I might agree. But it is not. Apparently not important to you is the central natural and historic reason for men and women to establish relationships in the first place – natural pro-creation. I don’t know of a more obvious, distinct, and important difference between man-woman and man-man or woman-woman relationships than this. With such a distinct difference as this, why not a new word? After all we come up with novel names for animals of distinct species that have only very minor differences, much less of a difference than this! I think we can afford to be a bit more creative here.

      Reply
      • Barbara
        Barbara says:

        I think people establish relationships because it’s in our nature and we need to live in love if we are to live in God. Not every marriage has children, so following your reasoning, we should deny “marriage” to any couple that doesn’t want, or can’t, “procreate”. Homosexuals are not “animals of a distinct species”, they are human beings created by God and members of the Body of Christ.

        Reply
      • Friends
        Friends says:

        Glenn: so what do you make of heterosexual couples who marry — either religiously or civilly or both — but (for whatever personal reason) have no intention of “pro-creating”? What about sterile heterosexual couples? Are their marriages valid or invalid in your judgment? Not that YOUR judgment matters a figlet to them or to us.

        Reply
  5. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    Because as many more homosexuals become “out,” we find them to be people just like everybody else. Why wouldn’t they want what all of us want: happiness, work we are good at, and a loving relationship?

    Reply
  6. thebentangle
    thebentangle says:

    Here’s how this remarkable Catholic conversion happened among my friends and family:
    I met my husband, Dan, 13 years ago, but we could not legally marry in our state (WA). We are both very active in our community and had many friends who wanted nothing but the best for us. Many of them were from very traditional backgrounds, and there were several conservative Catholics among them, including a few family members. I watched as these people gradually got used to the idea that we were a committed couple, and not just “boy friends.” They began to identify with our own hopes and aspirations.

    Three days ago, Dan and I were married in our Unitarian church. Approximately one hundred of our friends and family were present, and it could not have been a more beautiful and moving experience for all of us. Among the guests were several formerly “conservative” Catholics who would most assuredly have frowned upon such a relationship 13 years ago, when Dan and I first met. There were two Ethiopian Catholics, another Catholic from Bavaria, and one from our own city. All of them raised their glasses of bubbly to us in a heart-warming toast, and it was an experience that neither they nor we will never forget. This is the way hearts and minds are changed. This is what it takes: human connections, trust, and love.

    Reply
  7. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    Glenn, marriage used to be just about property, power of families and control. We have come a long way since then and I suggest we can come further. For me, being upset about coming up with new words is “angels on the head of a pin” territory. But I would not care about that argument if it did not lead to a cross over from the church deciding what it will call those In a sacramental marriage to trying to eliminate my civil right to be with the one I love in a marriage when that person shares my gender.

    Reply
  8. Glenn Stockton
    Glenn Stockton says:

    Larry, Barbara, and Friends:
    It is probably best to review what the Church says about marriage in the Catechism before further discussion on this topic. After all, if this blog is truly about Building Bridges Between the LGBT Community and the Catholic Church, we had best start with Church teaching on the subject…
    Article 7: THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY: 1601 “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (You can read the whole passage here – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P50.HTM
    As you say, not every marriage results in procreation. But the requirement in Church teaching is not that it does, but that both the man and woman in a marriage be open to life. Artificial contraception and abortion are clear violations of this requirement. While a valid marriage can be had by a couple who cannot procreate due to sterility, in the eyes of the Church a marriage is invalid if the couple uses artificial means to prevent procreation. Within a sacramental marriage, not having children due to personal “wants” is not okay while not having children due an inability to do so is okay. Homosexual “marriages” can never be sacramental because the respective parties have full knowledge of the impossibility of openness to life from the outset and due to the simple biological incapacity. And, I’m not upset in the slightest…

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      I think that the wider Church is calling on the leadership to rethink it’s teaching Glenn. I would also note that marriage equality is not sacramental marriage. The Church is free to perform the marriage or not to. The law is bringing equality to the rights and responsibilities of secular recognition of marriage, which is just and right.

      Reply
    • Larry Quirk
      Larry Quirk says:

      Glenn, You omit the fact that gay couples can [and many have] adopted children as many heterosexual couples who could not have children for one reason or another have. But I think the bigger issue is that by taking this stance, the Church eliminates the chance for gay couples who do not adopt to “establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life..by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses” which is obviously seen as a good thing as it is included in the catechism. The procreative requirement (which as you note does not really apply to heterosexual couples who for example are sterile) is seen by the gay community as a bludgeon to keep gay people from having acknowledged committed loving relationships. And again, if it were just church doctrine to be abided by those who agree to it it would be one thing but the entrenched activism of the hierarchy to bar acknowledgement of loving committed gay relationships in civil society borders on evil and shows clearly that all this window dressing is just to cover up the Church’s innate homophobia. And as evidence of this you see no concerted effort to deny communion to or legislate against Catholics (or all the other devices used against gay folk) who use contraceptives (95% of Catholic heterosexual couples I believe) which according to your analysis of the catechism makes a marriage “invalid”. I think the hierarchy knows that if they took that path, that Catholics would leave the church in droves so they are selective in their efforts to promote the “truth”.

      Reply
    • thebentangle
      thebentangle says:

      Glenn, I wouldn’t agree that “it is best to start with Church teaching on this matter.” That would not build a bridge. Rather, it would amount to a capitulation. The Church needs to change its teaching, and it has shown in the past that it can do so. The consequences of further intransigence are that more and more Catholics will simply ignore Church teachings, and the doctrinal edifice will become an empty shell. There is no way that the Magisterium will ever bring the laity back into compliance with its current teachings on contraception and homosexuality. The laity no longer bows to the Magisterium’s power or fears the consequences of disobedience. The Church is undergoing a soft but radical reformation before our eyes.

      Reply
  9. Glenn Stockton
    Glenn Stockton says:

    Larry, I very much agree with you that the Church approach to the LGBT community should be compassionate and justice-seeking. I see the whole LGBT movement and formation into a tight societal group as being one of those pendulum swings caused by a huge past injustices, crimes, and violence against those with same-sex-attraction. But, there is that ever present fine line that the Church should not cross – the line between compassion to enablement. In all situations, the Church calls us each to repentance and redemptive healing. I also agree with you that the Church is overall much less vocal regarding artificial contraception and abortion than it should be. I disagree though that the long-term impact of the Church speaking out boldly on these issues would result in a smaller Catholic community. Maybe short-term it would. But, when all is said and done, objective truth preached boldly is attractive to people of good will. My wife and I belong to a great parish where truth is preached in love. Frequent homiletic topics are the sins of: contraception, abortion, love of money and material possessions, pornography, and active sexual deviancy. Controversial and counter-cultural? Yes. Yet the church community is large and growing, the Masses are well attended, and the Reconciliation lines are long. Note that as we depart of vacation Friday, sadly I must depart this discussion. Blessings to all on this blog…

    Reply

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