Thanks to Terence Weldon, at the blog QueeringTheChurch.com, we’ve been made aware of a new survey in the United Kingdom which shows that British Catholics are strongly in support of marriage equality–similar to U.S. Catholics on this side of the Atlantic.
The new report comes from the British Social Attitudes Survey. The section regarding attitudes toward homosexuality are covered under the topic “Personal Relationships. After noting a growing positive trend for marriage equality in the nation as a whole, Weldon turns to the religious analysis of the report. He states:
“Predictably, religious groups are less tolerant of same – sex sexual relations than those who are not religious, and although disapproval is declining among people of all religions, this decline is slower than for those of no religious belief. What should be of concern to the defenders of the orthodox Catholic position, is that self- identified Catholics are more tolerant than Protestants. The published report does not present full tables for a breakdown by religion, or a full trend comparison, but this written summary makes the core message clear: barely a third of British Catholics agree with the CDF position, that all same – sex genital interactions are morally wrong/
“Not surprisingly, religious belief is closely linked to attitudes to homosexuality. Those who aren’t religious are the least likely to see it as always or mostly wrong, only 16 per cent do so. This compares to disapproval rates of over a third among Anglicans (40 per cent) and Catholics (35 per cent). ”
Why do surveys like this one matter? Weldon rightly points out that while the church is not a democracy, Catholicism does operate under the principle of honoring the “sense of the faithful”–meaning what the Catholic laity actually believe–in evaluating church teaching. He observes:
“Nevertheless, [we have] the important principle of ‘sensus fidei’ [‘sense of the faithful’] to consider, by which any church doctrine which is not accepted by the church as a whole, which has not been “received” and accepted by the faithful, cannot be held to be valid and binding. In the half century since the publication of Humanae Vitae, it has become abundantly clear that it has been rejected in good conscience, or even simply been ignored, by the overwhelming majority of married Catholic couples, and there is simply no evidence that the prohibition on artificial contraception does in fact have the authority of the sensus fidei behind it. It is now becoming equally clear that the absolute prohibition on same – sex sexual acts, and those on premarital sex, sexual relationships after divorce, and masturbation, are going the same way, When something like two thirds of Catholics, in very substantial parts of the Catholic world, disagree with the total proscription by the CDF – what possible justification can there be for continuing to defend the rigidity of current CDF sexual ideology?”
I think Catholics who work for equality and justice for LGBT people can be heartened by these survey results. It shows that support from U.S. Catholics for marriage equality is not just an anomaly. Despite bishops mounting strong campaigns opposing marriage equality in both the U.S. and the U.K., Catholic lay people have taken a different approach to this issue. Catholics are relying on their deep sense of justice and their deep sense of the importance of love in a relationship. These two senses are helping them to see that marriage equality is, in fact, a very Catholic concept.
To order or download a copy of New Ways Ministry’s booklet, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, click here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry