New Study Examines Religious Acceptance of LGBT Equality

I was all ready to say “Ho-hum” when I read the opening paragraphs of a Huffington Post news story about a new study which finds that Catholic people are more supportive of LGBT issues than most people generally think.  I’ve read this story so many times before, I was ready to say. For at least a half-dozen years, almost every survey that has appeared about religion and LGBT topics shows that Catholics lead the way among religious groups on supporting equality measures.

But, just as I was about to click through to another story (in the old days, I would have said “turn the page to another story”), I noticed that the reporter said the researcher of this new study was attempting to answer “why, despite the fact most world religions have proscriptions against homosexual practices, some nations are much more tolerant than others.”

Okay, now I wanted to read on.

The new book-length study, Cross-National Public Opinion About Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes Across the Globeis the work of Amy Adamczyk, a sociologist at the City University of New York.  Adamcyzk’s study says that several factors influence tolerance and support of lesbian and gay issues, including that while faith is an important factor, so are cultural elements.  The Huffington Post reported one piece of information that I thought was fascinating:

“One recent study found that gay Polish immigrants in Chicago were much more likely to retain their Catholic identity than gay men in Warsaw who were raised Catholic.

“Only one of the 27 gay men raised by two Catholic parents in Warsaw remained Catholic. Ten of the 23 men in Chicago were still Catholic.

“The perceived hostile environment in Poland forced many gay men to make a hard choice and declare themselves atheists, researcher Hubert Izienicki discovered in in-depth interviews.

” ‘In contrast, the gay respondents in Chicago find themselves in a religiously pluralistic and immigrant society, which allows them to retain their religious tradition and Catholic identity alongside their identity as gay men,’ he reported.”

When democracy is spread, the new political culture can sometimes weaken the hold that religious institutions which oppose equality have over people.  The following evidence was offered:

“. . . [In] nations such as predominantly Catholic nations such as Spain and Brazil, which have moved from authoritarian governments to democracies, the changes in acceptance have been considerable.

“In the early 1990s, 38 percent of Spanish adults and 70 percent of Brazilian adults said homosexuality is never justified. In the current decade, just 8 percent of Spaniards and 36 percent of Brazilians hold similar views, Adamczyk noted.”

Pointing to the recent news story of Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcoming an LGBT pilgrimage to the local cathedral, Adamcyzk said that personal messages from religious leaders have an important role to play in promoting equality: “It really helps when religious officials come out and say we’re tolerant,” she said.

Adamczyk’s study also shows that strong polarization between religious and LGBT issues is not only harmful socially, but personally:

“What does not work is polarization, where some gay rights groups or religious communities view each other with hostility, cutting off the possibility of dialogue and often adding to the mental health struggles of people seeking to reconcile their religious and sexual identities.”

This last point highlights the need for bridge-building between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church–an idea receiving a lot of attention lately due to Fr. James Martin’s new book Building a Bridge.

One final quotation from Adamczyk tells me that this researcher is not only a highly-skilled researcher and analyst, but someone who recognizes that there is a lot involved in this study that is more than just numbers and graphs:

“No matter how one describes the conflict, on every side of the divide we find individuals and communities that try to make sense of their lives and live with integrity towards their own values, towards the people that matter to them, and towards what is sacred in their lives.”

Yes, in the end, the debate about LGBT equality in church and society is less about culture wars and more about human dignity, love, and the divine.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 7, 2017


6 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    “Yes, in the end, the debate about LGBT equality in church and society is less about culture wars and more about human dignity, love, and the divine.” A very astute observation.

  2. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    Yes. People try to make sense of their lives and live with integrity. And this is what pastoral priests, bishops,nuns, teachers, and parents should help young people to do. Some in the institutional church reduce the entire area of human sexuality and intimacy to “the act,” banning some acts, making many rules and regulations as to the where and how of “the act.” This misses the main point on so many fronts. To make sense of our lives, we must focus on things like community, commitment to others and to ourselves, physical and mental health, love and spirituality–ALL of these things. A strict rule book with punitive consequences for every misstep misses the mark. The question for all of us should be, what is the most loving act? We must ask this in each of our encounters. Once we know the church teachings, this question can lead to gray areas. This is not a bad thing since life is complex and messy. But if we stick with the question, what is the most loving act?– then we will be doing what Jesus taught us to do. Lifelong conscience formation will lead us to reflect on our missteps and to do better the next day. And finding true intimacy, gay or straight, is a life task for all of us. It is hard to find. The church should not put up obstacles to this important work, rather, the church should guide us in the ways of commitment and mature engagement

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    What I take from the concept of religious acceptance of LGBT equality is that when an individual comes out to their family both sides realize the individual hasn’t changed just shared a part of them that was unknown before as when a baby reveals that they are left handed. It is something unknown before but really doesn’t change the focus of love for them. Please note that until the middle of the 20th century parents frequently tried to change a child to be right handed if they weren’t born that way (phrase borrowed intentionally).
    While religion is important to many families, a family in most instance loves its members more than it does its religion so if it is a choice between Church and son or daughter, then that aspect of the Church is just ignored. When the Church has failed to retain its credibility and the sex and financial abuse activities of the Catholic church over the last century have revealed a very weak grasp of virtue, then claims about the evil of homosexuality don’t carry much weight particularly when held up as a reason to not love a family member.
    Fr. Martin’s concept of building bridges comes down too much as if there is a compromise to be achieved in the acceptance of homosexuality by the Catholic hierarchy. It is like saying there is a way we can ignore an element of human nature. Is it ok for a racial bigot to decide a different colored individual is sort of ok rather than simply accepting them as a creature of God’s creation equal to all others? Cardinal Tobin has been welcoming by inviting same gender loving individuals to Church for one special meeting, but Christ asked us to come to Him always. As Paul reminded us, we are neither Jew nor Greek, male or female. We are all in God’s image and likeness and should be welcomed equally at all time.


    Thank you for this article. It actually brought me to tears, that gay Catholics can see some light of hope dawning on the horizon. I hope to see less suicides, both bodily and spiritually by gay Catholics whom God surely loves with immense tenderness, having created them as they are. Again, thank you!

  5. gcswiderskigmailcom
    gcswiderskigmailcom says:

    Thank you Frank
    As a person of Polish decent who had heard demeaning polish jokes and thought that we sometimes degraded ourselves whenever we acted like a dumb person,
    I now live with great pride of this heritage.
    I regret greatly the current direction of Poland’s political system and the current stupidity in this country.
    Have any surveys of supporters of our “so called President ” (Here I follow his example because he referred to a judge in such a pejorative manner.) shown what they think of gay rights?
    I have an opinion but prefer some data.


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