A recent survey of the opinions of U.S. Catholic women has offered a glimpse of their views of many topics in the church, including LGBTQ issues.
The survey, entitled “Catholic Women in the United States: Beliefs, Practices, Experiences, and Attitudes,” was conducted in conjunction with America Media by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and the GfK Group. 1,508 women were randomly selected and took part in the survey, encompassing the views of an estimated 28.8 million adult Catholic women in the United States. (You can read the entire report of the survey by clicking here.)
Women nationwide responded in August 2017 to comprehensive questions surrounding demographic information, frequency of Mass-going and praying habits, keeping up on Catholic news and doctrinal updates, strength of identifying as Catholic, participation in church/parish activities, news sources watched, and stances on several other moral issues relating to Catholicism.
Among these questions and answers lay a renewed hope in the future of the Church – possibly attributed to the “Francis effect,” dubbed such for Pope Francis’ radical examples of inclusivity. Yet, the survey also identified an increasing discontent with the Church’s positions on social issues, particularly those involving the LGBTQ community. Despite the “who am I to judge?” line that defines the era of Pope Francis, the survey reveals that the Church still has work to do in relating to LGBTQ communities.
Of the women surveyed, 21.6% responded to the question “Non-heterosexual Catholics feel welcome in my parish” with “Not at all.” Contrastingly, 20.1% of surveyed women responded “Very much,” while 30.6% said “Somewhat” and 27.7% said “A little.” This question indicates that just over half of the surveyed women feel that members of the LGBT community are strongly welcomed or accepted.
Only 25.8% of women said “very much” when asked how important the Catholic Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage were for them, with 21.1% and 16.1% noting “somewhat” and “a little,” respectively, and 37% reporting “not at all.” Additionally, same-sex marriage as a political issue proved more important to Republican women in this survey than to Democrats; roughly 70% of respondents indicated that the Church teaching on it influenced their vote at least “a little.”
While the survey reported enthusiasm and increased involvement in the Church for women overall, frustration regarding how LGBTQ people are treated in Catholic churches still remains a point of tension for many women. 6% of women who had left the Catholic Church reported disagreement on social issues as a significant point of division; anecdotal responses to this question included “I am a lesbian and do not feel welcomed,” “I believe in women’s rights, same-sex marriage, and abortion,” and “Felt the religion was too restrictive – I disagree with their stances on abortion and same-sex marriage.”
The survey indicates that many Catholic women are supportive of LGBTQ issues and they desire to fully include LGBTQ people in the Church. Yet, too many are leaving – especially millennial women Catholics – because the Church is not doing enough to ensure that LGBTQ people are treated equally. If the Church and its members are to retain the same enthusiasm and involvement shown in the survey, more must be done to ensure that LGBTQ people are welcomed and included in all churches.
For many women, what seems to keep them in the Church is the opportunity to be part of a community, and to find spiritual homes; tensions from leadership and Church doctrine can be overshadowed by the bonds formed with other church members. Unchanging Church doctrines and attitudes, however, may be pushing women away, especially LGBT women, if they continue to not feel welcomed and included in our churches.
–Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, April 26, 2018