In a new survey sponsored by America, a majority of U.S. Catholics said they believe priests should be able to bless same-gender couples, although responses to this issue were divided by a number of demographic variables.
The survey, which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, showed that weekly Mass attendance, age, and political party were significant factors for how people responded to the question of such blessings:
“Sixty-two percent of adult Catholics said they believe priests should be allowed to bless same-sex couples. Weekly Mass attenders were among the most likely to oppose the blessing of same-sex couples (51 percent said ‘no’), while those attending a few times a year or less often were the most likely to be supportive (69 percent said ‘yes’). Pre-Vatican II Catholics opposed such blessings (56 percent ‘no’), but other age groups were supportive: 58 percent said yes among Vatican II Catholics, born between 1943 and 1960; among post-Vatican II Catholics, born between 1961 and 1981, approval was 64 percent; and among millennial Catholics, born in 1982 or later, 67 percent approved. Democratic Catholics supported same-sex blessings (73 percent ‘yes’) but Republicans opposed them (57 percent ‘no’).”
In addition to same-gender blessings, the survey also asked about outreach to the LGBTQ community and whether LGBTQ issues contributed to someone’s reasons for leaving the church:
“Twenty-nine percent of adult Catholics rated the church’s outreach to L.G.B.T. Catholics and their families as ‘good’ or ‘very good.’ Forty-one percent rated this outreach as ‘fair.’ Three in 10 considered it ‘poor’ or ‘very poor.’ A quarter of adult Catholics said they have considered leaving the Catholic Church because of its teaching on L.G.B.T. Catholics, a statistic consistent across all frequencies of Mass attendance. But there are differences by generation. Thirty-five percent of millennial Catholics said they have considered leaving because of these teachings, compared with 26 percent of the post-Vatican II generation, 16 percent of the Vatican II generation and 6 percent of the pre-Vatican II generation. Thirty-percent of Democrats have considered leaving because of the church’s teaching on L.G.B.T. Catholics, compared with 21 percent of Republicans.”
The national survey also asked about other major topics such as 2020 voting decisions trends and perspectives on President Joe Biden, the ordination of women, abortion, the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and racial justice.
The data offers both an encouraging and challenging view of the future of the Catholic Church, with the majority of young Catholics aligning with LGBTQ-affirming positions. However, the partisan divide remains stark. Worse yet, 35% of millennials have considered leaving the church over LGBTQ issues. In light of these realities, the church would do well to note that the overwhelming majority of Catholics, 71%, rate LGBTQ outreach as fair or poor. Improving outreach and increasing encounters with the LGBTQ community could perhaps foster a vision in line with the views of millennial Catholics, improve the future of the church, and begin to breach partisan divides.
—Barbara Anne Kozee, New Ways Ministry, September 15, 2021