New Report: Majorities of Black Catholics Affirm Gay People and Same-Gender Marriages

A new report highlights that majorities of Black Catholics in the U.S. support the societal of acceptance of homosexuality and clergy performing same-gender weddings.

The Pew Research Center’s report, “Black Catholics in America,” follows the Center’s survey “Faith Among Black Americans” that was released in 2021. The data offers significant insights into the faith and religious practices of Black Catholics on a breadth of topics. Some key findings on homosexuality include:

78% of Black Catholics believe homosexuality should be accepted in society, which is 23 percentage points higher than Black Protestants and 9 percentage points higher than the overall U.S. population.

62% of Black Catholics believe clergy should perform same-gender marriages, which is again significantly higher than Black Americans generally (44%), Black Protestants (37%), and the overall U.S. population (52%).

Pew researchers made a few observations in their 2021 report about their data set when it comes to age, country of origin, and racial identity. About the U.S. Black community generally, they write:

“When it comes to ethnicity, those who identify as Black only (60%) are less likely than those who identify as multiracial (77%) or Black and Hispanic (72%) to say that homosexuality should be accepted in society. And Black adults born in the United States (63%) or the Caribbean (52%) are more likely than those born in Africa (38%) to share this view.

“Younger Black Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders, with adults who are a part of Generation Z (those ages 18 to 23) more likely than each older generation to agree with this stance. This is in line with previous research showing that, among U.S. adults overall, young people are consistently more accepting of homosexuality than older people.

“Response patterns by age, race and ethnicity, and country of birth on this question mirror those seen on the question about society’s acceptance of homosexuality. In other words, older Black Americans, those who identify as Black only, and those born in Africa and the Caribbean all are less likely than others to say their clergy should officiate same-sex weddings.”

Finally, there is a link between accepting homosexuality and support for clergy involvement in same-gender weddings. Most people polled either believe in full acceptance or no acceptance; just 18% of Black adults believe society should accept gay people while having clergy refrain from participating in LGBTQ weddings.

The Pew survey included 8,660 Black adults, of whom 562 people were Black Catholics, and occurred from the fall of 2019 through summer of 2020. Black Catholics make up 4% of the U.S. Catholic population, or about 3 million faithful.

This new report focusing on Black Catholics is quite significant because it overcomes the erasure of this community both in Catholic discourse and in wider discourse about the Black church, scholar Tia Noelle Pratt wrote in the National Catholic Reporter. She explained:

“These numbers tell us that Black Catholics in the United States are not a monolith. These drastically different numbers deserve further consideration by scholars and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as dioceses and parishes. Church leaders must keep this in mind in ministering to Black Catholics and creating pastoral plans. Similarly, scholars must incorporate this knowledge into their research. . .

“This study is a call to action for scholars and church leaders alike. It tells us concretely that, like the entire church, Black Catholics are not a monolith. The future of the church depends on deepening our understanding of this in order to minister and create policy accordingly.”

Pratt’s exhortation to church leaders is relevant for the Catholic LGBTQ movement, too, which has mirrored the larger queer community in erecting largely white spaces and structures. Sometimes, this exclusion has been justified by saying that the Black church is more conservative than its white or Latinx counterparts. Pew’s data will hopefully put that misguided notion to rest, and lead to a more intersectional and collaborative Catholic LGBTQ movement.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 18, 2022

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