A new survey shows that most lay Catholics in the U.S. disagree with conservative bishops on disputed issues, including abortion rights, politicians receiving Communion, and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people.
As National Catholic Reporter explained, “The poll, conducted in mid-May, shows a clear gap between the prevalent views of U.S. Catholics and some recent high-profile actions taken by the church’s leaders.” The poll included 1,172 adult participants, of whom 358 are Catholics.
The survey, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, included a number of questions regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion in the life of the church. Results revealed that most lay Catholics support LGBTQ+ Catholics’ belonging in the church.
Most U.S. Catholics, regardless of how frequently they attend Mass, believe that Communion should not be denied to LGBTQ+ Catholics: 77% of all Catholics support LGBTQ+ Catholics receiving the sacrament.
NCR’s commentary on the survey pointed out that this statistic “contrasts sharply” with some U.S. dioceses’ official attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, citing the Diocese of Marquette in Michigan, which recently told pastors to “deny Communion to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics ‘unless the person has repented.’”
A commentary in America put these numbers in context, explaining U.S. Catholics’ broad support for LGBTQ+ people receiving Communion:
“That figure should not be surprising, as more than two-thirds of U.S. Catholics now support same-sex marriage (in opposition to church teaching), and Gallup has found that, over the past 20 years, support for same-sex marriage has consistently been stronger among Catholics than among the American population as a whole.”
About half of the Catholics surveyed do not have an opinion on how Pope Francis is handling issues surrounding church doctrine on LGBTQ+ people. 24% approve of the Pope’s approach, while 26% disapprove. Republican Catholics are slightly more likely than Democrats to approve of Pope Francis’s handling of LGBTQ+ issues.
Most Catholics support the ordination of women, gay men, and divorced people. 65% of all Catholics believe that gay men should be allowed to be priests. On this issue, results varied widely according to how frequently respondents attend Mass. Catholics who go to church at least monthly were less likely to support gay clergy, at 44%, while an overwhelming 77% of Catholics who are less frequent Mass attendees said they support gay priests.
The survey reveals a widening rift between Catholics in the pews and some members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on highly-politicized issues of belonging in the church. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, told NCR that the divide “reveals a breakdown in communication and trust — shepherds who are far removed from the sheep.”
Though the ongoing divide between church leaders’ stances and lay Catholics’ attitudes points to heated political disagreements in the church, the survey also shows that among the rank-and-file Catholics who make up the church, plenty of believers think that LGBTQ+ Catholics belong right alongside them in the pews.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, June 14, 2022