New Report Finds U.S. Catholics Dissatisfied with Church’s Approach to LGBTQ+ Issues

A new report details U.S. Catholics’ discontent with their church’s teachings on and treatment of LGBTQ+ people. According to the report, Catholics are more likely than other U.S. churchgoers to rate their church poorly in terms of welcoming LGBTQ+ people and discussing issues of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

The data is explained in a new study entitled “Religion and Congregations in a Time of Social and Political Upheaval,” published by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), which surveyed over 5,800 people in the U.S., including 1,200 self-identified white and Hispanic Catholics for this study.

While the report showed that more than a simple majority of U.S. Catholics support LGBTQ+ people, consistent with previous data, Catholic numbers evaluating their church’s treatment of such issues is lower than some other Christians in the nation.

Only 59% of Hispanic Catholics and 56% of white Catholics say that their church talks somewhat well or very well about discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, compared with 65% of U.S. Christians who support their own churches’ approach. And whereas 75% of general churchgoers agree that their churches are “welcoming to everyone, including LGBTQ people,” 72% of white Catholics and 64% of Hispanic Catholics mostly or completely agreed with that statement.

In terms of LGBTQ+ leadership, 39% of Hispanic Catholics and 25% of white Catholics report wishing the church had more LGBTQ+ leaders.

Asked whether they would like “more discussion of transgender rights” in church, 33% of Hispanic Catholics and 17% of white Catholics agreed. Hispanic Catholics’ responses were nearly double U.S. churchgoers generally of whom just 18% agreed.

However, overall, 59% of white Catholics and 53% of Hispanic Catholics ended up agreeing with the statement, “I would prefer to attend a church that does not discuss gender and sexuality issues.”

This lack of inclusivity is contributing to a wave of Catholics considering leaving the church. According to the report, “about two in ten white Catholics (20%) say they are thinking about leaving their religious tradition.” Overall, among people in the U.S. who are considering switching religions, 30% indicated they were “turned off by the religion’s negative teachings about or treatment of LGBTQ people,” the second highest reason after scandals involving religious leadership.

The demographic breakdown of these statistics is more positive as it indicates that LGBTQ+ affirmation is likely to become more prevalent in the years to come. U.S. churchgoers ages 18-29 are more than twice as likely as those over 65 to want discussion of transgender rights and the presence of LGBTQ+ leaders in church. As today’s youth become a bigger portion of the Catholic faithful, these attitudes are likely to rise. But, for now, respondents aged 18-29 are also the least likely group to see their church as welcoming to all.

Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the PRRI findings:

“The new report from PRRI is complex and requires a nuanced reading. For instance, the finding that a majority of Catholics would prefer no discussion of gender and sexuality in church could indicate the faithful are non-affirming—or it could indicate Catholics are tired of LGBTQ-negative preaching and the church’s involvement in politics. Likewise, the lower number of Catholics compared to other Christians who agree their church is welcoming to all, including LGBTQ+ people, could actually signify that Catholics recognize their church’s deficiencies in providing a welcome that goes beyond words to include real inclusive practices.

“In other words, Catholics with different perspectives on LGBTQ+ people could ultimately answer the same way to a given question. Further study is required to truly understand why Catholics see their church as less welcoming or prefer limited discussions on gender and sexuality. This new PRRI report can be read in the context of other research that consistently finds Catholics to be among the most LGBTQ-supportive of U.S. Christians, even if recent data shows that support lags for transgender and nonbinary people. If there is one clear takeaway from this report, however, it is that U.S. Catholic leaders’ present approach to LGBTQ+ issues is not working for many of the faithful.”

New Ways Ministry’s book, A Home for All, explores why Catholics can and should support LGBTQ+ non-discrimination. That book, which you can find more information about here, has now been developed into a workshop available for parishes, schools, and other Catholic groups. To learn more about the workshop and inquire about hosting it in your community, either in-person or virtually, click here.

–Ariell Watson Simon (she/her), New Ways Ministry, July 4, 2023

3 replies
  1. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    When it comes to inclusion of LBGTQ+ people, the Roman Church entirely misses the mark:

    “For Jesus, it is all about union—union with God, others, and what is, however it presents itself. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. We all belong, but how cleverly our moral pretenses prevent us from struggling with what is right in front of us! How ingeniously our ego protects itself from compassion and understanding.”

    ” Jesus, like the cosmos itself, constantly affirms two parallel drives toward diversity and toward communion. The whole of creation cannot be lying.” – Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

  2. Lawrence Kavanaugh
    Lawrence Kavanaugh says:

    I appreciate that you mention the need for “a nuanced reading” of the survey.
    In my discussions of lgbt+ matters with some Christian people, I’ve learned that they AGREE with their churches’ position, which is to condemn lgbt+ people.

  3. Perhotelan
    Perhotelan says:

    While the report showed that more than a simple majority of U.S. Catholics support LGBTQ+ people, consistent with previous data, Catholic numbers evaluating their church’s treatment of such issues is lower than some other Christians in the nation.


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