Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview

Following are highlights from the March 2011 Public Religion Research Center (PRRC) report that offers a "comprehensive portrait from recent research" of Catholic attitudes on gay and lesbian issues. One of these issue is civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

(NOTE: The full report can be read
here. The methodology supplement to the report can be read here.)

Here in Minnesota, a number of Roman Catholic bishops have been very vocal in their support of a "marriage amendment" to the Minnesota Constitution that would deny civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. The findings of PRRC lay to rest the claims of these bishops that they "speak for the Church" on the issue of civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian people. They do not.

At most, what can be said is that the bishops speak for themselves as members of the Church's clerical caste, the "hierarchy," one of three of the Church's sources (or magisteria) of truth.

The other two sources, namely the insights of theologians and the experiences of the entire people of God – known as the sensus fidelium, or, the sense of the faithful, have largely rejected the hierarchy's limited way of thinking and speaking anthropologically and theologically on many issues relating to human sexuality – including homosexuality and marriage for same-sex couples. The following findings clearly reflect this rejection.


Catholic Attitudes on Gay & Lesbian Issues
A Comprehensive Portrait from Recent Research

Public Religion Research Center

March 22, 2011

* Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry (43%) or allowing them to form civil unions (31%). Only 22% of Catholics say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.

* When same-sex marriage is defined explicitly as a civil marriage, support is dramatically higher among Catholics. If marriage for gay couples is defined as a civil marriage “like you get at city hall,” Catholic support for allowing gay couples to marry increases by 28 points, from 43% to 71%. A similar pattern exists in the general population, but the Catholic increase is more pronounced.

* Beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, Catholic support for rights for gays and lesbian people is strong and slightly higher than the general public. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace; 63% of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military; and 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

* Compared to the general church-going public, Catholics are significantly less likely to hear about the issue of homosexuality from their clergy, but those who do are much more likely to hear negative messages. Only about 1-in-4 (27%) Catholics who attend church services regularly say their clergy speak about the issue of homosexuality, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of this group say the messages they hear are negative.

* Compared to other religious groups, Catholics are significantly more likely to give their church poor marks for how it is handling the issue of homosexuality. Less than 4-in-10 (39%) Catholics give their own church top marks (a grade of either an A or a B) on its handling of the issue of homosexuality.

* Seven-in-ten Catholics say that messages from America’s places of worship contribute a lot (33%) or a little (37%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

* Catholics overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed. Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Catholics disagree that homosexual orientation can be changed; less than 1-in-4 (23%) believe that it can be changed.

* A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin. Among the general population, less than half (46%) believe it is not a sin (PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, October 2010).

Recommended Off-site Links:
Most U.S. Catholics Back Civil Marriage for Gays
– Lou Chibbaro Jr. (The Washington Blade, March 31, 2011).
Catholics More Supportive of Gay Rights Than General Public, Other Christians
– Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
U.S. Catholics Break with Church Hierarchy on Gay Relationships
– Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today, March 23, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Jonathan Capeheart: Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
A Message for NOM and the Catholic Hierarchy

1 comment:

Oliver said...

The source of truth surely is God's Revelation, as found in Tradition and Scripture. I would have thought the personal opinions of bishops are not in and of themselves a source of truth.