Study: Strong Catholic support for gay rights

The Public Religion Research Institute team released today the most comprehensive portrait of Catholic attitudes concerning rights for gay and … Continued

The Public Religion Research Institute team released today the most comprehensive portrait of Catholic attitudes concerning rights for gay and lesbian Americans to date. This new analysis paints a clear portrait of Catholics that may be surprising to some: across a range of issues regarding rights for gay and lesbian Americans, Catholics are more supportive than the general population and are more supportive than any other Christian group.

To fully grasp just who Catholics are today, one must understand two forces that are remaking American Catholicism: native-born attrition and immigration. Although American Catholics have comprised approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population for the last three decades, this stability in aggregate numbers masks considerable churn.

First, as the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life put it, Catholics have been the “biggest losers” in the American religious market place. More than 1-in-10 Americans are former Catholics, and approximately half of all former Catholics remain unaffiliated with any faith. Among this group, majorities said they moved away from their former faith because they stopped believing in Catholicism’s teachings overall (65 percent) or became dissatisfied with Catholic teachings about abortion and homosexuality (56 percent).

The second force transforming American Catholicism is Latino immigration. Three-in-ten Catholics today are Latino. If current trends continue, Catholics will be a majority Latino faith by approximately 2025.

Our analysis found that this increasingly diverse Catholic community is strongly supportive of acceptance of and rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Generally speaking, Catholics are at least 5 points more supportive than the general population across a range of issues. For example, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace; 63 percent of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military; and 60% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

On the more contentious issue of same-sex marriage, the evidence is also stacking up for solid Catholic support at both the national and state levels. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll recently found that fully 63 percent of Catholics supported making it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 53 percent of the general population. In our 2010 post-election American Values Survey, using different question wording, PRRI also found that a majority (53 percent) of Catholics supported allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 48% of the public.

At the state level, a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed a majority (52 percent) of Catholic registered voters in New York support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 56 percent of New York registered voters overall. And two years after Proposition 8 in 2010, PRRI found that a majority (54 percent) of Catholics in California say they would now vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 51 percent of Californians overall.

Looking at the data, it’s difficult to find an issue where the trends are so consistently, even dramatically, in a single direction: towards greater acceptance and support of rights for gay and lesbian Americans. This is true both in the general population and among Catholics. And given the very strong support among younger Catholics for gay and lesbian equality, this trend is likely only to accelerate.

Dr. Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America, summed up the future options for the Catholic Church hierarchy aptly in his remarks during a panel discussion at our new report’s release. As a practical matter, winning over rank and file Catholics to official church teachings seems highly improbable; rather, “the question facing the American bishops, who oppose same-sex marriage on doctrinal grounds, is how they will choose to address this momentum.”

At the state level, a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed a majority (52%) of Catholic registered voters in New York support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 56% of New York registered voters overall. And two years after Proposition 8 in 2010, PRRI found that a majority (54%) of Catholics in California say they would now vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 51% of Californians overall.

Looking at the data, it’s difficult to find an issue where the trends are so consistently, even dramatically, in a single direction: towards greater acceptance and support of rights for gay and lesbian Americans. This is true both in the general population and among Catholics. And given the very strong support among younger Catholics for gay and lesbian equality, this trend is likely only to accelerate.

Dr. Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America, summed up the future options for the Catholic Church hierarchy aptly in his remarks during a panel discussion at our new report’s release. As a practical matter, winning over rank and file Catholics to official church teachings seems highly improbable; rather, “the question facing the American bishops, who oppose same-sex marriage on doctrinal grounds, is how they will choose to address this momentum.”

About

Robert P. Jones Dr. Robert P. Jones is the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute and a leading scholar and commentator on religion, values, and public life.
  • PolishBear1

    As someone who was raised in the Catholic faith and belonged to several different Catholic churches over the years, I’m not at all shocked by this survey. There is often a HUGE difference between official Vatican pronouncements and what opinions are held by Catholics at the grassroots level. Most Catholics I know have been vitally interested in social justice, and this is especially illustrated by their work with the poor and downtrodden. Despite official Catholic frowning on artificial birth contol, most Catholics have no problem using condoms or The Pill. And Catholics tend to be FAR more accepting and supportive of their Gay friends, family members, and co-workers than evangelical Protestants tend to be.

    Of course this survey is being attacked by those who call anyone who supports equal treatment for Gay people “Catholic in name only.” That’s ridiculous. There is a great diversity of opinion amongst Catholics with regards of political, social, and even doctrinal issue, but there is NOT a written “Oath of Fealty” that everyone must sign in order to be considered a Catholic in Good Standing.

    This begs the question: Why do Catholics stay in churches in which they have doctrinal disagreements? I suspect the reason Catholics who do not necessarily adhere to ALL official church pronouncements STAY in their churches is because, when they go to Mass on Sunday, they feel like they are participating in a service and litergy that they feel comfortable with. In my own personal experience I never once went to church and heard the priest say, during Homily, “THIS is what the official Vatican position is, and after Mass is over each of you will be expected to sign a statement indicating you agree with it!”

    That’s not what the Catholic Mass is about. It’s about worship and communion with your fellow parishioners, not indoctrination. And unless you feel like you are being actively ostricized by those around you, you do tend to stay in the church that you grew up in and feel the most

  • ChristianFeeney

    Some Catholic news organization are trying to spin the news as flawwed. The reality is that Catholics are smart independent thinkers who don’t need the church shoving hurtful doctrine down our throats. The church must stop this hurtful campaign against our friends and families.

  • ThomasBaum

    TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ1

    You wrote, “The Church is not a democracy, it is a theocracy.”

    Are you speaking of the Catholic religion or Jesus’s Church?

    The Catholic Church actually teaches that the “Church” is not confined to members of the Catholic religion or for that matter to people who are “Christian”.

    The “Church” is not suppose to be any kind of “ocracy” but to be the “Body of Christ” with Christ as the Head, is it not?

    We are all to be “living stones”, are we not?

    You then wrote, “God, not man, decides the teachings of the Church, poll or no poll.”

    Does this include things like “no meat on Fridays”, a mostly unmarried Priesthood and other “rules and regulations” that are simply “add ons”, as it were?

    You also wrote, “There is no legitimate moral choice other than God’s moral laws, period.”

    What about the one and only LAW that Jesus taught us about which happens to be the very Being of God, LOVE?

    Do you really think that Jesus’s “Church” is about all of the rules and regulations and dogma and judging others or being part of God’s Plan for the reconciliation of God and man?

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    I could be wrong but I think that one of the things that Jesus said was, “When the son of man comes, will he find faith?”.

    Interesting question, of course I do take this to mean “faith in God” as opposed to “faith” in one’s religion.

    See you all in the Kingdom.

    Take care, be ready.

    Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • SJames6621

    nothing will change the church but secular bankruptcy. Its morals are already bankrupt.

    But look out – when in the 1500s, the power of the church was challenged, the church gave the world the Inquisition. Estimates range to a quarter million of people who were tortured and burned at the stake for denying the beliefs of the chuch, et the world was flat.

    those people included lots fo good priests, Jews, secualar people and anyone else who dared challenge the church.

    And the Inquistion also continued in Spain unttil the 1830s.

    During the spanish civil war, the church sided with the fascist Francisco Franco. And with the nazis who heavily bombed spain etc etc. as practice for WWII.

    If the Good Catholic people really studied the history of the church, the world would be rid of this anything but catholic and anything but humanitarian organization.

    Faith is faith. Once you chip away a ltitle of it, the church knows the hard questions will come, and the whole edifice will collapse.

    No wonder they choose to continue to live in the 10th century.

    And btw, by having an enemy – now the gays – they blind the people to the church hierarchy’s crimes.

  • SJames6621

    the church is all about power and money. Power brings in the money, and the money buys them power.

    Jesus church has strayed so far from His Teachings that he is probably planning its funeral.

  • IntellectOne

    Anybody that thinks or professes that man on man or woman on woman is equated to a perfect union between one man and one woman should be thrown out of the Roman Catholic Church. Don’t let the door hit their a…ss on the way out. The teachers that do not believe, in the Catholic Churches teaching, are not qualified to teach in a Catholic School.
    Marriage is not to be ‘redefined’.

  • OutofmanyONE

    IntellectOne, disagree with your view under the employee’s rights here in the USA.

  • PolishBear1

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