Majority of U.S. Catholics back gay rights in survey

March 22, 2011

In spite of, or perhaps because of, Roman Catholic church teachings condemning homosexuality, many lay Catholics in the United States be more accepting toward same-sex relationships than the general public, a new survey found. POPE-USA/

“The big finding here is that American Catholics are at least 5 points more supportive than the general population across a range of gay and lesbian issues,” said Robert Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted telephone surveys of 3,000 Americans.

The survey’s conclusions go against the popular conception that Roman Catholics – the largest U.S. religious denomination at some one in four Americans – are conservative on social issues, said Stephen Schneck of The Catholic University of America, who was asked to comment on the survey by the researchers.

“Catholics appear to like civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage,” Schneck said, suggesting that while Catholics accept the rights of same-sex couples to be together there may be resistance to couples joined in what many see as a sacred rite.

Overall, the survey found 53 percent of Catholics supported the idea of same-sex marriage, while the general public is evenly divided on the issue. Fifty-six percent of Catholics did not believe sexual relations between two adults of the same gender constituted a sin, compared to 46 percent of the general population.

Sixty percent of Catholics favored adoption rights for same-sex couples, 49 percent think gays should be allowed to be ordained as clergy, and 73 percent believe they should have legal protections in the workplace – all higher percentages than found in the general population, PRRI said.

There was a powerful generation gap found in the survey, with Catholics under 35 much more liberal than those 65 and older. The influx of Hispanic Catholics into the U.S. church in recent years did not skew the results, as the young newcomers were divided between liberal and conservative views of homosexuality.

American Catholics also tended to be more liberal than evangelical and mainline Protestants, the researchers said.

The conclusions fit with a strong pattern of liberalism among Catholics that stands in opposition to the church hierarchy, said Michele Dillon, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire asked by researchers to comment. There has been a gulf on social issues between church teachings and the American laity since the mid-1970s on subjects such as abortion, divorce without an annulment, premarital sex and artificial contraception.

“Catholics make up their own minds about these moral issues irrespective – or almost in spite of – what the bishops and official church teachings say,” Dillon said.

Catholics tend not to like or even may resent having politics in church, Dillon said. The survey found about one-quarter of church-going Catholics reported hearing about homosexuality in church – a much lower proportion than in Protestant churches. Two-thirds of the messages about homosexuality in church were negative.

Dillon said the poll is unlikely to sway the church hierarchy.

“I don’t think we should expect the Catholic bishops to stand back” on social issues, she said. “They’re not going to be distracted by any sort of polls. For the next few years, there will be a lot of activism … to keep at bay the movement of laws in favor of same-sex marriage.” (Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters 2008. Popemobile in front of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral)


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Posted by Majority of U.S. Catholics back gay rights in survey | FaithWorld … | MyGaySpot | Report as abusive

…and the evidence to support these claims is……?

Posted by waltinvt | Report as abusive

What, homosexual behavior is a sin?? In our parish the only sin is being judgmental. That apparently is the sin God cannot forgive. As for sexual sins, forget them. If the gospel refers to them you can bet the homily will be focused on the other readings. And vice-versa. After mass at my parish I go home and listen to the preaching on EWTN.

Posted by Kmbold | Report as abusive

Interesting that Reuters failed to report on what constitutes a “Catholic”. It’s well known that the second most numerous religious denomination in the US, after Catholics, is “former” Catholics. Many of these continue to self-identify as Catholic even though they no longer practice the faith. These survey figures cannot be properly considered unless a distinction is made between “practicing” and “casual” or weekly Mass attendees and occasional Mass attendees. It’s misleading, to say the least, to represent that a majority of “Catholics” disagree with/ignore Church teaching on social and sexual issues.

Posted by DJ32 | Report as abusive

So, in reality, this poll shows what the Bible said would happen. Apostasy. A majority of Catholics are apostaste. When will our priests start preaching the truth and perhaps start teaching that being Catholic means obedience, not rebellion?

Posted by lidiapurple | Report as abusive

[…] recently a friend on my private FB page posted a link to a story about how a lot more Catholics, in the under 35 age range, support LGBT equal rights. One of the first comments to her link was “Does the Pope know about this?”. I saw this […]

Posted by Are We Hypocrits? | The Pagan Mom Blog | Report as abusive

Let’s be clear here. CINOs may back gay rights but practing Catholics do not.

Posted by yamslinger | Report as abusive

[…] – More pro-Catholic news with MORE poll numbers…vey -catholics/ – Poll number dispute…o-g ay-marriage – Other poll number […]

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Posted by NY Gay Marriage Vote and the American Bishops – Page 16 – Christian Forums | Report as abusive

[…] Polls can be misleading, granted.  But HERE’S ONE STUDY: […]

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