New research destroys the claim that Catholics who support marriage equality somehow don’t count because they’re not regular Mass – goers. A Quinnipiac survey has found that even those who attend Mass once a week, support gay marriage, by a substantial margin.
That Catholics in general favour marriage equality, and do not even regard homosexual relationships as a moral issue, is not new. There have been many surveys in the past, to show this, and the degree to which Catholic support exceeds that of the population as a whole, and how support is growing steadily. The Quinnipiac result however, is more than usually significant, for its context: Pope Francis’ recent warning that the Church should be less obsessive about gay marriage, contraception and abortion. and in demonstrating that Catholics support now extends across all demographic sub-groups, Even in the oldest age group, there is at least a plurality of Catholics in support of gay marriage;
The all – important context of the research, was a broader assessment of American responses to the new pope, which found that an overwhelming majority of US Catholics, almost 90%, have at least a “favourable” opinion of Pope Francis, Only a tiny 4% have an unfavourable view of him – and those few are more likely NOT to be regular Mass – goers. The conservative claim that only those attending Mass frequently should count as “real” Catholics is fallacious (we need to consider also, just why they are not attending), but by their own standards, “real” Catholics are more likely than others to have a “very favourable” view of the pope – by 46% of regular Mass – goers, compared with 29% of other Catholics.
On the specific point of Pope Francis’ recent statement that “the church has become too focused on issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives”, a strong majority agree, by 68% to 23% (almost three to one). That extent of agreement was found fairly uniformly across all demographic sub-groups, This research demonstrates conclusively that those Catholics who continue to rant obsessively about these issues, including some US bishops, are not only out of line with Pope Francis’ own thinking and leadership – they are also out of touch with their own people. Those Catholics who continue to actively oppose LGBT equality and inclusion, in marriage and in church, are a vociferous but tiny minority. That should have been obvious for years, to any one willing to look at the evidence – but from the Pope, and from hard research, we now have the evidence to put it beyond doubt.
This matters. Fully orthodox teaching is that the Church must take due account and regard tor the findings of both natural and social science – and that includes the findings of social surveys, such as the Quinnipiac and similar opinion polls.
Along with his earlier statement during the celebrated in – flight press conference that gay men and lesbians in the Church should not be “marginalized”, as also in his long interview with Jesuit magazines, Francis also spoke of the need to look afresh at the pastoral needs of divorced and remarried Catholics. This was a topic due for discussion by the advisory group of eight cardinals meeting this week, and will be the subject of some form of longer investigation of “the marital state” promised by Pope Francis, for later. The focus of that longer investigation will certainly be conventional, heterosexual marriage, but it is inconceivable that any thorough analysis, taking full and proper account of all the findings of social science and social surveys on marriage and human sexuality, can simply ignore considerations of same – sex relationships.
Pope Francis is clear that he has no intention of changing church teaching, and nothing he has said so far in any way conflicts with any iota of doctrine. It is however, abundantly clear that whether intended or not, for gay and lesbian Catholics, the church is already changing in front of us. For now, that change is only in pastoral practice, but change in formal teaching will certainly follow. In the real world, changes in praxis come before changes in doctrine, and lead to it – not the other way around.
- Jon Stewart: Pope Francis and the GOP–Two Holy Conduits No Longer on Same Page (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Poll: U.S. Catholics Agree With Pope, Say Church Too Fixated With Social Issues (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- Pope Francis: Catholic Church Is Too ‘Obsessed’ With Abortion, Birth Control, And Gay Marriage | ThinkProgress (thinkprogress.org)
- Poll: Catholics agree with Pope Francis that church is ‘obsessed’ with moral issues (religionnews.com)
- Pope Francis: Church Shouldn’t ‘Interfere Spiritually’ With LGBT Lives (advocate.com)
- U.S. Catholics: Up with Francis, disagree with bishops (seattlepi.com)
- U.S. Catholics back Pope Francis on changing church’s focus (newageoftruth.wordpress.com)
- Cardinal George’s Unenthusiastic Take on the Pope’s Interview (commonwealmagazine.org)