Washington, DC— In an historic convening on Capitol Hill today, prominent Catholics and a leading researcher discussed the strong support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals among Catholic laity. The event was organized to raise awareness among policymakers as they consider legislation that impacts the LGBT community by Equally Blessed, a coalition of Roman Catholic organizations that supports LGBT equality, and supported by the Arcus Foundation.
The event was hosted by Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY). Invited panelist Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, described results from recently released research showing strong support for gay and lesbian rights among Catholics across a range of issues. Catholic panelists included Reverend Bryan Massingale S.T.D., Professor of Theology, Marquette University; Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK; and David Saavedra, Board Co-President, Call To Action. The briefing was moderated by Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, host of the radio program, Interfaith Voices.
“The distinguished voices we heard today confirm that there is a growing base of faithful Catholics who are willing to stand for justice for LGBT people,” stated Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, an Equally Blessed partner. “Catholic teachings insist on the unconditional love for our brothers and sisters. How can we expect the attitude toward LGBT people to be exempt from these principles, especially when many count members of the LGBT community within our own families and parishes?”
The Public Religion Research Institute’s* recently released report, Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: A Comprehensive Portrait from Recent Research, found that the majority of the sixty-four million Catholics in the United States support a number of public policies that extend rights to gay men, lesbians, and their families. The report also shows that 73 percent favor laws that protect gay and lesbian people from workplace discrimination, and 74 percent of Catholics believe that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society. On the legal recognition of same sex relationships, Catholics are more supportive than any other Christian tradition and Americans overall—nearly three-quarters of Catholics favor either marriage or civil unions.
“While there are significant differences between the 38% of Catholics who attend church at least once a week and the majority of Catholics who attend less frequently, rank and file Catholics as a whole are generally more supportive of rights for gays and lesbians than other Christians and the public,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “This support may come as a surprise to many.”
Catholics account for approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population, and their attitudes have basically tracked the general population shift toward a more LGBT-friendly mainstream America, as demonstrated by the recent statutory repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other changes in public policies. Millions of Catholic voices may be inspired by Catholic teachings which have compelled and informed countless social justice movements. According to Reverend Bryan Massingale, promoting social justice is an intrinsically Catholic principle.
“Every Catholic document on social justice declares the equal human dignity of every human being,” said Rev. Bryan Massingale. “Many Catholics – including some who agree with their Church’s moral judgments about same-sex conduct – support legislation that would ensure that gay and lesbian persons have the right to visit sick loved ones and make decisions concerning their care; that would ensure that such students can attend school without the burden of harassment and violence; that would enable them to work and contribute to society without prejudice and discrimination.”
“We as Catholics know that justice is grounded in truth and love. It is this combination that leads us to struggle against injustice and discrimination wherever it occurs. We have been shaped by the pastoral statements of our church including the Bishops statement in 1997 that encouraged us to reach out to lesbian and gay persons and welcome them into our Christian Community. This experience of sharing in communities of faith leads us to know their very real struggles against discrimination. We cannot stand by and watch. Our faith calls us to defend their rights and, as stated in The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 10, ‘strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them,’”said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS.
"Because we are all God's children, I believe we are entitled to love and to be loved; to equality and respect regardless of our gender or sexual orientation," said David Saavedra, Board Co-President, Call To Action, an Equally Blessed partner.
“Equally Blessed endeavors to remind the public about the reality of Catholic public opinion, and to contribute supportive Catholic voices to the discourse on this critical topic of equality,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, another Equally Blessed partner. “This briefing helps set the framework for more visible Catholic involvement in LGBT advocacy.”
Equally Blessedis a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. The coalition includes four organizations that have spent a combined 112 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families: Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.
Founded in 2000 by Jon Stryker, the Arcus Foundation is a leading global foundation advancing pressing social justice and conservation issues. Specifically, Arcus works to advance LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality, as well as to conserve and protect the great apes.
*Note: Public Religion Research Institute is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization specializing in research and education at the intersection of religion, values, and public life. As a research organization, PRRI does not take positions on, nor does it advocate for, particular policies.