Research shows Catholics are more accepting of the LGBT community than the general population

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a comprehensive study on the attitude of Catholics on rights for gays and lesbians, and the results were clear: American Catholics are more supportive of civil rights for the LGBT community than the general population.

Nearly three quarters favor employment non-discrimination. Two-thirds believe gays and lesbians should serve openly in the military. Six in 10 think gays should be able to adopt.

Possibly the most surprising statistic was that 63 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage. That’s 10 percent higher than the population in general.

Joseph Bordelon, president of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity Dallas, called those results very encouraging.

“Often we only hear what the bishops say,” he said, noting that the Catholic Church’s official stance is much more anti-gay.

Bordelon said that the survey should have a very positive effect on his group.

“We can incorporate our religion and sexuality,” and find acceptance among other Catholics, he said.

There is a disconnect, Bordelon said, between the hierarchy and the laity. He cited the example of Chicago Cardinal Francis George who recently said that God doesn’t love gays and lesbians.

Before Vatican 2, Bordelon said that Catholics were expected to “pray, pay, obey.”

Now Catholics study more.

“Catholics got to know the tenets of our faith and the why behind those tenets,” he said. “You can’t corral us back anymore.”

Dallas Dignity has been around at least 35 years. The group, whose slogan is “The traditions you love and the acceptance you deserve,” is not welcome to worship in a Catholic Church by order of the Vatican. So they meet at Cathedral of Hope on Sundays at 6 p.m.

But Bordelon said individual members retain ties to their local parishes.

The study result that Bordelon said surprised him the most was that a majority of Catholics do not believe that sexual relations between two men or two women is a sin.

“That one surprised me because the church teaches that sex should be for one thing — procreation,” he said.

But the study found that most heterosexual Catholics don’t believe or practice that in their own lives and possibly translate that to mean the church is wrong in its teachings on homosexuality as well.

Jon Garinn is a former pastor of Dignity Dallas and he agreed that the results of the survey are good. But while he thought this was very positive for LGBT Catholics, he said Dignity might not be the beneficiary.

“Catholics in the United States have always been very independent,” he said.

He said that’s why the church may be against reproductive rights but they can’t expect Nancy Pelosi, who is Catholic, to change laws regarding abortion.

“We’re a lot more tolerant of other viewpoints,” he said.

But Dignity was intended to be a means to an end, Garinn said. The goal was always to fully incorporate LGBT Catholics into the life of the church. As the Catholic Church grows more comfortable with their LGBT members, Garinn believes they will be incorporated into parish life.

“Then all Catholics will be the beneficiary,” he said.