A new Pew Research Center survey of American LGBT people and their responses to religion deserves close reading, for its extensive analysis of our community’s experience of the churches, and how it has influenced our responses to religion.
For Catholics for example, the study of 1,197 LGBT adults found that 79 percent of those questioned rated Catholicism as “unfriendly” to LGBT people. In a commentary at Huffington Post, the executive director of Dignity, Marianne Duddy – Burke, described the parallel finding that only 4 percent view our church as “friendly” as providing an “abysmal assessment of the Catholic Church”. Nevertheless, she continues, it is inaccurate to describe the church as a whole as unfriendly. In sharp contrast to the notoriously tone – deaf statements and actions of some bishops, the situation on the ground, as shown by direct support by Catholic politicians, experience in many parishes, and findings from other surveys, is quite different. The real problem with the Catholic Church, she says, is its “split personality”.
A new Pew Research Center study provides an abysmal assessment of the Catholic Church for those of us who value LGBT inclusion in our faith communities. In a study of 1,197 LGBT adults released on June 13, 2013, 79 percent of those questioned rated Catholicism as “unfriendly” to LGBT people. Only 4 percent view our church as “friendly.”
This is probably not surprising to many, due to the long list of anti-LGBT statements, actions and positions promoted by leaders of the Catholic Church, both here in the U.S. and across the globe in recent decades. Even as the study was being released, word of Pope Francis’ acknowledgement of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican and his linkage of that phrase with corruption among church leaders raised anxiety among LGBT Catholics. We wonder what it is we’ll be blamed for this time, even as media representatives and others scramble to interpret what the pope meant in his speech.
However, for those of us who identify as Catholic and LGBT, as supportive family members, or simply as ordinary Catholics dismayed by the Pew survey’s findings, it raises at least two key challenges. First, it forces us to question how these numbers can coexist with other national surveys that repeatedly demonstrate that U.S. Catholics support civil rights for LGBT people at levels higher than any other denomination, and that relatively few Catholics view same-sex relationships as sinful. For example, in a March 2011 study by Public Religion Research Institute, 71 percent of Catholics supported civil marriage for same-sex couples, and only 39 percent said homosexual behavior was morally wrong.H
– continue reading at Huffington Post
Particularly depressing in her description of the bishops’ response, is her statement that since Cardinal Dolan’s highly publicised statement that the Church needs to be more welcoming to LGBT Catholics and his accompanying admission that he does not have any ideas on how to achieve this – he has not even bothered to respond to repeated requests for a meeting. How on earth can you even hope to extend a real welcome to a community, if you are not prepared to meet with their representatives?
In addition, we are challenged to revisit episodes like Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Easter statements that the church needs to be more welcoming to lesbian and gay people. Since his statements to that effect on two national television news shows, the cardinal has failed to respond to invitations from several groups of Catholics involved in ministry with LGBT Catholics and our families to talk about what a more welcoming church might look like.
Dismal as this response is, Catholics must always remember that the Bishops do not in fact represent the Church. They have the titles and hold the offices of leadership, but in practice, real leadership in the Church comes from below. Instead of waiting for a real and authentic welcome from above, we must create our own welcome in our parishes and other faith communities, out and proud as openly gay or lesbian Catholics,. Make our presence known and felt, and in time, even the bishops will follow.