Do Roman Catholics support LGBT Rights?

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute has demonstrated that more Catholics support marriage rights for same-sex couples than do other Christians (43%, while 31% support civil unions). A full 70% of Catholics surveyed believe that the words of their priests in sermons can contribute to the suicides of LGBT teenagers. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about these findings – particularly in terms of those Anglicans who would flee to Rome in their opposition to full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of Christ’s church.

Catholic commentator Paul Gorrell is not terribly surprised at these findings. “While conventional wisdom says that Catholics are generally conservative, those who understand Catholic culture aren’t terribly surprised,” observes Gorrell. He suggests five reasons why Catholics are more open to LGBT rights:

1. Catholics have an underlying commitment to social justice built upon a prominent liberal notion that we are meant to serve each other and pay attention to those who suffer most within our society. Says Gorrell, “Catholics get the fact that LGBT folks face social injustice in a society based on hetero-normative structures, so it should come as no shock that they’d respond with compassion and a strong sense of justice.” I would hope that all Anglicans would get it too.

2. Catholics love ritual. This includes marriage, considered a full sacramental act by Catholics. “Like every sacrament, core symbols show the power of the transcendent experience.”  Denying a ritual celebrating a fundamental human experience to anyone who wishes to enter into this relational transcendence does not pass the “smell test”of justice-minded Catholics, observes Gorrell.

3. Catholics believe in both individuality and community. Gorrell maintains that Catholics are highly pragmatic when it comes to moral decision making. Their thinking is not dictated by “blind obedience” to the teaching of the “Church”. Thinking Catholics, too, appeal to Scripture in the light of Reason.

4. Catholics are highly skeptical of the sexual teaching of their Church. In this whole area, reflects Gorrell, “Catholics have largely ignored the official teaching of the Church on sexual relations within marriage and outside marriage….You might say that Catholics responded with a collective eye roll at their Church’s leaders when they failed to allow for condoms in Africa within marriages when one of the spouses had HIV. On this, the church teaching was unrealistic, rigid, and irresponsible.” May we, as Anglicans, avoid the creation of such occasions of collective eye-rolling at our leadership.

5. The pedophilia crisis undermines any teaching which denies LGBT rights. The whole crisis of priestly sexual sin is a cause worthy of a robust debate among Catholics according to Gorrell. We can certainly broaden that conviction to our society at large. “LGBT folks who are striving for personal joy without losing personal integrity are an interesting juxtaposition to those who have official authority to teach about sexuality while practicing it in the shadows,” warns Gorrell, himself a former Catholic priest.

Whether you agree with Gorrell’s reasoning or not, Catholic thinking on these issues is complex, as is Anglican thinking. I offer you Gorrell’s thoughts as a further invitation to stimulate your own thought processes.  Let’s, as faithful Anglicans and followers of Jesus, continue to engage in the kind serious dialogue  Gorrell hints at which will lift us above stereotypes and superficial understandings – of ourselves and of others. Above all, let us continue in the love of Christ and abide in on-going faithfulness to the Scriptural challenge to allow our minds and our hearts be renewed by the God who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine – even when it comes to the thorniest issues that confront us.

Deacon Steve

Rev. Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the administrators of nwanglicanblog. He always invites your responses and your contributions. If you would like to submit a blog article for consideration, please contact

reference: Paul Gorrell, “5 Reasons We Shouldn’t Be Surprised that Catholics Support LGBT Rights”, Religion Dispatches, March, 2011. Gorrell’s original article can be found at by clicking on the Archives.

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