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Can 'true Catholics' support same-sex marriage?
Ex-priest Jim Smith, opponent of Minnesota's ballot to ban same-sex marriages, says these are difficult days to be Catholic.
June 20th, 2012
09:35 AM ET

Can 'true Catholics' support same-sex marriage?

By Chris Welch, CNN

Minneapolis (CNN) - Jim Smith is a former Roman Catholic priest who left his post with the church 10 years ago. He's an ex-priest for several reasons, he says, but one of his main concerns was the church's stance against same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues.

But Smith remains a Catholic - though he says being a Catholic who actively campaigns for legalized same-sex marriages can be difficult these days.

"I'd much rather this wasn't happening," Smith says of the division that the issue has created among Minnesota  Catholics. "But it does provide some real opportunities because it challenges us to talk to each other, Catholics talking to other Catholics."

Minnesota has become the newest epicenter in the same-sex marriage fight. This November, voters will decide whether they want an amendment added to the state's constitution that would ban marriage between members of the same sex.

Smith will be voting "no." And he has helped spearhead efforts in the state to persuade other Catholics to do the same.

A group he helped form,  Catholics for Marriage Equality-Minnesota, aims "to encourage Catholics to consider the profound sacredness of same-gender relationships and to defeat this marriage amendment," Smith says.

Vatican edicts against same-sex marriage often give Catholic same-sex marriage supporters the impression they're in the minority.

Related story: Same-sex marriage by the numbers 

But a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) suggests 59% of American Catholics support rights allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. One reason behind that statistic - says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones - is because U.S. Catholics "overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed." A PRRI poll bears that out – with 69% of Catholics nationwide saying a person's sexual orientation cannot be changed.

In the Midwest alone, Catholics are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage -– with 46% in favor, 47% against.

Opinion: GOP support for same-sex marriage growing

Related story: Both sides re-energized for upcoming same-sex marriage fight

Like Jim Smith, Michelle LaFrance is a Catholic who has also taken the bold step against the church in support of marriage equality.

"I remember thinking 'wow, maybe I shouldn't [remain a Catholic],' " LaFrance said. Ultimately they've remained with the Catholic faith, citing its many positive aspects including going to church. It's an important weekly ritual for LaFrance, her husband and their three kids.

"The Catholic Church, despite the media [attention] it typically gets, does a lot of great things, a lot of great social justice," LaFrance said. She noted the church "feeds the poor, houses the homeless, takes care of the abused."

The LaFrance family belongs to the Church of St. Margaret Mary in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, a congregation which LaFrance describes as fairly progressive. She says the majority of her fellow parishioners agree with her stance on same-sex marriage.

But when LaFrance hears the archdiocese telling people how they should think about it, she can't help but sometimes feel like less of a Catholic.

"I don't think anybody - whatever their religious denomination - whole-heartedly follows every single rule down to the letter."

Related story: U.S. history of same-sex marriage

On the other side of the debate stands Dave Deavel.

Although he agrees with LaFrance to an extent, he says he believes there are certain pillars of the Catholic faith that people should follow. One of those is the church stance that marriage should remain between one man and one woman.

"The whole point of what the church teaches is to form people's consciences," Deavel says.

For Deavel, his wife and their five children, attending church is so important they strive to go multiple times a week.

He's active with Minnesota for Marriage, which supports of the same-sex-marriage ban, and has written various blog posts on the topic for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Asked whether he believes a person can be "less of a Catholic" for disagreeing with the church, Deavel says the Vatican "doesn't really have a certain category for 'less of a Catholic.' "

"But they certainly don't represent what the church teaches," he said. "Is it a spiritual problem? I think yes."

Opinion: The secret gay agenda

In a written statement the MCC said groups such as Catholics for Marriage Equality "do not have any right to call their organizations 'Catholic.'"

In the past, the conference has issued statements accusing Catholics for Marriage Equality of trying "to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic church teaching" on marriage.

"Catholics for Marriage Equality MN attempts to convince Catholics that they can be in good standing with the church and oppose church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union," said an MCC statement.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis declined CNN's request for an interview, but it agreed with sentiments expressed by the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Does church doctrine make it impossible for same-sex marriage supporters to be true Catholics?

"There is no judgment intended about an individual's 'Catholicity' or 'Catholic-ness,' " says MCC spokeswoman Jessica Zittlow.

Minnesota's November ballot proposal to ban same-sex marriage isn't an amendment against LGBT individuals, say the MCC and the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese. Instead, they say it should strictly be viewed as an amendment supporting traditional marriage.

For ex-priest Jim Smith, grappling with the issue has been difficult - a personal struggle that extends to the heart of his faith.

The inner conflict between what Smith believes is right and his love for the church has pushed him to consider leaving the Catholic religion altogether.

In the end, Smith vows he will stay. "It's in my bones."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Christianity • Faith • Minnesota • Politics • Polls • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (2,849 Responses)
  1. Tony

    The solution is to simply end marriage licensing. Marriage is a private contract between 2 people. There is no need for a state to sanction it.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • pk

      So long as tax incentives are involved with being married there is a need for the state to sanction it.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Scott

    Honestly, if you care about what other people do in there bedroom you are a complete loser.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  3. John McNay

    As a practicing Catholic, I can say that these numbers reflect the population I'm familiar with in Cincinnati. The key problem here is that this is only important in some Catholic circles because the Republicans are using this as a wedge issue. They have been successful with this for years. This is all about politics and has very little to do with doctrine. As the Republican Party's influence within the church wanes in the future with the new immigration, this too will change.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Brubaker15

      Preposterous! If you're unable to accept the teachings of the church, the solution is quite simple: Just leave. The whole point of being a member of an organized religion is to become one with the teachings and culture of that religion.

      CNN and other leftist organizations love to run these bogus stories in an attempt to convey the notion that the church is wrong to believe what it has taught for more than two millennia. Maybe, just maybe, it's CNN that is wrong.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Alice

      Actually John McNay, the numbers in California tell a different story. Latin and African-American voters rejected changing the definition of marriage. You are right that is only important in some circles. Not everyone has thought deeply about it. It sounds "fair" to let anyone marry anyone they choose and on the basis of perceived fairness, many people – Catholic and not – shrug their shoulders and say "why not?". It is not "driving a wedge issue" to stand up for what you believe.

      June 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  4. rplat

    If you can't live with the Church's doctrine and policies, then get out. You can't pretend to be a Catholic then attempt to change the religion to suit your personal hedonistic desires.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • pk

      Most people have no problems living outside the churches doctrines and policies.. Problem is the church and so many the its followers believe that everyone should have to live according to those doctrines and policies, regardless of belief.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • funhouse

      I agree I would call them protestant's. Isn't that where they came from. Not being harsh but I'm real sure that's what it's about. If I'm wrong please prove it.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Chant81

      The church does not decide.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  5. Alan

    Second day in a row of Catholic bashing stories. I can't wait to see what CNN is cooking up for tomorrow.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      Feeling a bit put upon, Al?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Carosi

      Here is one: The list of accused Catholic child molesters.
      http://bishop-accountability.org/priestdb/PriestDBbylastName-A.html

      June 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • David

      I don't view this as Catholic bashing. In fact, my respect for Catholics in the U.S. increases everytime I read an article that shows that the typical American Catholic appeals to his/her conscience over that of the pope (of whom I have zero respect).

      June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  6. davetharave

    How would Jesus have handled it ? That's the only question anyone has to ask, including any and all church leaders.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Tony

      He would love the sinner but hate the sin.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • sam

      He would love the believer but hate the belief.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  7. rep

    i love watching all these religions make themselves less and less relevant in a changing world.
    praise the lord! lol

    June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • John

      I cannot tell you how much I agree with you. I say we let em wipe themselves out as more and more people realize how full of nada they are.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  8. John

    7 Catholics in my family and we all support gay marriage. We also support women priests. The pope has no special communication with God that the rest of us don't. He is a man. If some thing feels wrong or unjust then I think the man upstairs would think it so also. Stop letting other men tell you what to do and use the common sense God gave you.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  9. QS

    The only group in this country that is granted "special rights", is religion.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  10. Melanie Ropper

    Who cares what CAFFLICKS think about anything? I sure don't.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  11. epluribus

    CNN continues to condone perversion

    June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      A majority of Americans support perversion too, and some of them call themselves "Christians". Jesus said you shall know them by their fruit. Perverted fruit is not of God.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • CP

      And epluribus continues to have a book written by ancient, sand-dwelling herders govern his morality.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • ErickMN

      If only CNN condoned idiocy. Then you could work there! Until then, crawl back under your rock and stay there.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      Right, better to hide altarboy mounting priests

      June 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam

      Perversion? I don't know...I heard eating shellfish is a perversion too. You should go over to the food blog and take that up with them.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  12. Joe T

    You go Cnn. Picking on the Catholic's again. What's new ?

    June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  13. howard

    Just admit it CNN. You hate the catholic church. You make all priest out to be pervs. There are pervs in every walk of life. we all know the majority of you are jews. keep hating on catholics. we are not going anywhere.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you're Catholic, howie, someone from your parish should get you to shut up. You make your religion look even worse than it already does.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Tom

      I see you are continuing with that infallible logic of yours. (sic)

      June 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Carosi

      You sound like a bitter Catholic who misses being an alter boy too much.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Jen

      There are pervs in every walk of life. What you do not see is the people they work with being complicit with it.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • CP

      I dunno, I read this as a story about a Catholic who is choosing to love thy neighbor. Where I see positivity and hope, you see negativity and hate.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Gay man in SF

    I appreciate CNN posting all of these aritcles in its effort to promote the gay agenda. We know we have CNN on our side.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • howard

      you would like it more if they were behind you

      June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • John

      And I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • sam

      Howard thinks about gay sex more than any gay person I've ever met.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  15. funhouse

    Really I don't think these numbers are correct. You are talking to a man who left his position because his did not agree with the chruch. Does martin luther come to mind. He did not leave the church because he did not agree with it, he was thrown out, and it mostly had to do with devorce. My big question is, What is the big deal in getting married when you are gay? What I would like to see is some law that states if someone lives in your home they can get medical coverage and visit you in the hospital when you are ill. This would help us all out. We could then take care of our parents and get coverage.

    Where does this stop? Why only two people? If gay men or gay woman can marry why not two men and a woman? Why not one man and six women? It's the same principal. I really don't know why this issue has not come up yet.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      <artin Luther left because he did not agree with the church selling indulgences.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  16. mudbone93

    Sure...why not! Most of the priests are either gay or pedophiles anyway. They should feel right at home.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      And you've done a scientific survey to verify that, o bigoted one?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. Ken

    You're Catholic if you choose to be – forget about the Pope. You can make it even easier – go Episcopal!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Phyllis

      Yes, I agree and have. Raised RC attended mass regularly. Stopped going to Church when my child came out. Refused to financially support an organization who considered my child an abomination. Tried reaching out to several priests to discuss my decision. None of them had the time to call me back. Also tried to discuss on a Catholic website...believe it was Catholicforum.com....This site deleted my password when I wanted to discuss the church's position.

      Took me about a year and finally reached out to an Episcopal church. I now enjoy attending mass again and have renewed my relationship with God.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  18. Satan

    There was originally only one Catholic, and he refused to allow his followers to take two small copper coins from his most faithful parishonner. I would find it welcome, however, that a "Holy Church" would be driven to apostolate for the ends of a budget of physical value. That makes the Soul of Man much less dear!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  19. Joe T

    Chris, you are right. Point the finger at some of the other religeons besides the Catholic Church. I would like to know what religeon Chris Welch from CNN actually is ? Probably an aetheist.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Tom

      It is funny when people try to use 'atheist' as a derogatory term.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • John

      Perhaps but the fact that he knows how to spell gives him one up on you.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Derek

      It's also funny how atheists try to use religious as a negative term. Atheists think they are better than people who believe in some religion that they are more enlightened or w/e, but they aren't. Atheists try to say how bigoted Catholics are when they are practicing that bigotry in their own statements.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  20. wolfpackbob

    CNN is Catholic-baiting again. What a surprise.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.