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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. J

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore. Everyone is turning away from God just because they can't see him, and doesn't see him working.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Bob

      If you can't see him working, how do you know that it is God working? How do you know it's not Satan, or a giant purple invisible Salamander from Jupiter?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • humberto

      the fifth seal

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • J

      Because I trust him.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Casey

      I see God working in our nation as we continue to eliminate discrimination and injustice and truly treat all of our brothers as ourselves.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • J

      I agree Casey. I don't like hom.o.se.xuality at all, but I don't hate on the people themselves. No one should hate them unless they have a true reason.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • chris5930

      Its very interesting. Christians get criticized and mocked for a God they can see. What about all the atheist they fear a God they don't believe in?? Mind boggling isn't it? Not really just sad!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • J

      Chris,

      What is that supposed to mean?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • sam

      I read J's post in Professer Farnsworth's voice.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • John

      possibly the stupitest post I've ever read. Ever heard "where two or more are gathered in my name I am there"? don't be so worried if "everyone is turning away from god" they are not turning away from God, what many people are doing is turning away from the hypocracies of ORGANIZED religion. The catholic church has got a lot to answer for; pederastic priests for example. When St. Peter said on this rock I will build my church, if he knew what was going to happen in that church (the borgias, corruption, the crusades etc. etc.) he wouldn't have bothered. it is not God that has become the "enemy" it is the corruption of organized religions that speak for god, and might I add, Jesus christ was against the organized religion (the pharasies in the jewish faith) and look what happened to him, read the gospel according to luke. signed a lapsed catholic that had read the bible thoroughly and according to some may go to hell but will wait for judgement day with confidence that I can launch a good defense.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • J

      John,

      That's true. I am a Christian, and I don't completely agree with Catholics either, but people still are turning away from God.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  2. BSS

    I'm still puzzled why "true catholics" support a church that was complicit in hiding abuse of children.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • MK

      I have an aunt who was abused by a priest and still goes to church faithfully. How? Why??

      June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • David B

      How true. The church needs to clean up its act before judging others!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • chris5930

      A true Christian would not jugde someone! They would understand that they are a sinner saved by grace! We all fall short of the glory of God.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • chris5930

      Let me rephrase that because I am wrong.... A true believer not a true Christian.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  3. piejei

    Same question: can true Catholics favor a civil marriage? So, one which is not in front of God, but is performed in front of the state and the community?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  4. RC012

    Why does CNN always have articles that criticize the Catholic Church and make it look like the Church has very few believers? I would appreciate it if CNN wouldn't always focus on the relationship of a minority of people to the Church. These daily articles that bash the Catholic Church have made me, and I imagine many others, look elsewhere for unbiased articles.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  5. robert M Kraus Sr

    Chris Welch is a liar. There is no such person as Jim Smith . . . or Michelle LaFrance . . . . or Dave Deavel either. This article is a total fabrication, made up by CNN.

    r m kraus/akron

    June 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jeff

      You are either part of a specific religious sect or you are not. You cannot just alter your views on a particular subject that your religious sect has firm stances on and expect that you are still part of a particular religious sect. If you profess to be Catholic you must follow all thier views on subjects and if you chose not to then you are no longer Catholic. It's pretty simple and I'm not even a religious person for crying out loud....

      June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • JMR

      Actually, Father Jim used to be my priest, so he does exist

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Greenspam

    Jesus said that the rich won't go to heaven:

    “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

    So how can one claim they are true Catholics and pro rich people at the same time – hence the contradiction known as the Republican party.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Greenspam

      16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?”

      17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

      18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

      Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

      20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

      21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

      22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

      23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  7. RichardSRussell

    A "true Catholic", like a "true Christian", is whoever Jesus SAYS is one. Unless and until he shows up in person to settle all issues, nobody else's word on the subject is any good at all. For my money, anyone who claims to be a Catholic IS a Catholic.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • jon

      thank you richard, i completely agree

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  8. Johnson

    Of course we can support it. Marriage was a contract for centuries. No problem here with various religions blessing it, making rules as to who they will bless or making it a sacrament. It was never stated in the Gospels as a sacrament. In today's society it is a binding contract which can or need not be made in a Church. I'm Catholic and many of the people who attend Mass are Gay/Lesbian. They have accepted the limitations of "man's mind" even though women should be included in this decision making. Were the women kicked out of the room during the Last Supper when the Priesthood was bestowed on everyone present. I doubt it. So the important message is more one of love than of gender.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  9. whatajoke

    The entire cult should be disbanded and put in the basement with our crazy uncle

    June 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  10. andyst

    True to form CNN has tried to create an issue. Being part of a church is accepting its teachings. Therefore you cannot pick an choose which ones you like, just as it says in the article there is not such thing as less of a catholic.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • MK

      Do you use birth control?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • QS

      "Being part of a church is accepting its teachings. Therefore you cannot pick an choose which ones you like..."

      Oh the irony! LOL!

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

      The answer is no, but really is that the best you could come up with?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • BSS

      Catholics "pick and choose" the teachings they chose to abide by every day. I have not met a Catholic yet the completely follows church doctrine.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • jon

      if this was the case, then there would be no religions as we are all imperfect humans and cannot follow all rules.

      ell, jesus maybe...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • MK

      Never, ever???

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • sam

      andyst, you've NEVER wrapped your whopper?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  11. howard

    God Bless each and everyone one of you!

    June 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • chris5930

      I like Howard!!! THat is the best thing that has been said on these posts!!!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  12. whatajoke

    delusion |di'lo?oZH?n|
    noun
    an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder: the delusion of being watched.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Angee

      exactly

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

      religion:

      – a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.

      cult:

      – a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal.

      Having trouble determining the difference here.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  13. whatajoke

    re·li·gion noun \ri-'li-j?n\
    A mass human psychosis that usually results in participants believing in incredibly silly crap and acting like total retards.

    religion is actually a personal relationship with stupidity...in its favor, it does provide a constant stream of laughter and embarrassment

    June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • J

      How exactly?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • ISFG04

      This discussion is not a place for your, and your fellow atheists' bigotry.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • jon

      you sound like a moron... do i associate all athiests as morons? no, i do not. everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe. i respect that. what is wrong with respecting someone's beliefs in religion? i support this and yet you bash religion???

      June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  14. MKS

    I cannot believe for a minute that the majority of Catholics believe in gay marriage. CNN had best make something else their agenda.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • smitvict

      I'm sure that you can't believe for a minute that the vast majority of catholics support reproductive freedom either, but they do. Because the vast majority of catholics are not stuck in the 1950s driving their Desoto automobiles.

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

      MKS – CNN is quoting a poll. It does not mean they have an agenda.

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

      I could definitely see the majority believing in it. While the Magisterium has hostile feelings, perhaps it's already done too good a job in teaching love and tolerance and a sense of hesitation about others-condemnation (Romans 2:1 on), coupled with the teachings on Primacy of Conscience.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • ISFG04

      Agreed!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • jon

      i believe they can... i know many who do myself... i believe they believe in equality mainly because they have a relative that is gay... i am a christian and i realize that i am not perfect and i realize that no catholic priest is perfect... why judge others who are not perfect? what gives you the right to put yourself in God's shoes and judge other human beings. leave the judging to God and God alone. besides, this is a legal issue is it not? seperation of church and state should result in the gov't passing a law if it is voted for. but i'm sure someone will twist it and mix the two together...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • chefdugan

      To be a "true" catholic one must be incredibly stupid and self-delusional. All those idiotic rules and ceremonies, a leader who wears dresses, his buddies busy molesting children, the reliegion is an obcenity.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    The Catholic Church's dogma pertaining to marriage is short and sweet:
    Marriage is a true and proper Sacrament insti.tuted by God.
    From the sacramental contract of marriage emerges the Bond of Marriage, which binds both marriage partners to a lifelong indivisible community of life.
    The Sacrament of Matrimony bestows sanctifying grace on the contracting parties.

    Nothing in there about "one man, one woman".

    June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Casey

      Doc Vestibule – Well said!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • OMG

      Leviticus 20:13 (KJV)

      13) If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

      AND CATHOLICISMS ARE ACCEPTING GAY PRIESTS & MARRIAGES !! VATICAN'S & POPES ARE TO BLAME.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If you base your morality on Leviticus, that would make you a Hasidic Jew and not Christian.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • jon

      omg, tell me what Jesus says about it in the new test...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  16. whatajoke

    Top Ten Signs You're a Catholic in Name Only
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Al lah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some id iot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" catholicism
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, catholicism and church history – but still call yourself a Catholic

    June 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • BSS

      LOL! Very well said!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  17. OMG

    Catholicisms are ALL lies!! The Bible cleary talks about gay's taking part in the lake of fire but no catholic priest would preach it. Even Popes & Nuns are fornicating!! lol

    June 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Matt

    What would one expect from the church of the pedofile.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • chris5930

      I don't believe in Catholicism, but its interesting to see all the stereotyping going on!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    A Question For The Catholics:
    Catholic Dogma states that after the birth of Jesus, Mary remained a vir/gin.
    But the Bible has several references to Christ's family, including His siblings.
    "While He was still speaking to the mult/itudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You."
    Matthew 12:46-47
    "Is not this the carpenters son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?"
    Matthew 13:55

    That means that either Mary had several more miraculous pregnancies, or she and Joseph behaved like a normal married couple and she did not remain a vir/gin until the day God transported her bodily to Heaven.
    So which is it?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • jon

      when i refer to other christians, i refer to them as brothers and sisters in Christ... not sure if this is the same logic, but it is a possibility. i understand that God had a hand in the creation of the Bible but i'm not so sure if we as humans fudged the translation...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  20. Joan

    OF COURSE, the Church can back gay marriage. Half or more of the priest are gays or pedifiles. What kind of a pretend society are we? The church is so sinful, protecting these priests then when they retire does that stop them from continueing their pursuit of young boys? NO

    June 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • OMG

      I agree!!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • prussian11

      Do not confuse the personal sins of priests and the greed of men over time (because I agree there have been significant contradictions within the Catholic Church over the years) with the expectations of a CHRISTIAN.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
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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.