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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. Argonaut

    The whole idea that out of an infinitely large universe with trillions of galaxies and trillions of trillions of stars, there is an idea that there is one god who can see it all, created it all, and really gives a rats derrier about the sins of one person, I find completely absurd. How can anyone with half a brain believe that?

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

      Simple – those who believe it traded more than half their brain for their indoctrination.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • K from AZ

      And your basis, besides your obvious 'intellect', for that conclusion is . . ? ps. Thenperhaps you could enlight us mortals to how the first 'atom' came into existance or is matter eternal.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      We don't know the answer to that K from AZ.

      The only difference between critical thinkers and believers on that score, is that believers make up stuff about what happened, and the rest of us are waiting until we discover the real answer, and are just fine with the possibility that it may never be discovered.

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

      Kay to Zee. it's called the Big Bang. Were you standing too close?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Greenspam

      But if there are trillions and trillions of planets out there in space, how come we have not been able to observe any sign of intelligence out there besides us? Read up on Fermi Paradox.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  2. QS

    "It’s very hard not to appear condescending when you’re trying to explain something to an idiot."

    June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. pablo

    A true Catholic or any Christian for that matter can't support the gay agenda.

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

      I absolutely agree with you Pablo. And that's why I'm not a Catholic, or a Christian.

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

      And what is the "gay agenda" ?

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

      Can a true Catholic/Christian support rich people?

      Because in Matthew 19-23, Jesus said:

      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 3:15 pm |
    • QS

      A truly rational, reasonable person cannot support the religious agenda.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • jim tom

      You're a tool. You don't get to decide what other people can or can't believe.

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

      Pablo, please explain your straight agenda.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • robert

      thats so true im with you 100% i was a Catholic all to my late 20's i'm a proud christian and i left the catholic church because of there 3 GODS thing as a christian i believe and know there is one GOD not three GOD's and they preaching faults Doctrine and now this gay thing going on i'm glad i left the catholic church.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • What They Want

      Oh those Gays and their agenda. Can you only imagine what they want? Well, take a good look at this to see! http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/17/opinion/granderson-gay-agenda/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

      June 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  4. EnjaySea

    Thankfully, I don't have the burden of the Catholic church "forming my conscience". I get to form it all by myself.

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

      Ramen! 🙂

      June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  5. Richard

    I can't imagine going to a Cathiolic church anylonger. I can't understand people who call themselves Christians and put up with that 'Good Old Boy Church'. They are more concerned with unborn (DEAD) babies than with little boys who are being abused by the thousands by Catholic priests. What the $uck is wrong with you so called Christians–run as far and as fast as you can from the Catholic Church, they have forgotten what Jesus has taught.

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

      your mistaking for a christian from a catholic its way differnt

      June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Blame Bush

    About 98% of Catholics use birth control, also in defiance of Vatican edicts.

    Stated in algebraic terms, it goes something like this:
    Catholics defy Vatican edicts = Edicts pointless = Vatican pointless = Church pointless = Keep self and money at home.

    Try the above logic, it works for me, it will work for you too.

    All religions are fiction, just a means to control people with "rules of the road" for social conduct / survival.

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

      Given that Republicans are "Catholic" and are pro-rich, it violates Jesus Christ's teaching:

      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 3:19 pm |
  7. cathofobia

    Who can possibly tolerate a system where only a few men get to make the rules for everybody ? These privileged few seem to be wrapped up in power. They don't understand the ordinary people. They have so much money. They abuse their privileges. They abuse and take advantage of less-privileged folks.

    Who are these abusive & dep raved people ? The US Federal Gov't. Why ? Who were you thinking ?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  8. jim tom

    The Catholic Church is anti-American. What is the first commandment? Do not honor false Gods. In America, we have a thing called freedom of religion.

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

      Isnt Obama one of those false Gods? People called him the messiah... now they just look like fools.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Peeblo, Obama is not a false god or any god at all. That is utter nonsense. Where do you come up with this crap?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  9. Tim

    Can true catholics shut their traps and worry about themselves?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • GP

      It would be nice if you just shut your trap.

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

      Can true Catholic/Christian support rich people?

      Because in Matthew 19-23, Jesus said:

      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 3:17 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      GP, are you still wetting the bed?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  10. don

    Those outside the church are not in a position to "vote" on what church policy is. No one is forced to stay and if your belief system doesnt support, the ethical and personal integrity thing to do is simply leave. But saying you are Catholic while affirming that what you belive isn't is simply unethical and ludicrous.
    I am not catholic, but do not believe that i have a right to tell Catholics what they ought to believe. If i want to be Catholic, they have a right to ensure i line up with their teaching, if not i should go somewhere else. But certainly shouldn't say i am catholic while i obviously am not. I do not and cannot define the church.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • sam

      Those inside the church need to stop thinking they have a right to create and vote on legislation that would make their morality law for all.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • jim tom

      Lol. And who exactly gets to decide what all Catholics believe? A couple of rich old people in Europe? That's why organized religion is a sham.

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

      I disagree. There are people who aren't members of the Catholic Church but have voted on a very narrow aspect of church policy. These people are called Congressmen (and women). They are allowed to do so because of the 14th Amendment as it relates to civil rights of non-ministerial employees in a religious organization within the U.S.

      I also believe (but am not certain) that Congress has the right to force churches to participate in withholding of taxes and make contributions to FICA for employees. I think such was against the policy of some churches and those churches lost in court. (But it was many years ago and I'm not sure.)

      June 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • sarah

      You don't seem to understand Catholics at all. That's ok. No, you do not have to believe everything the Church says. It can take a long time for any Catholic to actually believe even in God every moment of every day. It's considered a process. You aren't tossed out for that. It's not that kind of system.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Hugo

      Jim Tom, that's a pigs can fly argument. The Catholic Church doesn't control all organized religion. I very much doubt you've taken a survey of every organized religion to see if each and every one of them is controlled by a couple old rich people in Europe. I can think of a few organized religions where I'm pretty sure Europeans have no say whatsoever.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  11. Frank

    Not any more than a Muslim can deny JIHAD or ki11ing infidels in the name of ALLAH. His GOD commands it in the Koran and if he does not HE IS NOT a Muslim but in the eyes of devout Muslims and ISLAM an apostate.

    Same with the Catholics on Gays, Christians dont have to mean towards Gays, they simply dont have to CONDONE IT.

    Maybe Muslims will have a different view of their God when they realize they are suppose to Murder people with the GLORY OF ALLAH in their hearts! And look forward to their reward from Allah for the dastardly murderous deeds.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Frank

      Same with the Catholics on Gays, Christians dont have to be mean towards Gays, they simply dont have to CONDONE IT.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  12. Buddy

    Of course Catholics can support the legal right to gay marriage. Freedom of religion is an Amercian value, and many Americans are not Catholic and have religious beliefs that allow gay marriage. Good Catholics can be good Americans and respect others' legal right to practice their own religions.

    Requiring other people to live by one's own religous beliefs is not a demonstration of faith. Living one's own life according to one's own religious beliefs is a demonstration of faith.

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

      Clearly you have never lived in the South lol.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  13. DN3

    The answer is yes. I support civil gay marriage. The teaching is to love everyone without exception and not to judge anyone without exception. This is simply a case of human rights. I don't mind that the Church doesn't want to perform gay marriage ceremonies in God's house but they should not judge the actions and opinions of others. In the end, it is God who decides who to bless.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  14. Frank

    FYI I'll bet money that Minnesota, LIKE EVERY OTHER STATE THAT HAS allowed WE, THE PEOPLE to VOTE ON THIS ISSUE, will overwhelmingly vote AGAINST gay marriage.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • DN3

      Often the minority speak the loudest.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • sam

      In your case, though, Frank, it's not we the people – it's 'we, the religious folk who got whipped up by our pastors about this issue'. Your morality is not one size fits all. It's going to bite you fools in the ass one day soon.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jkhur

      Your delight in denying your fellow citizens their civil right to marriage through the voting process for no better reason that you happen not to like them shows you have no civic value and very little understanding of the greatness of this country.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Frank, why? I can't understand your hatred of gays. What have they done to you? I'll let you in on a secret: gays are everywhere. Many if not most of them are not "out." You come in contact with them all the time. You shake hands with them. You sit next to them. You talk to them and you are completely unaware.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  15. Argonaut

    Can Pinnocchio turn into a real boy? Nope...he's firewood.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  16. Greenspam

    Do true Catholics support rich people, because Jesus said in Matthews 19-23 that it's impossible for rich people to go to heaven:

    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 3:10 pm |
    • Argonaut

      The world sure is full of zombies, isn't it?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • ME II

      "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."

      And yet you still have a computer to respond with...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • DN3

      He said it was hard not impossible. Plus being 'rich' is relative. All of us in North America are rich compared to many in Egypt, Afghanistan, India, China, Phillipines, many countries in Africa, etc, etc, etc. That doesn't mean that none of us here will go to Heaven. Unlike people, God is not absolute. Otherwise, none of us would be here living, He would have destroyed us long time ago.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • KMichael2

      It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into heaven...not impossible. Money is the root of all kinds of evil...it itself is not evil but it seems to be the driving force behind many evil intentions. Gays? Well the handwriting is on the wall on this issue. The Church stood by and did nothing to define this issue for its members. It was too concerned with maintaining the status quo to see that its very core principles were being attacked. Todays arguement isnt whether it is right or wrong...todays issue is whether there is any right or wrong at all.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. chaz

    about the only thing the Catholics get right in their skewed adaptation of the bible

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  18. truth

    Catholisism is a man-made-religion that God never intended to ordain. Salvation to man is NO religion, and it only comes through God.
    gay marriage is man-made also. God never ordained that filthy sin.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • total nonsense

      but since GOD DOES NOT EXIST TO START WITH. your whole argument sink like a rock.

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

      I'm pretty sure God could care less what people do in the bedroom... Then again, it sure looks like God hasn't cared about anything in a long time.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Ghost

      All listen to truth, for he talks directly to God.

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

      Then why ask a catholic for a marriage certificate totalnonsense ?

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

      Really? Get a grip weenie boy. There is no Magic Dad or Wayward Son. Also, there are no unicorns or leprechuans, except for the ones playing in my backyard with Jesus.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  19. total nonsense

    how about religion back off PERIOD. Religion need to be BAN. it is simply not compatible with human life. Religion is a illness and need to be treated as such......

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • DN3

      The illness is not in God and the religion, it is in the minds of those who practice it incorrectly.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      I'm not religious BUT "religion is an illness"? & being gay is not???
      GTFO

      June 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  20. Bookenz

    Dear Mr. & Mrs. Devout Catholic: Would you rather have that gay guy your daughter is so attracted to marry her, OR would you rather he marry Steve over there?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Makes Great Sense

      Bookenz, you just hit the nail right on the head, my friend!! Now the question is: Vatican Are You Listening!!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:56 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.