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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. Sam

    Why does CNN never post any articles on Islam in it's Belief Blog? Can someone answer?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bob

      They have posted several articles in the last couple months about Islam. It's just that in America, Christianity is a much bigger problem than Islam. Especially when kids are getting brainwashed into refusing science and abandoning all education simply because the Bible is the holy book. And because God didn't speak of science it must be fake. It's backwards, I know. But people believe these things.

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

      Because then, instead of 2000 comments insulting Christianity, they might get 2000 comments insulting Islam....and that's a no-no! CNN is the mouthpiece of the left/Democratic party tupes, and has to support whatever might be considered the opposing view to the right wing/GOP types. So topics that are pro-family, or that put Christianity in a positive light will never appear on CNN. It's unfortunate, but the media int he U.S. has become politicized, as you'd find in a 2nd or 3rd world country.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Nikita019

      Islam actually has the same beliefs as Islam believes God send down all three books (Torah,Bible & Quran and truth be told I think all the news media has done their fair share of Islam bashing. I don't feel any religion or their beliefs should be mixed with political agenda.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Josh

      That's a fallacy about not believing in science. We have our view regarding the creation of the universe in the very begginning, but do we refute the Standard Particle Model? Relativity Theory? Biology? Chemistry? Your argument is so shallow and opinionated. I'm a proud catholic, and chemical engineer by trade.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Derek

      Bob your comment is just idiotic people in the catholic church and majority of other christian religions do no tell you science is fake. I happen to be a chemist aka a scientist and am catholic. I understand that must be hard for you to comprehend but there are theories and ideas in science people dispute regardless of religious beliefs. That is how science works its funny how non religious people are even more closed minded than most religious people.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  2. dman6015

    No more than they can support abortion or divorce and still call themselves 'Catholic'.

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

    Why is Leviticus 18:22 so much more important than, for example, Leviticus 19:28?

    Because bigots like to pick and choose what they think matters in the bible.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  4. Dr. Rick Stoppe

    Historically, the Church has made 100's of changes, some very major, since her earliest days. It is time again for priests to marry. The Church must never again cover for a pedophile priest and transfer him to another parish. The Church must also accept the evidence of its science and New Testament scholars–and the evidence of the Patio, Garden, and Jesus family tombs Changes larger than the the Catholic Reformation that followed the Protestant Reformation are on the way. God will not change, and faith in Him need not change. May God sustain you through these changes.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  5. beelzabarber

    here's how catholics should deal with gay. IGNORE IT. It doesnt concern you. Police your own priests and butt out of peoples lives

    June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • You Got It

      You got that right!! Too bad they don't have enough sense to actually take it to heart and practice what you're saying which makes Perfect Sense!

      June 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Patti

    I guess the bigger question is why would any Catholics support a pope and an organization that has knowingly transferred sodomizing pedophile priests to prey on more innocent children.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Scott Pilgrim

      I don't have to donate to the organization. But no, I don't support the organization covering for the wrong-doings of some, but I do believe in the teachings of Jesus. In the end, that's what it is. Jesus taught some important stuff, in my view, so I continue to believe what I choose.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Patti

      If you choose to believe in Jesus, no one needs a corrupt organization like the Catholic church to do it.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Too Bad

      Well, Scott Pilgrim, If only Catholics believed more in the teachings of Jesus, how great would that be! Too bad they don't talk enough about Jesus Christ, preferring to talk about the saints and how grandiose their attributes are. Also the sale of saintly statues as an item of worship and to pray to, which is strictly against the Biblical teachings of God.

      June 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Scott Pilgrim

    I'm a pro-choice, gay marriage supporter, and I identify as Christian. My "secret" is that I respect others beliefs, and understand that people have a right to have views other than my own. For some reason, the CNN comment boards fail to do either of those things.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  8. James

    I am catholic and follow closely the teachings of Jesus and "love thy neighbour" is foremost in everything I do, think,and say. I also believe in not judging as God is the only one who can do so. In spite of all the bad things done by some priests, I still go to church because of the solidarity I have with my fellow Christians and also to give thanks to my God.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Mark

    It is nice to see how tolerant liberals and atheists are in their posts. Who declared open season on Catholics? Oh right, Obama. And does CNN believe that people, whether or not they agree with the R.C. Church's moral positions, are all dumb and blind to their anti-Catholic series of articles? This is a shameful and outrageous hate campaign that defies understanding, except that there is an explanation. Being a devout liberal political machine, CNN is trying to divide Catholics as a voting block. This will back fire.

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

      You see... The problem is the world's civil rights are moving forward. While Religion still believes views from 2,000 years ago. It's simple. Religion just will never keep up with society. Regardless of how nice eternity is the sky partying with Jesus sounds.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Derek

      I agree Mark, and to Bob just like you clearly have your beliefs catholics have their moral beliefs, and if you were much of a historian as civil rights increase and morals decrease in any great empire or nation the fall of that empire and nation is sure to follow soon after. The greeks the romans and many more have fallen victim to this belief system you push. Fact is strong morals is important and you expect everyone to throw theirs out and take up your lack of morals instead and lead everyone and this country to its ruin. I will pass thanks.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  10. A Catholic

    This is one Catholic who believes in following the teaching of the Church.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Lynsey Pug

      I'd rather follow the teachings of Jesus, not what the Church claims he taught.

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

      So you prefer to have some external force make your decisions for you? You mentioned the phrase "submit to a higher moral authority," sounds like you have issues with control, fear, etc. Maybe you should evaluate that before you try and EXERT your dramas upon the world in the guise of moral superiority and righteousness.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      Sure beats personal introspection and determining for yourself what is right or wrong, doesn't it?

      June 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Colin

    Catholicism is the belief that an immortal, all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, has a personal interest in my $ex life.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ridiculous.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  12. eagander

    The more important question is, if you have contrary beliefs to the Catholic church (and marriage equality is just one of them), why would you STAY in the Catholic church!?? If you're determined to follow Man-made religions, at least find one that fits your ways of thinking. There are plenty of options other than the big C. Come out of your closet!!

    June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  13. PeterC

    I don't see how someone can read the bible and feel that God supports a gay lifestyle. How is it anything other than them being selfish? That is why it is a sin.

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

      Do you support putting adulterers to death? It's in the bible after all...

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

      Really? Do you have a chapter and verse in which Jesus condemns gay people?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How is it 'selfish'? If being gay is 'selfish' then why isn't being straight 'selfish'?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • PeterC

      Patti – lol, of course not 🙂 Are you sure you know the context and the original translation? Pretty sure there is more to that.

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

      Cheryl – I never said Jesus condemns gay people. I said living the lifestyle. All kinds of people have different urges. Some self-damaging, some damaging to others. Greed is a sin, so is lust, lying, theft, jealousy, etc. Just because some of these are legal, doesn't mean that they are supported by God. much love for you though – have a nice day and I hope you continue your spiritual seach

      June 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Peter C, how does gay marriage 'hurt' anyone? How are gays "selfish"?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • whorhay

      I'm not Catholic but my church's stance on gay marriage is the same. And personally I find it offensive. It is of course within any religions perogative to decide what they think is sin and what is not. But when it comes to legislating and campaigning politically to oppress some minority group because they are sinful, that the church starts to do the work of the devil in my opinion.

      For instance I believe that consuming alcohol is sinful, but I don't advocate outlawing and criminalizing its use and would strongly object to doing so. How about restricting a women's right to display her hair in public because it violates some muslim's religous beliefs? Religion has no place in dictating the laws of the land.

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

      Peter – LOL Maybe you should quit quoting the bible for your convenience. And your right, there is more to Leviticus 20:10:

      "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • PeterC

      Tom – it is the lifestyle that is discussed here. The actions. Being straight is not a sin, but promiscuity is. So is lust. Much love though – 🙂

      June 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • PeterC

      Whorhay – You are right. We all get our opinion. That is what is great about the USA is that we get a vote. Have a great day though!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Matthew

      "I don't see how someone can read the bible and feel that God supports a gay lifestyle."

      Homosexuality is not a sin according to the Bible. Any educated Christian would know that. Scholars who have studied the Bible in context of the times and in relation to other passages have shown those passages (Leviticus, Corinthians, Romans, etc) have nothing to do with homosexuality. These passages often cherry-picked while ignoring the rest of the Bible. The sins theses passages are referring to are idolatry, prostitution, and rape, not homosexuality. That’s why Jesus never mentions it as well. There is nothing immoral, wrong, or sinful about being gay. Jesus, however, clearly states he HATES hypocrites. If you preach goodness, then promote hate and twist the words of the Bible, you are a hypocrite, and will be judged and sent to hell. Homosexuals will not go to hell, hypocrites will. This is very similar to the religious bigots of the past, where they took Bible passages to condone slavery, keep women down, and used Bible passages to claim blacks as curses who should be enslaved by the white man. People used God to claim that blacks marrying whites was unnatural, and not of God's will.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • PeterC

      Patti – Thanks for replying! That is from the Mosaic Law, which was laws that were given in the Old Testament. But it is not really about killing them – but leaving them to the hands of God for their actions.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @PeterC

      Wow talk about spin. "Oh no putting them to death just means leaving it to god." How much spin do you put on the whole bible in an attempt to make it palatable to your own sensibilities?

      June 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      Really? So, what exactly do the supposed mores of people in an iron age, agrarian middle eastern society have to do with the here and now?

      June 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  14. truth

    Religion is man- made....salvation is the work of God.

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

      What is this salvation you speak of? God sending his son Jesus on a suicide mission to earth? Or cursing man for all eternity because some naked woman ate an apple? Do either of those things sound even remotely sane or intelligent to do?

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

      Bob,

      They sound insane and unintelligent because you said them wrong.

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

      How am I wrong? Jesus was sent to Earth to die. Simple as that. And Eve was banished from a place of happiness and original sin was cursed upon man because she ate an apple. Fairy tales sound better than that.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • PeterC

      Bob – it seems as though you may have missed some of the words in the Bible. We were condemned because we (Adam and Eve) did what we were told not to do. We had free will to choose. Jesus's life was not a suicide mission. It was a moral trade. The death of an innocent – a final sacrifice – to "pay the cost" of sin for all. No worries 🙂 love ya.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Really?

      "We were condemned because we (Adam and Eve) did what we were told not to do. We had free will to choose. Jesus's life was not a suicide mission."

      Then your God was pretty dumb and not all knowing if it didn't know Eve would eat the apple. If it did know she was going to eat the apple then it's a ruthless god who just wanted to add torture to it's creation.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • J

      Of course fairy tales sound better than that. Because they're false.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  15. snowboarder

    educated, intelligent people are finding it increasingly difficult to condemn other over dogmatic differences.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  16. Nikita019

    Matthew 7:1-5

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
    ESV / 459 helpful votes

    There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Nikita019

      sorry:
      James 4:12

      There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  17. Cheryl Jefferies

    Why is it that when Obama really messes up, you people ALWAYS run something critical about Catholics?! This is the same, tired, well-worn record with well-worn grooves...just like Obama continually blaming Bush for his own stupidity and criminal acts. Get over it! I'm Catholic. I'm not thinking of leaving my church. For all our sakes, will you please GET A LIFE!

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

      What's with these tinfoil hat conspiracy theories? Did you wander in here accidentally on your way to Fox News?

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

      AMEN to that! I'm so sick of CNN's Christian-bashing. Never one article detailing the amount of aid, food, money, resources the church donates to the world's poor and sick every day. The religion is alive and well, thank-you very much. Give it up, CNN.

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

      Cheryl, how do you know its a mess up not releasing the F&F files. How about NATIONAL SECURITY. Did you ever think of that ? Huh?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. A Catholic

    Gays should get off their high horse and learn to submit to a moral authority higher than themselves.

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

      You say 'submit' in kind of a whips and chains way. Everyone knows you devout folks are the kinkiest, don't deny it.

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

      Also, stop thinking about horses in that way. You know the way I mean.

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

      the moral authoritty you keep electing is corrupt to the laws written by men of this nation .
      That you can do,

      June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      Folks like A Catholic should get off their knees and stop being dogma sucking slaves

      June 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      Also, D-bag, what makes you think that they do NOT submit to a moral authority greater than themselves? Because it is not yours? Talk about arrogant.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  19. Colin

    It is a CHOICE. They choose to live this disgusting, degenerate lifestyle, completely devoid of human decency.

    But enough about Catholics, let’s discuss the social implications of gay marriage.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • ME II

      lol

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

      And you made a CHOICE to be a hateful bigot.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • modizzle18

      lol

      June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • sam

      High five, Colin.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Gabriel

      Hahaha. Awesome.

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

      tcher, you lose

      June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  20. truth

    When a man gets religion he reforms himself, but when God transforms a man through salvation in Jesus, he is made all over and becomes born again. Religion is the cane of the blind that walk in darkness.

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

      Holy cow. No wonder Religion has such a bad rep nowadays. People actually believe things like this?

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

      what good is a cane if you don't feel God's light on your face blindman ?

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

      religion is the cane of the blind which they use to beat those who see

      June 20, 2012 at 3:18 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.