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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. HEM

    Hey CNN!!!
    It's NOT Sunday!
    Let's give the whole "Religion Thing" a day of rest, so-to-speak, SHALL WE?
    Surely there are enough things going on in the world right now that you can use one of them as a headline.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • sam

      This is specifically the religion blog, you idiot.

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

      Yeah..I'd rather talk about Mitt Romney and the Catholic Church's plan to squash the middle class and turn the United States of America into the United States of Christ (and Moroni)

      June 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  2. Marcia J.

    It's also the same church that has overlooked priests raping little boys for years. SICK!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  3. NC Mom

    It's not about being married in the Catholic church. A justice of the peace can perform a marriage. Everbody should abide by their conscience, but not try to force everyone into the teachings of a specific church in the US. I don't see where a gay person's committed relationship hurts me or my 40 year traditional marriage.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • sam

      Thank you. Someone with logic! A rare find.

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

      Marriage was around A LOT LONGER BEFORE the Catholic Church and will be around A LOT LONGER AFTER the Catholic Church. ALL weddings should be first "civil weddings" and the "religious" weddings should be an "adornment" like the Bride and Groom on a Wedding cake!

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

      The people who DO believe "gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage" ALSO believe Global Warming is a "leftist plot" to kill the oil industry (the dirty commies!) and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. What are you gonna do?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  4. Tony

    Every Catholic-related article on CNN is always centered around an ex-Priest, or an ex-Catholic. How about an article on a practicing Catholic and the resolve of their beliefs and positive impact on their community?

    June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • JohnnyC

      Because CNN and the other mainstream media outlets are in direct opposition to God. They are propagandists for the Luciferian cabal that thinks they run the world. This should be called the "Disbelief Blog." It is pure anti-Catholic propaganda, day after day after day. It should point people to the true Faith. Methinks they doth protest too much...

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

      So, Johnny, now you speak for god? How incredibly frigging arrogant

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

      Yeah...but "Real" Catholics will ONLY write articles for Fox!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  5. jbrown

    I was raised Catholic and we were taught to treat others as you would want to be treated. I am now a former Catholic. Too much policies I disagree with (women should be allowed to be priests, gays/lesbians should be able to get communion and be married and have kids). I couldn't stay.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tony

      No problem, not everyone has the courage to believe in something, and not just be swayed by society like you are.

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

      Agreed, Tony.

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

      Tony – what takes courage is thinking about something, making a decision about it and abiding by that decision regardless of communal opinion. what takes absolutely no courage is simply blindly following what you are told.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Edaurdo Boro

      Agree but instead of leaving the hypocrisy try to change the Church from the inside out because if it doesn't adapted to the reality of those who make up the Church (the Church is the people) then it is going to drive off its flock. To the comment above – If you consider adaptation being "swayed" think back to the selling of indulgences which was wrong. The Church was not swayed to change this practice it change it because it was unjust, not right, not what its followers believed anymore.

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

      The Catholic Church's enrollments are dropping like flies. The only NEW members are new arrivals from Catholic Countries. THEIR kids will leave the Church as well.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  6. NotFooledByDistractions

    The catholic church is facing revolts on multiple fronts – LGBT issues and the issue of contraception.

    The catholic church is centuries behind the public, is anyone surprised that people are scoffing at their archaic beliefs?

    June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tony

      At least the Catholic leadership and devout members have the courage to stick to their conviction. They actually believe in something and don't just follow the majority or what's popular at any given time.

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

      Vocations are up, primarily among the traditional religious orders that wear habits and live and pray in community. The Holy Spirit is active, many protestant pastors are entering communion with the Catholic Church and it has over a billion adherents. It is not going anywhere. If it were man-made, it would've been gone a long, long time ago.

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

      hey...the Ex nazi Pope SAID he wants to whittle down the "faithful" to a small group of zealots who will do his bidding. In the words of the Opus Dei founder, Father Josemaria Escriva, "Hitler wasn't so bad. He COULDN'T have killed 6 Million Jews..OK 4 Million, maybe"

      June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  7. Jack

    I am a Christian and do NOT support gay marriage, however I will never suppress gays-I believe that is Gods duty. In my opinion I believe that instead of suppressing gays we should instead bring them the word of god in a non-judgemental way in other words we shouldn't say "All gays are going to hell, you're an abomination." we should tell them something like "God loves all of you and Jesus teachings can bring you close to him and the holy spirit."

    June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  8. AndriconBoy

    Banning gay marriage for religious reasons is no different than banning brooms because of Harry Potter.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  9. John

    Well, here we go again. What's the deal with the Catholic focus of CNN. Are there any other religions out there? Let us hear for a change something about Bahai's....do they believe in "extraterrestrial life?" What about Moslems...asking "how many Moslems are vegetarian?" C'mon CNN...what gives?

    June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Chris

      No kidding, John. This is ridiculous. Why all the focus on Catholics? There are more newsworthy stories out there if you want to focus so much on religious beliefs, CNN! Hey, we know you don't want Mitt Romney to become president ... how about a story that explains in detail why Mormons believe that they will become gods in the afterlife?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  10. BADGUY

    I think MOST Catholics are far beyond believing ANYTHING the Pope or the Archbishops say. They attend Church for the fellowship and the beer drinking at church festivals.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  11. Jack

    True Catholics must follow all church teachings. Those that don't are protestants.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • BADGUY

      ..and will burn in Hell?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Nigel Goddard

      What might help the situation is to put things in perspective first love people, even when it is hard, then, love yourself, then love God, then familiy, then country, then your affiliation. I'm not sure love means telling adults what they should think and why their way is the only way.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nigel Goddard

      Some protestants have learned to let go of the gay marriage issue and free up their time to find ways to show love for Jesus and God's word.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Marcia J.

    Some of these same arguments were used to keep blacks enslaved. I believe in God and Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in discrimination of any form. And just like non believers say we are pushing our beliefs on them, IMO they are doing the same thing. If you don't believe so be it, but don't knock me because I do.

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • scoobypoo

      It is no more wrong to "knock you" for believing in fairy tales, than it is to knock someone for believing blacks are inferior.
      Neither belief has merit and no one is required to politely accept ridiculous beliefs.

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

      I'm a Democrat. My nephew came home from school one day a few years ago crying because the kids at is "Christian" private school told him democrats can't be Christian, and he was convinced I was going to hell. Now where do you think his classmates picked up that bright idea?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  13. Say what?

    No such things as 'true Catholic", either you are or you're not. All those that claim to be Catholic and dont follow the teachings of the church are NOT Catholics. They might believe in the "Catholic ways" but that doesnt mean you are catholic...

    Read and you will learn...

    June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • evantbyrne

      Exactly. Don't call yourself a Catholic if you are against Catholic church teachings. The church needs less false representation.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • insi10

      Oh? Which teachings are those? At one time, Catholic priests were able to marry.

      The Church teaches that it's a mortal sin to molest small boys, but a priest who does so is shuffled rather than excommunicated. It is church law now to cooperate with civil auithorities in such cases. So why isn't Cardinal Mahoney of LA in jail yet?

      Jesus threw the moneylenders from the temple; today's Vatican has its own bank.

      It is church teaching to reach out to and help the poor. Look it up. But when Eva's Village, founded by a Catholic priest, wanted to expand, the bishop insisted that Eva's BUY the unusable piece of land for $150,000 –and even you would be shocked to learn what the bishop did with that money.

      Why does official Catholicism ban birth control? You, in your heart, know but won't admit the truth: to keep the numbers expanding.

      Catholics continue to practice and keep their faith because they share certain fundamental beliefs that have little to do with the edicts handed down by the kingdom of hypocrisy that is the church hierarchy.

      I'm sorry for you that you are such a tool.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  14. BADGUY

    I think MOST Catholics are far beyond believing ANYTHING the Pope or the Archbishops say. They attend Church ONLY for the fellowship and the beer drinking during church festivals.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • HeavenSkunt

      '"and the beer drinking during church festivals"

      I am an atheist and I love the church beer festivals. Yay jesus, get me another beer.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • evantbyrne

      Most of the people that attend the local Catholic youth group here at CMU would tell you that these people aren't really Catholic.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • insi10

      Sad that you miss the point of being Catholic just as badly as the Pope and his boys' club do.

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

      Hey..I didn't mean ANYTHING negative with the Beer Drinking crack! That's why I attended Church functions!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  15. Semper Cogitatus

    Sure, easily. By realizing that what's being argues about is state recognition of a contract between people and has nothing at all to do with the sacrament or with anything religious at all.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  16. leah1026

    The Vatican is on the wrong side of history AGAIN. .Let's remember this is the same Catholic Church that put Galileo under house arrest for the last 20 years of his life for teaching the Copernican theory (the sun is the center of the solar system). The Church didn't get around to apologizing for that mistake until about a dozen years ago. That's just one example of the numerous issues that the Church has been wrong on. You would think they would learn at some point to leave science to the scientists, but they don't. Any reasonable person can tell you there is NOTHING wrong with being gay. There are more than a million gay household in the country. And many of those households also have children. To persist in this Crusade against LGBT people at best makes the Church look stodgy, and, at worst, prejudiced bigots. Either way they are wrong. Last, I would ask "what would Jesus do". If we were to really follow His example I have to believe he would love and accept gay people, just like he love and accepted everybody. As a person that still considers herself Catholic, the Church's intransigence and prejudice saddens me. It seems as they are using this Crusade not out of holy purpose. They are scapegoating the LGBT community as a way to tighten their grip, their control over their flock. They don't realize that this tactic is back-firing badly and the integrity of the Church is at stake.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      "The Vatican is on the wrong side of history AGAIN."

      At this point I'm convinced the RCC is just trying to keep their streak going.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Say what?

      No, you're just taught wrong....people will believe whatever, and one day, we'll find out.....

      June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • JohnnyC

      The Catholic Church is not a human club. It is the Church of God on Earth founded by Christ in Matthew 16:18. Thus, it may be flawed, but it's concern is not being on the "right side of history" or "keeping up with the times" or honoring Leah's man-over-God modernist hipsterism. There is a God. He founded a Church. That Church is the Catholic Church. It is a supernatural society that is being proven correct about nearly everything it has taught throughout the ages. In fact, I would venture to say, there would be no "Leah" as you understand her without the Catholic Church. Wake up.

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

      The management of the Catholic church needed (and STILL needs) political help to stem the flow of cash in the Pedophile court awards. I think that's why the Pope met with Bush II TWICE for "one-on-one" meetings at the Vatican. George, I'm sure, offered help. And the Pope offered the votes of 57 Million Catholics. Fortunately, for all of us, neither could live up to the promises they probably made!!

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

      Having an aberrant behavior is sad, and only people having this problem think it's alright. I'm sorry. The Catholic Church is not wrong and has never been wrong. Those that choose to cherry pick what they'll believe in are heretics.

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

      Does JohnnyC have an off switch? He's running rampant in here spouting robotic nonsense.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • northernsugar

      $10 says southernsugar is a cherry picking heretic

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • JohnnyC

      Sam, I'm speaking the Truth because my concern is for your soul. You have one, as you will find out when you draw your last breath. Come to Mass. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart. There is still yet time for you.

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

      Your random capitalization actually makes it worse. You're on the verge of being a parody of yourself.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Edaurdo Boro

      I'm pretty sure Jesus came to change the Jewish religion. It didn't want to listen so PEOPLE decided to make a new religion following Christ's plan to "fix" the Jewish faith – If you want to know my source its called the GOSPELS.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Answer

    Religious people still being afraid of the LGBT community. Love this stuff.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  18. JohnnyC

    No inner turmoil, just clarity CNN, just clarity. As the anti-Catholic propaganda gets louder, Catholics realize they are part of the Church Christ founded and realize the attacks have always been present and will always be present from those who follow the spirit in the World that opposes the Spirit of God. Keep it up.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • HeavenSkunt

      "Catholics realize they are part of the Church Christ founded"

      And part of the church that perfected organized systematic child molestation.

      You forgot the child molestation part.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • leah1026

      You need to study up on Church history. The Church has been on the wrong side of such debates many times in it's history. Galileo, the Spanish Inquisition and slavery to name a few. Those are historical FACTS. Your blind faith makes you look uninformed at best.

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

      Jesus didn't found it. He would likely be horrified by it, were he to see it today.

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

      We Will!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  19. DJR

    To bad Jim doesn't spend a bit more time studying the trickster. Doesn't really know his adversary. This all is his realm and oh how humans love the dark, love sin. Flesh. That Jesus teaches!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • QS

      The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing man he doesn't exist.

      I say – The greatest trick man ever played was convincing the world that "god" does exist.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • leah1026

      Jesus taught love, tolerance and forgiveness. Not hate, prejudice and discrimination.

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

      Did someone say 'trickster'?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Pat in IL

    Genuine Christians have no problem with another person's choices. The Catholic church is mostly just an old boy's climb that makes up its own rules, regardless of what te Bible actually teaches. This man does not have to be Catholic to be a Christian.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • JohnnyC

      The Catholic Church is the only Biblical Church. It is the Church Christ founded in Matthew 16:18, period. It is necessary to reform it from time to time, but to break away from it is to reject the Church Christ founded.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Say what?

      you dont change the teachings of the bible.....IF you believe in it

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

      A true catholic does not support same-ses marriage. Jesus Christ started the Catholic Church, and anyone who thinks outside the church is a heretic.

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

      southernsugar – and...should be burned at the stake?

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

      I can't decide who's funnier or more desperately delusional – JohnnyC or southernsugar. We should take a vote.

      Christ didn't found your church. He'd be ashamed of all of you.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:56 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.