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. Michael

    Religion is a mental illness and a dividing force. It must be obliterated from the face of the earth.

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

      Being gay is a mental illness

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

      Being howard is just a travesty.

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

      There's Howard showing his true colors......

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

      Howard eats the pooh-pooh

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

      news from 20 years ahead:

      p3d0ph1lia used to be called a perversion. now the correct term is "p3d0s3xual", and the psychological assoication has stopped calling it a mental illness.

      See http://www.drjudithreisman.com/archives/2011/08/theyre_mainstre.html for what is happening NOW! very scary.

      Similaly now they are claiming h0m0s3xuality is not a mental illness....

      June 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Howard...Howard...Howard

      Howard is a tea-bagger. They believe that being gay is a choice and being fat is genetic. Weird.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, Bibby, hom0s3xuality isn't a mental illness but paranoia is. Get help, Lassie.

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

      Tom, please read the link I sent you. See about teh conference that Dr Reisman attended. YES I know you will tell me she is a nutcase. forget about her and look at the details of the conference.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  2. MattC

    This seems like a simple answer. If you serve God, you can back gay marriage. If you serve the church, then you cannot.

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

      Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  3. carly

    I am Catholic and my younger brother is gay. I can say with 100% certainty that he was born that way. From the time he was 3 years old he was exhibiting behavior that wouldn't be considered straight. He'd wear my clothes, play with my dolls – he wouldn't leave the house if his socks didn't match his clothes.... I've had this religion argument over and over in my head and I've come to realize that God is love – for all. And he obviously made people differently on purpose. I have many friends that are gay – happily married gay couples and I can honestly say that they've helped me understand that you CAN be Christian and Gay. It is absolutely not a choice to be gay.
    Sadly, condemming them without even knowing them as people, is a sure fire way of FORCING them to turn from God. Anti gay rehetoric is cruel, hurtful and does no one any good.
    I am glad people in the church are openly embracing people from all walks of life. Gay people deserve God's love, too along with resepct and kindness; not condemnation.

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

      Same with my brother in law – by the age of three.

      How disgusting is it that there are Christian pastors out there (not Catholic) that are advocating physically punishing children that display 'gay' traits?

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

      So this is interesting. You say that your brother is gay and that you have friends that are gay. Then I can assume that you support the G&L community. So if the Catholic church a branch of the Christian religion says it is not okay to be G&L or support G&L then why do you still call yourself a Catholic? Wouldn't you now be a christian? If you spoke with the pope do you think he would consider you a catholic if you took this stance? To me Catholicism is an organization. Christianity is the religion. If you don't support the organization, you shouldn't be a member but that shouldn't stop you from the religion itself.

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

      I agree with both of you.
      It's appalling and wrong to punish anyone for just being true to themselves. Again – not a choice. And as leaders of a religion preaching Love they neighbor, forgive one another, be kind, etc etc – this poves to me they are not Christian. The exact opposite.
      Random – I suppose you are right. I disagree with quite a bit.... I am sure the Pope would tell me I am absolutely not Chatholic and that's fine with me. I still like the quiet peace I get... but I do not subscribe to to anything that would fault people for being gay – as God made them. Nor do I think anyone should tell me how many kids to have etc etc. I guess that makes me ale cart. I do hope, in my lifetime, the church changes its stance on many things. They are definitely losing parishiners as a result.

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

      Carly, let's hope they do change their stance, I imagine at some point they will.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  4. Biblical

    There's a mindset of black and white (true and false, virtue and sin) and then there's the mindset of grayscale (anything goes)

    When you lose the absolutism and dont judge, and anything goes, you lose values and morals.

    Thats what is happening to society now.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are unable to grasp the fact that "anything" doesn't "go", Bibby. But that's not a surprise. You are incapable of seeing anything other than extremes.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Tom is right.

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

      What is happening to society now? People are waking up?

      Religion has done nothing for morals in the past 2000+ years.

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

      This comment seems based on a couple of false presumptions: first, that the absolutism that defines the value of morality and virtue only exist in holy scripture and, second, that society cannot exist without the absolutism of moral and virtuous authority. However, regardless how you want to spin holy scripture, the fundamental tenants of all religious belief have been co-opted from rules and laws that were not based on religion, but rather secular ideals formed to stop rampant violence and anarchy in society. All religion did was put the invisible man in the sky watching us as an enforcer, the rules were there long before the religions and rose out of society's need for the rule of law.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  5. MK

    Spirituality and religion are in no way similar.

    Here's one definition of spirituality, but generally they all say some version of this: Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”
    Spirituality encourages an open mind; a personal quest. Religion dictates exactly how and what to think and actually forbids any independent thought or questioning, any variation from what is dictated. It's all spelled out, just accept it and shut up.

    I'm spiritual therefore I could never accept religion.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  6. Marcelino

    Do you all think that that a woman was made in the wrong body wrong wrong a girl it is and a boy it is they are just people with disordinary passion

    June 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Price

    No turmoil. Just like 99.9% of Catholics use contraception. Apparently they all just ignore most of the edicts of out-of-touch bureaucrats.

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

    True Catholic's DON'T turn to CNN for "INFORMATION" or the TRUTH. Matter of fact other than a few unemployed liberal fool's CNN might well "SHUT DOWN"!

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

      And yet you're here. What does that say about you, hmmm? Hypocrite.

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

      Get a job CD

      June 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Dustin Goldsen

      You need to check the ratings. If what you say is true, there are quite a few unemployed liberals.

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

      Helpful hint: If you are going to bash the site for being uninformed, you may want to do it while using correct spelling and grammar. Otherwise your argument won't be taken seriously.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  9. billmeno

    How far CNN has fallen....the supermarket tabloids have more credibility and do a better job or reporting.

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

      And yet here you are ....

      June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  10. Nikita019

    Be you Catholic, Jewish or Muslim God has taught us not to sit in judgement of others for only he has that power. So support is an individual right.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      He told us to judge the fruit of others. Support for perversion is rotten fruit.

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

      Bully, Bill.

      This "not judging" is akin to "let little tommy put his hand into the fire, lets not JUDGE his actions". Because you LOVE little tommy, the minute he gets close to the fire, you will pull him away.

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

      Bill the Cat – I always thought "rotting fruit" refered to what came out of Mary's womb.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      @ Biblical
      To judge tommy’s actions it would have to take place after the fact. Once again you fail at analogy.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Jack

    Over the years, the Catholic Church has lost all credibility as a religion. The beginning of the end.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  12. blake

    Easy question, easy answer. NO.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  13. Biblical


    Makes a very good point of what happens when you define many different 'orientations'

    June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  14. syl

    How sad that Catholics are not permitted to make spiritual judgments ouside Vatican dogma.. Why in the world wouldn't any adult Catholic insist on thinking for himself and rejecting this kind of moral tyranny?. What does being a Catholic mean anyway, going against what is right and moral?

    Is it Communion? Does this ex priest feel he cannot partake? Does he think that these rules that go against love and common sense – the love man is allowed to give in matrimony to another soul- NOT BODY – think SOUL- should keep him from accepting a sacrament?

    Poor guy.. I feel for anyone who is captive to man made dogma..

    June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  15. Bert

    Funny how people call this article Catholic bashing. On the contrary, Catholicism and Christianity have "bashed" for centuries – more wars have been fought in the name of religion than not. More people have been slaughtered or killed in the name of religion than not. If you want to play the "bash" card – apply it to all religions equally, as all are the real problem this world is suffering with.

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

      No the problem is man not following God's laws. If everyone practiced and lived the way God says to live then these problems will go away. However, that will never happen. History proves it, because man thinks he is better than God nor does he really believe in God.

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

      Sorry Ken, but I don't look to a Sky Daddy or Cloud Fairy to tell me how to live. Some things are inherent – like being a good and compassionate person. If you have to look to a book for how to "be", then you are lost and need a few more reincarnations or something to get on the right path.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      God gave no such law Ken. But he “did’ give this one.

      Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  16. Most not very interesting man in the world

    I don't usually engage in carnal activity, but when I do, I prefer punany.

    (There, some clean language for you)

    June 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  17. pourmonamiJC

    You can't poll truth. Truth is truth – it's not a matter of opinion.

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

      That must be why the Church admitted recently that purgatory wasn't real. Look Catholicism is actually quite liberal since it is the Pope who determines what is official Church doctrine, he can change it any time. Just start your own Church already, oh wait, the protestants already did. Come on and get with the times and reject the authority of the Pope, what the F does he know?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      They also admitted to being wrong about Mary Magdalene. Changing of the times a women’s right eh? Next thing you know gays will have equal rights (gasp) and this to will become another ‘correction;.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  18. jim

    I believe that I am an astronaut...therefore – I am!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • I wanna play!

      I'm a cup of coffee! With french vanilla creamer! MMMMMM!

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

      I'm a little teapot.

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

      I am without definite aim, direction, rule, or method

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

      I wanna be Brad Pitt's c o c .k

      June 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  19. Pennsylvania Tom

    As a practicing Catholic that chooses to remain in the church despite believing in Women priests, maried clergy, gay rights, divorce acceptance, and birth control. I have seen these issues chase my children from the Church, by staying I hope to influence change.

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

      That'll be about as effective as turning the KKK into an afican-american charity.

      Put your efforts into something real. You don't need imaginary beings to be complete.
      Talk to your kids.

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

      Women priests, and married clergy are no big deal. These are just rules. In fact there are already married Catholic priests. Gay marriage or even acceptance is harder, because that is biblical, even if it is not completely clear what the actual stance is. The most difficult thing to change? Divorce. That one comes from the Big J himself. He not only was against it, he explicitly overturned the Jews' existing law of divorce. Sadly, this is probably also the most common situation that can get you into trouble with the Church. However, don't blame the Vatican for that. If you believe Jesus is God, and that the Bible is at all accurate, then you have to deal with that one straight up.

      One thing that no one ever promised was that being a Christian would be easy or convenient. People used to die for their religion in gladiatorial arenas. Jesus himself said it would be very, very difficult. You don't worship God because he makes your life easier, you do it because he's God and has indicated that, despite seeming very difficult, his way is the best way to do things. Make of that what you will.

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

      I agree with the other poster. From the "church" perspective (currently), you are more than just a sinner but a sinner that is trying to change the minds of the faithful. At least you acknowledge that you are staying in an organization as an agent of change (change that I agree with) and for that I say more power to you and I hope you can help make a difference.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      It’s all just rules.. or more accurately dogma. Until your kind can prove YOUR god is real it’s all just words in a poorly written book interpreted by the ever changing views of old men.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Michigan Man

      I too, am a practicing Catholic, and also believe that women should be ordained, that clergy should be able to marry, gay rights, abortion, etc. And I do support the GOOD that the Catholic church continues to provide in its worldwide efforts. But I am starting to believe that, perhaps in our lifetime, there will be a break from Roman Catholicism, and the formation of an American Catholic church. Just as there are other divisions (Orthodox, Melkite, et al) that continue the fundamental Catholic beliefs while maintaining their own differences, we may see this American Catholic Church emerge in the not too distant future. A church that will welcome all, and embrace all, despite our differences.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  20. joe

    True Catholics? Whatever that is. It's all a pathetic joke that has to do with power and control.

    The church, and all of Christianity for that matter, is being dragged into the 21st century like a dead beast to slaughter. While being dragged, giant pieces of the beast are ripping and tearing off, so much so that's whats what's left is not much. And this is as it should be.

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

      It should never be like that.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:59 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.