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. Colin

    My dog refused to take a cr.ap on the Bible because it would be redundant.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Hugo

      You've read the entire Bible? Really? I haven't. I'm not in a position to call it cr*p because I don't have enough information. How did you get enough information?

      What about the Book of Esther is cr*p? How about Philemon?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Hugo it sounds like you need a second opinion. The bible is crap.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  2. Niliinggary

    Can true Catholics continue to cede moral authority to a Church structure that has only reluctantly dealt with pedophile priests?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      This is simply a dressed up version of the question "When did you stop beating your wife?"

      June 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  3. veda804

    "The Minnesota Catholic Conference, along with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, declined CNN's request for an interview. In a written statement, they say groups such as Catholics for Marriage Equality "do not have any right to call their organizations 'Catholic. "

    How do they feel about the child molester priests that they have shuffled around & let into the lives of poor innocent children? Unreal!

    June 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  4. MetheBLKman

    Is it too much to ask that you just leave people alone?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  5. Mark in canada

    How is this articel Anti-Catholic. I think it shows that there is a healthy debate within the Church on an important social issue and that Catholics aren't just nodding their heads in agreement when their priest says something. Sounds a lot healthier than shoting "Hallelujah" when a preacher suggests whacking an effeminate boy's wrist.

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

      that is an incredibly true statement.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  6. Colin

    Gay Teenager: God, you made me gay. I can no longer deny the urges I am having. Why, oh Lord? I have been a good person all my life. My family and I have kept your commandments and attended church every Sunday.

    God: It’s all part of my “grand plan” for you. Your small mind cannot comprehend such matters.

    Gay Teen: But God, the Christians are telling me I am a sinner and will burn in hell, but you made me this way. I cannot help it. I think you owe me an explanation. I am truly frightened!

    God: I was moving in mysterious ways.

    Gay Teen: What the hell does that mean?

    God: Well, I make thousands gays every day, just so I can wait until they get to puberty and crush their hopes for a normal life. My Christian followers on Earth complete the misery by tormenting these poor children. Then, when you die, I can send you to burn forever. Pretty mysterious, hey?

    Gay Teen. I can’t believe what I’m hearing?

    God: Yeah, it’s pretty rare that I speak so frankly. Look, if it makes you feel any better, tell yourself it’s Satan’s work. Satan is trying to tempt you away from me.

    Gay Teen: But you’re god!! You can stop Satan.

    God: Ok, you’ve got me there. Look kid, the truth is, I don’t exist. I never have. Wasn’t it obvious to you that you made me when I seemed to love all the same things you do and hate all the same things you do? Haven’t you noticed that those who disapprove of you say I disapprove of you and that those who support you say I support you? Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Gay Teen: That’s a shame, because I intended to give you a free pass. To still believe in you despite hating myself. I have been taught to believe in you and never to question it, and I accepted what they said when they told me it was wrong to doubt.

    God: Well, look at it from my perspective. How long would I last if I positively promoted healthy skepticism, independent thought and rational investigation? You people would see right through me in a minute.

    Gay Teen: Ok. I have to go now. My parents, Christian friends and teachers have all disowned me. I need to work out what to do.

    God: Good luck. I’ll say a prayer for you. Hey – even I need a god sometimes

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

      I dig that.
      If I had any drawing talent, I would make that into a comic strip.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • J

      Another false story.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Colin loves to see his own stories in print

      June 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  7. religion; a way to control the weak minded

    gerald said

    "Ah now there is arrogance. Telling others what they believe. Bravo."

    LOL gerald, do you eve read what you post? talk about arrogant.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  8. tpe

    How do you define a Catholic? Is it enough to just say you're a Catholic? If I lived in a pool and called myself a dolphin would that make it true? The point is that the Vatican defines the Catholic religion, not the individual. If you believe in gay marriage, birth control, or abortion you are not a Catholic regardless of what you may want to call yourself. It turns out there really aren't that many Catholics if you strip out those that have simply chosen to refer to themselves as Catholic. That's probably true of most religions.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • chicago7

      Where is Henry VIII when you need him?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Mitch

      Actually being gay, I agree with you wholeheartedly. That's what as a rasied Catholic, I've made the switch to the more enlightened Episcopalian teaching – which I would argue teaches more of the love of Christ than what you should or shouldn't do according to "the church."

      June 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • FaceReality

      I'm kind of tired of CNN asking ex Catholics opinions about things. Using their news stage to give credence to persons with obviously disordered viewpoints on biblical teaching.

      Why not ask a true Catholics opinion on marriage? Say one like Scott Hahn (who was once vehemently protestant)?

      June 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  9. sarah

    A priest can refuse to marry whomever he chooses and I'm ok with that. The church also condemns divorce and BC, I am ok with that. But the Church cannot impose its wishes on other people who do not believe the same things they do. Most Catholics know that. They are opposed to the Church telling the government how to legislate. They understand there must be a separation of Church and State and that following a religion is a choice, not a mandate.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "They understand there must be a separation of Church and State and that following a religion is a choice, not a mandate."

      you obviously do not read up on current events....see what happened in NC, there is no separation there and they are completely fine with discriminating against people.

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


      June 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Victor Blanco

    our lord made us this way!!! and we are here to stay, god bless all my gays:0)

    June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • FaceReality

      And he made marriage a certain way! And that's the way it should stay!

      June 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  11. veda804

    Deavel is an idiot! Attending church MORE than once a week! It is a cult, and he is displaying that to the fullest extent that anyone could! What is the vatican anyway? It is a bunch of old men, who cover up & move around child molesters!! I can't believe that anyone would actually SUPPORT people who do that sort of thing!! Any money that is paid to a Catholic church these days, you can bet your some of your dollars are going to fight & defend child molesters. That is SICK! Gay men & lesbians to not molest children, they just want to be able to marry whom they want & reap all of the benefits that married couples have afforded to them, like health insurance coverage, death benefits, & so so much more!

    June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • FaceReality

      And all gays like Luka Magnotta want to do is kill, chop up, and eat their partners.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  12. MeetMsBrown

    A genuine Catholic is one who abides to the beliefs that the majority of his or her tribe ascribes to.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  13. chicago7

    With the Vatican's stance on fully accepting gays including gay marriage, birth control, marriage for priests, respect for women, and its reluctance to act decisively against pedophile priests and church officials who shield them, Rome is heading for another schism. I can see it losing the American Catholic Church, and with it, vast sums of money. You'd think they'd be paying more attention. And please no one tell me they aren't in it for money, because we all know that's a big lie.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      why should they care when the pope $hyts on a golden toilet

      June 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  14. blahblahblah

    "to encourage Catholics to consider the profound sacredness of same-gender relationships." I laughed when I read that... Where is this guy getting this stuff? It's certainly not the Bible, certainly not the pope. Is his judgment of sacredness something that he constructs in his own mind?

    June 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "It's certainly not the Bible, certainly not the pope."

      And I am glad his view doesn't come from a bunch of other men (you know, the MEN who wrote the book and the men who perpetuate the myth), and he actually thinks for himself. That should be applauded not condemned.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  15. moe smith

    better question: Can "true Catholics" get the fnkk over themselves?

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

      Is that what your corrup caballa taught you ?

      June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  16. jimbo, st. louis mo

    I think most Catholics can think for themselves. The church is also against contraception, but 98 percent of Catholics use it. Parishioners are just waiting for the old men in Vatican City to die off. But one dies and he gets replaced by another old man.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Prolapsed.net has some great ideas on how Catholics can force change from deep within the church.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • .

      Please stop posting this porn site it only gives Christians justification on their stance of their religion. Grow up.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  17. Dev

    No they cannot. This is why the product that the church is trying to sell is no longer wanted.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Gill Bates

      And why they should pay taxes (lose their exemption).

      June 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Father

      From what I and millions if not billions of others can see, they are still selling plenty of product!

      June 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  18. John

    Leave your religion out of politics.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • J

      I don't see anywhere in this article where it talks about politics.

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

      I do.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • sam

      John sees it everywhere. Even when he closes his eyes.

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


      June 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • John

      The topic is political because the Church is trying to oppress others based on their superstitions.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  19. Obamajoe

    God bless America,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    and our president Obama,,,,,,,,,,,

    June 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  20. SickOfReligion

    I'm glad to see that Catholics are finely thinking for themselves. The first time in a couple centuries I think. Either way good for you. Tell the pompous old perv's in their pointy hats to take a flying leap!!!!!

    June 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • PeteH

      You jump first...

      June 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • SickOfYou

      We have always thought for ourselves. Thinking about what is true and following that is actually a really good idea.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "We have always thought for ourselves. Thinking about what is true and following that is actually a really good idea."

      SORRY. But you have not ever thought for yourself. You have been force fed stories as truth and believe them based on what MEN say. That isn't thinking for yourself, sheep.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Veritas

      Sick ofYou – Excellent.post. Bless you.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • SickOfYou

      @ rawtctwm
      I'll admit it. I agree with you. You've made me see the light. I am going to reject what others forcibly tell me about what I have done in the past. And I'm going to think for myself.

      And what I am going to reject is you. I'm going to reject you telling me that I have never though for myself. I'am going to reject your assertion that I have been "force fed stories as truth." In fact I'm going to reject most everything you have said. It is my belief that agreeing with you whole heartily isn't thinking for myself.

      But I do agree that I base part of my beliefs on what MEN say. Because I have meet real MEN who believe in God. I have seen their example and I find that it is exemplary. I look at their life and see their example of strength, charity, virtue, (just to name a few) and I see a deep faith in Jesus and His Church at the heart of it all. And so I have come to believe as well.

      June 20, 2012 at 4:52 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.