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. Kevin Carroll

    Folks ought not to struggle so hard with this. Just leave the church. When the money stops rolling in, the church will change its mind just like it did when people realized the sun does go around the earth. When you smack in the face with the truth . . . they'll edit the Bible or "reinterpret" it. Hey, they do it all the time.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      kevin: you have no idea what the Church is about. In my church, we are taught (and spend time discussing how) to be good servants of all people. THAT's what the real Church is. Looks like your ilk prefers trolling C nn.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Pat

      Kevin, The Church is not about money, it's about spreading Christ's love and message. Every day the Catholic Church feeds more people, clothes more people, houses more people, and educates more people than any other organization in the world...

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

      When people realized the sun does go around the earth. Opps did you not get the notice. Sorry not trying to be mean it was just a funny typo. However, I will disagree the church can do a lot of good. I am not religious but I do try to donate some time to charity and Churches always have the best set ups and know where to go that needs help and has the resources to do it, they have the giving to the needy thing down, no ill intentions either from what I've seen. I've never seen here's a free meal and a bible, but it probably does happen.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Rabbit One

    it does not matter who backs it – it should just be practiced by those who wish to practice it

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

    The question is not whether one is a good catholic but whether he'she is a good human being. I can understand this is discussed in a third world countries. What a waste of time & energy. We are supposed to be well educated,intelligent understanding people.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  4. FajitaBob

    It's pretty clear with all that's happening with Obama, that C NNis putting these stories in the banner to distract from the horrendous job Obama is doing. And the few trolls that are hre constantly are at their usual business of spewing hate.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional nonsense. Try again.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • sam

      You need to loosen your tinfoil hat a little – it might be hampering your circulation.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. The RealBMac

    How many Catholics use condoms or birth conrol pills?

    June 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • m

      Over 90 percent according to most polls.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  6. fred

    When the catholic church decries penile implants, which are subsidised by medidare/medicaid, as vohemently as they are birth control; I will have some respect for them. Birth control maybe used for medical reasons. An erect penis is good for only one thing and it's not cleaning out your ear wax. But what can we expect from the 200 year old men who are dictating church policy, who are unable to recognise and/or admit thier hypocracy. Women are and have always been second rate in the eyes of the church.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. Satan

    Well, Man has choices; unlike other beings. Of those choices, if he so chooses to have believed in a God, and if he so chooses to align himself with the original "Holy Mother Church" established by the "Holiest of the Holy", then, it would be only logical that he follow the rules of that alignment. It would not be logical to choose a choice, but then, continue with that choice only half-heartedly, after having committed to that choice. That, of course, would be the logical choice.... for Man.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  8. Mark Schaaf

    For this and several other fundamental issues I am no longer Catholic. If we sit in the pew and silently listen, we give credence to the Church's belief that we continue to live under their thumb.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  9. jk105

    This Catholic wholeheartedly supports gay marriage.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • nottolate

      And that Catholic shall die in their sins lest they repent.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • tom

      So each week at Sunday mass you say "and i believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church" with straight face and clear conscience?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • sam

      @notolate – first off, it should be 'not TOO late'. Then, of course, I'm sure you have plenty to repent for – so give the archaic hypocrisy a rest.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • nottolate

      @Sam, actually I have very little to repent for thanks to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life. One maybe two things max. So what are you talking about?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  10. laura

    why is this even a topic. Anyone who is against it is a hypocrit, unless they follow all the other "rules." Such as, a women must stay locked away when she has her period because shes dirty. You can kill your children if they talk back. If an angry mob is chasing a stranger you should offer up your child in place of the stranger to the angry mob.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Valerie

      I have been a practicing catholic my whole life and never heard any of these, and I was went to parochial school K-12 in the Chicago diocese..........but nice try. FAIL.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Satan

      Oh my dear Laura! I am not sure where those passages came from. I am not sure that I recall the "Holy Son" stating any of those commandments. As a matter of fact, your Christ professed a commandment above all others: that you love one another! I would perhaps search for a Nihil Obstat or some such notarization.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Aezel

      Lol Valerie. Those rules are all right there in the Bible. You should try reading it sometime. It sounds like your parochial education wasn't worth crap.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • liz

      Lev 11:12

      June 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Mike

      The church has been molesting young boys since it's inception. The church shouldn't practice what it doesn't allow.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • StevenR

      The problem is that Catholics are no longer Christians, they are papists. When a MAN, a HUMAN BEING speaks for GOD, you are out of the realm of Christianity and into the realm of oligarchic, neo-colonialism that IS the Catholic Church.

      ALL organized religions have become lobbying organizations. Take away ALL their tax exemptions. No REAL CHURCH would own such elaborate buildings and be so concerned about property. CHRIST would NEVER do ANY SUCH THING!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Unclean women – Levitius 15:19-30
      Kill your mouthy kids: Deuteronomy 21:18
      Lot gives a mob of rap/ists his vir/gin daughters: Genesis 19:1-9

      June 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • nottolate

      Haven't read a bible yourself and are just repeating hearsay aren't you? Jewish judicial/civil and ceremonial law was abrogated something like 2009 years ago. Over two thousand years and you still ain't read the memo.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Valerie

      Doc- Those are OLD TESTAMENT teachings! I meant in my original post that those are not RULES we follow in the church...more trolls trying to incite controversy! Nice try, troll!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Valerie

      I think I know the teachings of the church I have been member to since infancy. I don't think any NON catholics should be posting because you are all clueless and this isn't your issue.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You said you'd never heard of those things.
      I simply provided you the scriptural references.
      That isn't trolling – it is providing you the resources to see for yourself.
      I am pleased that you don't use the Old Testament as your moral standard. It is replete with misogyny, slavery, genocide, ridiculous rules of conduct and all other manner of hate and evil.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I am curious. As a devout Catholic, you must accept the precept of Papal Infallibility.
      "If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema."
      – Pope Pius V (speaking Ex-Cathedra)

      Do you believe that the Eucharist is symbolic or literal cannibalism?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • laura

      These are clearly horrible passages no one follows, I was simply trying to demonstrate that you can't just hide behind what the bible says. Yes these are found in the old testament but you want to know what Jesus has to say about gay marriage... nothing. You might think I can't post because I'm not catholic but people who are really interested in learning the issues listen to those with opinions and backrounds different than theirs. I was simply sharing my opinion that I see double standards on this issue. Its okay to be obese even though thats a deadly sin but its not okay to be gay? How is this not a double standard?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Another question for you:
      Catholic Dogma states that after the birth of Jesus, Mary remained a vir/gin.
      But the Bible has several references to Christ's family, including His siblings.
      , "While He was still speaking to the mult/itudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You."
      Matthew 12:46-47
      "Is not this the carpenters son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?"
      Matthew 13:55 –

      That means that either Mary had several more miraculous pregnancies, or she and Joseph behaved like a normal married couple and she did not remain a vir/gin until the day God transported her bodily to Heaven.
      Which is it?

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

      I thought the whole virgin birth for mary was added at the king james version of the bible. I know in earlier scriptures there were other virgin births. I also want to know how Noah was able to house all those animals that would eat each other and get all their diets just right and same with temperature, you can't store those polar bears and leopards at the same temp. I'm not trying to sound like a smart ass, these are serious questions for people who claim the bible to be literal.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  11. ILoveMillaJ

    Is there anyone really surprised they support gay marriage given how many closeted gays and pedophiles are in positions of power within the Roman Catholic church? Some of these people have and continue to abuse little boys, while the corrupt church pays off the families to keep quiet. This religion hides behind all these traditions non of which are in the actual Bible.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Satan

      The religion is what your Christ has stated it to be; is that not so? I do not recall the "Holy One" professing to hide, or defile children.... ever! But if that is the message you profess, then, your word is what you choose it to be!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Steph Brusig

      It is well known that pedophiles are straight people. Do not confuse them to be the same. We in the gay community find pedophiles sick bad people just like you do.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tower Of Babel

      Did anybody catch this ????????


      Is there anyone really surprised they support gay marriage given how many closeted gays and pedophiles are in positions of power within the Roman Catholic church? Some of these people have and continue to abuse little boys

      This moron doesnt even understand that the Catholic church is against gay marriage,
      this is what has happened at CNN since Fox shut down the comment section.......
      we got all the idiots, morons and losers who dont even know what they are posting about
      spouting Republican/Christian garbage here.

      The internet, where your brain can take a dump.

      June 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  12. swampmagic

    Roman Catholicism is not a democracy. The church hierarchy makes its rules and doctrine and the members are expected to obey those rules and adhere to doctrine. period. No dissent, no discussion. That's the foundational core of the Roman communion. When someone says they are going to do something or believes something contrary to what Rome dictates, they are in effect declaring themselves Protestant whether they continue to attend and RC church or not.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • columbus

      You hit the nail on the head! Exactly, that's what makes it a religion and not a suggestion.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • StevenR

      That is why there was a REFORMATION. The problem was one group of old white guys broke off from the other group of old white guys.

      Christianity was MATRIARCHAL after Christ until the old white guys took over. This perversion of an excellent philosophy is vile and corrupt. DOWN with organized religion. END the Catholic Church. Take away ALL RELIGIOUS TAX EXEMPTIONS.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Tower Of Babel

      *** and the members are expected to obey those rules and adhere to doctrine........

      As the church makes them up.

      June 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  13. B. Rizzolata

    This if the fault of the ROGUE NUNS!!!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  14. True Catho

    True Catholics are gay, but only some of them are pedos.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Satan

      Is this the best choice of words you can make? Come now!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Mrs. KATZ

    The Catholic Church has no problem with pedophile priests, but gay marriage? Oh Nooooooooooo!

    June 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Satan

      Oh now Katy! Do we have insight into the Holy See, now do we?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  16. Thomas

    i've stopped reading these articles because they pretty much provide the same answer as they did before, it will be up to the masses to decide.. besides, doesn't anyone find it odd that a few months after he announced he was christian at a black baptist? support group, Barack announces his support for gay marriage near the end of his term? or was he "afraid" to wait to the last minute and have that massive gay war chest ultimately sink his ship? 🙂


    thomas 🙂

    June 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  17. libfreak48

    All I need to do is ask myself if Jesus would condemn gays. And He would not.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • chrissy


      June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • EyesOpen

      Nor would flying spaghetti monster......equally as important.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • slim81184

      ya know the pope also said that creating pollution is to be considered a sin... i do not think he realized when he was saying this that he was producing carbon dioxide which is the number one pollutant of all... yes the pope sinned...

      June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • nottolate

      Actually, he already has. All that remains for gays or anybody outside the body of Christ is to be sentenced. As it is written,

      "He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

      And understand what "he that believes on him" really means. He's talking about a saving faith and not merely a said faith or intellectual assent. He's talking about the person who's actually born again.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Daniel

      Jesus cant condemn anyone he is a myth and a lie.....

      June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • bobw

      he would (and did) die for their sin (of all kinds). we condemn ourselves if we deny Jesus and continue in our sin

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • swampmagic

      He did say "Go and sin no more" which he in effect says to all of us. The question is what is and isn't sin. That is harder to determine, but it's not done by prevailing public opinion of the day.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • pjusa

      "not condemning" is not the same as condonation. Jesus did not condemn anyone as long as they were willing to change their lifestyles and follow his teachings.

      June 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Free Your Mind

      He did say "Go and sin no more"......

      To a woman who was selling her body to feed herself.
      Did Jesus feed her or give her money ?
      Easy for Jesus to say, as he was fed by everyone on his journey.
      I can play that game too.

      June 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  18. Izoto


    June 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. eeee gosh

    no way, no way at all will this be tolerated in the Catholic community. Man, don't even go there.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  20. Andrew

    I don't know any "true" Catholics – and almost everyone I know IS Catholic. The vast majority of Catholics disagree with the Pope on one or more issues but still consider themselves Catholic. If the church didn't let them be Catholic, there'd be like 3 Catholics on the planet.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      Andrew: you obviously don't know any true Catholics. We don't all share your views, and we don't all "disagree with the Pope." Even if we did disagree on one or two issues, how would that mean we should not be Catholic? Make sense, man!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Satan

      Andrew, "True" Catholics CAN commit sin. Perhaps you might need to understand what the meaning of "Catholic" really is? Perhaps you might review some of the sacraments in that very old religion? I think that "true" Catholics can make a choice. I think "true" Catholics learn to live with the consequences of those choices. It's all about a choice. It's all about accepting the consequences. My friend Michael and I came to terms long ago regarding choices. And I only hope Robert has a good handle on his disagreements with the Pope. That's a choice too!

      June 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • StevenR

      Fajita! Make Sense Man!

      If you disagree on even the SMALLEST JOT of anything the pope says YOU ARE NOT A CATHOLIC. This is a RELIGION, not a political party. You must BELIEVE WITHOUT DOUBT or you are not saved. Period.

      Catholicism implies that THE POPE IS THE VOICE OF GOD. If you disagree with him, you disagree with the church. If you disagree with the church, you are not a Catholic. Simple. Heck, the NUNS actually DON'T DISAGREE, they just want to EMPHASIZE slightly different things and THEY are in hot water. Disagree on birth control or abortion just a little, then, literally, the church says, "TO HELL WITH YOU!".

      June 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Free Your Mind

      Even if we did disagree on one or two issues, how would that mean we should not be Catholic? Make sense, man!

      You are NOT allowed to disagree on anything.
      Your job is to follow the bible, NOT interpet it.
      That is the word of the church.

      June 20, 2012 at 8:01 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.