For Catholics, open attitudes on gay issues

As the tranquil tones of church bells and choirs usher in another Easter Sunday, you may hear stirrings of controversy beneath those sounds — set to the pounding of a Lady Gaga tune.

It’s no accident that Lady Gaga decided to release the video for her provocative single, “Judas,” this Easter. From wearing see-through nun habits to suggestively swallowing a rosary, the pop star, who was raised a Catholic, has consistently prodded her faith’s strict sexual conventions.

But if Lady Gaga has managed to offend some Catholics, her progressiveness, specifically her support for gay equality, reflects a genuine cultural moment. A recent study indicates that today’s Catholics are the most progressive Christians in the country regarding gay equality — and more open than Americans in general.

Last month, the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group, reported that 74 percent of American Catholics surveyed supported the rights of same-sex couples to marry or form civil unions (43 percent and 31 percent, respectively). The telephone survey asked more than 3,000 adults to choose among three options: whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, should be allowed to form civil unions or should receive no legal recognition. By comparison, 16 percent of white evangelical Christians approved of same-sex marriages; 24 percent approved of civil unions. Among the general public, those rates climb to 37 and 27 percent, respectively — still lower than among Catholics.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an independent group that has worked on gay Catholic issues since 1977, said he had seen Catholics open up in recent years. His group maintains a list of “gay-friendly parishes and faith communities” around the country, which has grown to more than 200 from about 20 since 1997.

The New York Times, April 22, 2011

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