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Wednesday, January 16 2013

Freedom to Create Family

“In this pastoral message, we draw upon the gift of faith as well as the sound teaching and pastoral practice of the Church to offer loving support, reliable guidance, and recommendations for ministries suited to your needs and to those of your child. Our message speaks of accepting yourself, your beliefs and values, your questions, and all you may be struggling with at this moment; accepting and loving your child as a gift of God; and accepting the full truth of God's revelation about the dignity of the human person and the meaning of human sexuality. Within the Catholic moral vision there is no contradiction among these levels of acceptance, for truth and love are not opposed. They are inseparably joined and rooted in one person, Jesus Christ, who reveals God to be ultimate truth and saving love.”

-- Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, A Statement of the Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family, 1997.

Freedom to Create Family

Catholics for Equality supports family life in all its many shapes in modern society.  While the family can be considered a foundational institution of society, in today's world there are many types of families that create our communities.  In Catholic parishes throughout the United States today we find nuclear families, extended families, and single-parent families.  Some of these families have children and some do not.  Children are being raised by their blood parents, by adoptive parents, by grandparents, foster parents, and in group homes and orphanages.  Children are being nurtured by their teachers, coaches, aunts and uncles, godparents, and big brothers and sisters.  In their parishes families are being nurtured by celibate parish priests, lay ministers, and religious sisters and brothers.   To say the least when Catholics think of 'family' and 'marriage' they are set in a vibrant and complex family context that is way more than a simplistic "one man, one woman" relationship.  

American Catholics understand the above complexity in their every day lives as they accept and support the wide range of family realities that constitute our parishes and communities today.  As Catholics unite around the Eucharist they experience the Body of Christ in its many forms and draw all people into the one Christian family that is life affirming and celebratory, as well as forgiving and healing.  As regards the LGBT Community Catholics are the single most favorable Christian denomination toward LGBT acceptance in U.S. society: 

  • 58% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society versus 30% who do not.  
  • 69% of Catholics favor the legalization of the basic rights accorded to married heterosexual couples for gays and lesbians in long-term committed relationships, such as hospital visitation rights, health insurance, and pension coverage.  This is a significant statistic compared to 63% of mainline Christians, 36% of white evangelicals, and 44% of black Protestants.

This data indicates that Catholics are the leading religious community toward the acceptance of equal family rights for the LGBT community.  Acceptance of equal family rights does not in any way diminish traditional family life but bolsters the social fabric of all American families. (2) 

The concept of family equality is central to nurturing children in today's society.  According to the Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention organization, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers." (1)  We owe it to our children to be accepting and loving of them, especially as they face their own understanding of sexuality and identity.  Catholic families can be a beacon to all American families in the creation of family equality as a true family value.


For resources on Catholics, Family Life, and the Gay Community please consult:

For information on Families and the LGBT community, please consult:

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) website: http://community.pflag.org

Family Equality Council website: www.familyequality.org

Talking points for Freedom to Create Family

Family First!

Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of divorce, remarriage, and single mothers and fathers.  Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family.  It is not surprising that Catholics in general, as a Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children.  Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.

Catholic Communal Emphasis

Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage.  Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Catholic community’s cultural observances of saints' days, Marian celebrations such as Guadalupe, Fatima, Lourdes, etc., Corpus Christi, etc.  Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. Fundamentalist Protestantism sees such Catholic cultural practices as contrary to a pure Christian faith.   

Catholic Tolerance

Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible.  Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making.  Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights— as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops.  Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the California Prop 8 campaign and the Maine Prop 1 campaign.

Latino Catholic Attitudes

Recently same-sex marriage and adoption rights were legally approved in the Catholic countries of Argentina, Spain, and Portugal, as well as Mexico City.  It is important to note that modern Latin Catholicism has a dual nature: it is “conservative” in the sense of family communalism and tradition that the church offers, yet it is classically “liberal” in the sense of not wanting the Catholic Church to have power in political life— particularly after the long historical experience of the Latin American Church “meddling in politics.”  As Mexicans put it: “No meta en la política.”  A sizeable majority of U.S. Latino Catholics shares these attitudes with them.  Increasingly they are joining their Latin counterparts in accepting gays and lesbians as part of the social family that is both Catholic and liberal. 

For further information regarding Catholic attitudes regarding LGBT issues, please see the Public Religion Research Institute's research regarding religion and California Prop 8:  www.publicreligion.org/research/?id=318


1. Chavez Center Institute, 2007, San Francisco State University, www.thetrevorproject.org/info.aspx

2. Data derived from:  Robert P. Jones and Dan Cox, 2009, “Roman Catholics and LGBT Justice Issues,”  www.publicreligion.org/research/published/?id=107

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