Catholic bishop to women, gays: I’m sorry

By Michael O’Loughlin


If you’ve ever felt unwelcome at Church because of your gender, race, or sexual orientation, a Massachusetts bishop has a message for you: I’m sorry.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield used the occasion of Ash Wednesday to mark Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy by apologizing to and seeking reconciliation with Catholics in Western Massachusetts.

Rozanski, sent from Baltimore to lead the 217,000-member diocese in 2014, said that ongoing fallout from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, shuttered and merged churches, and less than welcoming parishes have caused a rupture between the Church and some of the faithful.

He says he is seeking forgiveness.

“There are many people hurting in our Catholic community from the pain caused by our past failings as a diocese, as well as the grievous actions of some who ministered in our church,” he wrote in a pastoral letter on evangelization. “The reality of this pain is that it still echoes many years later, as was given witness in our recent diocesan survey.”

Through that survey, completed by 3,000 local Catholics, Rozanski said he learned that some Catholics don’t feel welcome in churches and thus stop participating in the faith.

“Still there are others who have distanced themselves because they feel unwelcomed. The reasons here can vary, but key among them are race and cultural differences, a sense of gender inequality as well as sexual orientation,” he wrote. “Others have been treated unkindly, impatiently, or rudely by clergy, religious, ministers, and staff of parishes — all which is unacceptable.”

Mitchell-T.-RozanskiI ask your forgiveness,” he continued.

He said parishes “must be inviting and energetic environments, founded both in our traditions but also the reality of everyday life,” and urged local Catholics to “to evangelize those who were once, but are no longer with us.”

“We need you, we need your presence, your gifts and your talents. We need you to complete our community, to enrich it, to make it better and more effective,” he wrote.

He quoted one of the people who took part in the diocesan survey, who wrote, “The gay community feels that they aren’t welcome. They don’t want to espouse another religion; therefore, they don’t attend church at all. Hopefully, a special outreach could be done to them.”

Rozanski said that revitalizing the diocese through evangelization would be a “daunting task,” but urged Catholics “to walk beyond our parish boundaries, without fear, to demonstrate the faith we celebrate in liturgy takes form in the reality of the world around us.”

Rozanski opened the letter by asking several questions about love and forgiveness, urging Catholics to look the Pope Francis as an example of how to love like God, who “looks beyond our faults and failings and loves us just as we are.”

Pope Francis launched the Jubilee of Mercy in December, opening a special holy year during which Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and walk through designated holy doors in order to have their sins forgiven. The pope has made mercy and forgiveness the hallmarks of his papacy.

“Do you believe in a God who loves you?” Rozanski asked. “Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?”

Complete Article HERE!


Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High

Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • 60% are satisfied, up from 53% in 2015
  • For first time, majority of Republicans (54%) say they are satisfied
  • Sixty-seven percent of Democrats are satisfied

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new high of 60% of Americans say they are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S. — up from 53% in 2014 and 2015. As recently as 10 years ago, satisfaction was as low as 32%.

Trend: Americans' Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians in the U.S.

The latest data, from Gallup’s annual Mood of the Nation survey conducted Jan. 6-10, come after a landmark year in achievements for the gay rights movement. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state laws that banned same-sex marriage. Prior to the court’s decision last year, 60% of Americans supported gay marriages.

Gallup first polled on Americans’ satisfaction with acceptance of gays and lesbians in 2001, when about a third reported being satisfied. Over the next eight years, this figure hovered between 32% and 40%. The level of satisfaction climbed in each poll between 2006 and 2014 amid a state-by-state battle for marriage rights. During this time, the federal government also repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Supreme Court struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Gallup asks Americans who say they are dissatisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians if that dissatisfaction stems from their desire to see more acceptance or less acceptance. Similar percentages currently choose each explanation. Both of these figures have declined over the years as overall satisfaction has climbed, with a much greater decline in the percentage who are dissatisfied and want less acceptance.

Trend: Satisfaction With the Degree of Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians

Majorities of All Party Groups Satisfied With Gay Acceptance in U.S.

The latest poll marks the first time that majorities of Americans from within the three major political identifications report being satisfied with acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S. Democrats remain the most satisfied (67%), as they have been since 2012. Meanwhile, 59% of independents and 54% of Republicans report being satisfied on the issue.

Trend: Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians, by Party Identification

Over the past 15 years, Democrats were least satisfied — ranging between 27% and 38% in satisfaction — during the administration of President George W. Bush, a Republican president who called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as he campaigned for re-election in 2004. But as Democratic President Barack Obama completed his first term in office in 2012, Democrats’ satisfaction climbed to 48% and has gained 19 percentage points in the years since.

Satisfaction among the GOP has been a lot tamer, ranging from 32% to 41% from 2001 to 2013. Though Republicans were generally more satisfied than Democrats during the Bush presidency and the least satisfied group during the Obama presidency, the percentage of those who report being satisfied has climbed quite a bit over Obama’s second term.

Bottom Line

The past decade has seen significant progress for the gay rights movement in the U.S., and along with that, a greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in the country more generally. Now a new high of 60% of Americans are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S., nearly doubling the 32% from 10 years ago.

But despite being in the minority, there are many Americans who are unhappy with the advancements made in gay rights, and there are judges, religious figures and GOP presidential candidates who seek to undo what gay rights supporters have achieved. Meanwhile, another faction of Americans are dissatisfied because they seek more acceptance for gays and lesbians — perhaps in response to continued efforts to walk back newly achieved gay rights, hate crimes against LGBT people and other acts of intolerance directed at the community.

Still, a stronger majority than ever before is content with the current state of gay acceptance in the U.S. Given the generational differences Gallup has found among supporters of gay rights, it is likely that satisfaction will continue to grow as younger generations supplant older ones.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 6-10, 2016, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Complete Article HERE!


WATCH: Catholic Father Supports LGBT Community

Father Joe is changing his congregation’s stance on homosexuality. 

By Out.com Editors

fr joe

In Eric Kruszewski’s final video on the LEAD Ministry, a LGBT-friendly group within Saint Matthew’s Catholic Church, we meet Father Joe, the man who is helping to change his congregation’s stance on homosexuality. “I don’t think the institutional church realizes how hurtful they are to homosexual people,” he says.

Four years ago, Father Joe helped launch LEAD, which has since grown in numbers and visibility—even participating in Baltimore’s pride parade.

Watch Father Joe below:

Click here to see all the videos from this series.

Complete Article HERE!


Not all gay Catholics are pleased about how Vatican priest came out of the closet


Krzysztof Charamsa, left, who worked for a Vatican office, appears at the news conference with his partner, Eduardo, on Oct. 3 in Rome.


Two days before a longtime Vatican official burst from his stained-glass closet last month, he was dining with an Italian media consultant inside an elegant restaurant on the right bank of Rome’s Tiber River. The topic of conversation: How should the official come out?

Krzysztof Charamsa was still employed at one of the Holy See’s most powerful offices, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But after decades of hiding, the 43-year-old gay Polish priest wanted to come out with a flourish. He was no longer afraid to confront a church he saw as intrinsically “homophobic” and proposed a symbolic news conference outside the headquarters of the Congregation — the very institution charged with defending and disseminating Catholic teachings around the globe.

But Emilio Sturla, a public relations consultant who worked closely with gay Catholic groups and was helping Charamsa, strongly suggested he reconsider, both men recalled. The public and the church, Sturla insisted, would see such a move as too incendiary.

“But that’s what he wanted,” Sturla said. “To be provocative.” And that’s what he did.

Their conversation suggests how even before it happened, Charamsa’s high-profile debut — including its timing right before a major Vatican meeting of the church hierarchy — was already controversial among the small group of gay Catholics aware of his plans.

Charamsa’s move brought the expected denunciations from the church and religious conservatives, who pointed out that he had violated his vow of chastity and the church’s teachings on homosexuality. More surprisingly, his actions have also sparked a split among gay Catholics.

The church officially teaches that homosexual desires are not sinful unless acted upon and calls on gays and lesbians to live lives of chastity. It teaches that gays are deserving of human dignity. But it also describes homosexual acts as a sin that is “intrinsically disordered” and a “grave depravity.”

As Pope Francis opens the door to more inclusion of gay people, Charamsa’s coming out — and the reactions to it — cuts to the heart of a debate raging among gay Catholics worldwide: Should they use gentle dialogue or open confrontation in pushing for change?

Many gay activists are cheering Charamsa’s action, heralding him as a Vatican whistleblower. In two days of extensive interviews with The Washington Post, for instance, Charamsa said the Vatican office where he worked routinely shut down priests and bishops calling for more acceptance of gay people. He describes an angry uproar in its halls on the day in 2013 when Francis, responding to a question about gay priests, famously declared, “Who am I to judge?”

Yet at a time when they can almost smell what they call the sweet scent of change, some gay Catholics counter that Charamsa’s “theatrical” coming out may have done more harm than good. It could, they say, embolden church hard-liners and have a chilling effect on the slowly thawing relations between gay people and the Catholic Church.

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, right, reads a newspaper showing a picture of gay bishop Krzysztof Charamsa and his partner Eduard before the start of the morning session of the Synod of bishops on family issues, at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Last week the Vatican fired Charamsa who came out as gay on the eve of the meeting of the world's bishops. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, right, reads a newspaper showing a picture of gay bishop Krzysztof Charamsa and his partner Eduard before the start of the morning session of the Synod of bishops on family issues, at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Last week the Vatican fired Charamsa who came out as gay on the eve of the meeting of the world’s bishops.

Charamsa is unbowed. The church, he said, has deployed “Nazi words” against gays, and the time has come to respond. Referring to the 1969 New York riots that became a milestone in the American gay rights movement, he said, “The church needs a Stonewall.”

From closet to stage

“Here I go,” Charamsa said with a grin, walking down the center aisle of the Morality Theater on a recent evening in Arenys de Munt, Spain — a small town 28 miles northeast of Barcelona. He is a tad nervous. Laughing a little too hard. His hands perspiring. It is his first major public appearance since his big splash on Oct. 3, and he wants it to be good.

Charamsa doesn’t get far before 72-year-old Jaume Torrent grabs his arm. Torrent’s bear cub of a husband, a 39-year-old bearded construction worker, is standing close, wearing a tight T-shirt and a smile of admiration as the two gush praise at Charamsa.

“You!” beams Torrent, a self-described gay Catholic. He’s one of a crowd of more than 100 — a good chunk of them gays and lesbians — who have turned out to hear Charamsa speak. “You brave man. You did not hide. We are so proud of you.”

Charamsa is living a sort of self-imposed exile now, in an apartment in Barcelona he shares with his Spanish boyfriend, Eduardo. He refuses to say when or where they met, though people familiar with the couple say it was at least a year ago. Yet Charamsa is not focused on telling his own story — he’s still guarded about his childhood, his partner, his gay life as a priest. Instead, he’s focusing on what he feels is the big issue: homophobia within the Catholic Church.

He grew up in the Baltic port city of Gdynia, the son of an economist father and a mother who was a devout Catholic. At a young age, he became an altar boy, and then, a priest, at a time when the priesthood in Poland was a convenient place for gay men to remain unmarried and yet still obtain a measure of social standing. In fact, some studies have suggested that homosexuality is more prevalent in the priesthood overall than in the general population. But Charamsa describes his calling from God as genuine.

When Charamsa was young, the church’s teachings on homosexuality — something it calls an “intrinsic moral evil” — led him to personal torment and self-hate, he said. Today, he blames the church’s grip on largely Catholic Poland for a powerful strain of homophobia that still lingers there.

“It was the horrible problem of my life,” he said. “It was like hell. I prayed for years for God to take away this illness.”

His thinking had not changed, he said, when he began working at the Vatican in 2003, laboring in a mid-level administrative post and analyzing doctrinal papers. There are regular, if unofficial, social meetings of gay priests in Italy, including those from the Vatican, according to one gay priest who has attended them. But Charamsa says he was never part of that crowd.

Instead, he said, until meeting Eduardo, he led a highly closeted life that allowed him to observe homophobia close up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

Inside its halls, Charamsa said, the issue of homosexuality “is only spoken about in jokes.” He compares it to the macho climate of, say, a sports team. Modern textbooks on human sexuality are rarely, if ever, studied. He said he saw careers destroyed after clerics appeared to get soft on gays. Suspicion of being gay, meanwhile, was reason enough to bar the promotions of priests to higher ranks.

Any move toward a more accepting stance, he said, was routinely stamped out. He recalls, for instance, an “internal persecution” of Bishop Piero Marini in 2013 after the Vatican official openly called for recognition of the moral value of same-sex unions. The Congregation, Charamsa said, insisted the bishop clarify true church teachings.

On the day in July 2013 when Pope Francis responded “Who am I to judge?” after being asked a question about gay priests, Charamsa said, there was an uproar within the Congregation. Its conservative prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, had “only bad things” to say about the pope in response, Charamsa said.

The Vatican declined to comment on any of Charamsa’s allegations.

Today, he calls his highly public coming out a form of “protest,” one that came together recently after he accepted himself and came to feel that the church, not his sexual orientation, was the problem. He is now on a one-man mission to challenge its teachings — something he is doing in regular media interviews, a book he is penning, even a blunt letter to the pope in which he derided the church for its “diabolical instruction.” It is a series of decisions that have come with a high price.

In fact, by Oct. 3 — the day that Charamsa held his news conference — he had already come out in interviews published over the previous 24 hours in the Polish and Italian media. But it was only that day, as he faced reporters, that his story truly went global.

Sturla, the media consultant, ultimately persuaded Charamsa to move his news conference to a lower-key setting at the Rome restaurant where the two had dined two days earlier. As the cameras rolled, Charamsa held hands with, and hugged, Eduardo while vowing to make “an enormous noise for the good of the church.”

Soon after, Charamsa was evicted by the nun running the Rome convent where he had lived for years as a chaplain, he said. His brother’s children are being bullied at school, and his mother is facing pressure at her church in his native Poland, he added. The Vatican fired him on the spot, leaving him unemployed. And his bishop in Poland suspended him, stripping him of the right to wear the Roman collar and celebrate Mass.

Technically, Charamsa said, he remains ordained. In a statement, his bishop left the door open for Charamsa’s return to the practicing priesthood should he repent. But it’s an offer, Charamsa told his applauding audience in Spain, that he has declined.

“I’ve come out of the closet,” he said, “and I’m not going back.”

Strategic differences

Critics of Charamsa’s public protest also question his timing. On Oct. 3, the day of the news conference, Andrea Rubera was across town helping manage a major meeting in Rome of gay Catholics. Rubera, the spokesman for an Italian gay group advocating a gentler approach toward change in the church, was hopeful about the major Vatican synod starting the next day. Bishops were set to discuss, among other issues, the church’s approach toward gays and lesbians. His group had even managed to secure a Catholic bishop — the Rev. José Raúl Vera López of Saltillo, Mexico — to speak at the meeting.

Then Charamsa dropped his bombshell.

“We spent a year organizing that conference,” Rubera said. “But the day it happened, the press showed up, and all they wanted to talk about was Charamsa.”

Under Francis, Rubera said, he has sensed a subtle but important shift in the icy relationship between homosexuals and the Catholic Church in Italy. One local parish in Rome, he said, is now openly inviting gay Catholics to participate in church events — something once unthinkable. Yet Charamsa’s “theatrical” coming out, he says, put those gains in jeopardy and sabotaged the synod, which failed to break any new ground on homosexuality.

“Our fear now is that his coming out, and the way he came out, will build a wall, not a bridge,” Rubera said.

Said Michael Brinkschröder, coordinator of the European Forum of Christian LGBT Groups: “I think many cardinals — for example, Cardinal Müller — might have felt pressured [by Charamsa’s move]. My position is that pressure is not the appropriate means to achieve change.”

In fact, shortly before Charamsa’s announcement, the priest had consulted with a small group of leading voices in the gay Catholic communities in Poland, Britain and Italy. All were strongly in favor of his coming out. But several disagreed with him on key points.

Charamsa says that gay Catholics advocating less confrontational methods have thus far failed to produce results. He welcomes Francis’s more inclusive approach but also describes it as mostly “words.” Rather than being a product of his coming out, the lack of a new approach at the synod is the product of entrenched church thinking that needs to be more boldly challenged, he said.

That, he says, is his new calling.

“I was in a prison of my mind,” he said.

But no more.

Complete Article HERE!


Polish bishop defrocks gay priest who sparked Vatican fury

A Polish bishop has defrocked Father Krysztof Olaf Charamsa, pictured at a press conference on October 3, 2015, in the wake of his public declaration that he is gay and has a partner

A Polish bishop on Wednesday defrocked a high-ranking Catholic priest fired by a furious Vatican earlier this month after he came out as gay on the eve of a key synod on the family.

Bishop Ryszard Kasyna has decided that Krzystof Charamsa should no longer be able to celebrate mass, administer sacraments like communion and baptism or wear a cassock, according to a statement on the website of their northern Pelplin diocese.

Charamsa had held a senior position working for the Vatican office for protecting Catholic dogma, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The 43-year-old priest sparked outrage at the Vatican on October 3 by publicly declaring his homosexuality — and presenting his Catalan boyfriend Eduardo — on the eve of a bishops’ synod set to touch on the divisive issue of the Catholic Church’s relationship to gay believers.

Bishop Kasyna said he was forced to defrock Charamsa for failing to abide by his vow of celibacy following an earlier official warning.

“Considering Father Charamsa’s lack of will to correct his behaviour and public statements indicating he will continue to break rules governing the behaviour of Catholic priests,” the bishop decided to defrock him, the statement said.

“This penalty is intended to encourage Father Charamsa to mend his ways and can be rescinded depending on his behaviour,” it said.

Father Krysztof Olaf Charamsa (L), with his partner Edouard on October 3, 2015, has been barred from celebrating mass and performing other priestly functions, though he has not been excommunicated

While Charamsa can no longer perform priestly duties, he has not been excommunicated, a move that would entirely banish him from the Catholic church.

After coming out, Charamsa presented a 10-point “liberation manifesto” against “institutionalised homophobia in the Church”, which he said particularly oppressed the gay men who, according to him, make up the majority of priests.

He also revealed plans for a book about his 12 years at the heart of a Vatican bureaucracy only just recovering from a scandal under previous pope Benedict XVI over the influence of a “gay lobby” among senior clergy.

A Vatican spokesman described Charamsa’s action as “very serious and irresponsible”.


Yes, Pope Had a Private Meeting — With a Gay Couple


Yayo Grassi (left) watches as his partner Iwan hugs Pope Francis


How the Pope Might Renew the Church

By Francis A. Quinn

I AM a Catholic, born in 1921 of Italian and Irish families and raised in California seminaries. After decades of work as a priest, I was astonished that Pope Paul VI appointed me a bishop in San Francisco. I love my church, and every night I pray that I might die in her warm, loving arms.

Francis A. Quinn

Bishop Francis A. Quinn

Yet I worry about my church’s future. Basic doctrines will not change. But the church may change policies and practices after doing serious study.

So, as we await Pope Francis’ visit to America, I offer a peaceful contribution to the controversies that convulse the church today.

American Catholics are divided, primarily, by three internal church conflicts.

The first is over priestly celibacy. Observers within and outside the church point to mandatory celibacy as a principal factor driving down the number of American priests.

A celibate life is admirable for a priest who personally chooses it. For 1,000 years, great good has been accomplished because priests could fully devote their lives to their ministry.

Nevertheless, in recent years married clergy of other Christian churches have been accepted into service in the Catholic Church. So far, the ministry of these married priests has appeared successful.

The church should start relieving the desperate shortage of clergy members by also accepting for ordination men of mature age, of proven character and in stable marriages.

Optional celibacy allows a choice between an abstinent life, totally free for ministry, or a married life that enables better understanding of the lives of parishioners.

American Catholics are also divided over the ordination of women as priests.

Recent popes have said publicly that priesthood for women cannot be considered because the gospel and other documents state that Christ ordained men only.

Yet women have shown great qualities of leadership: strength, intelligence, prayerfulness, wisdom, practicality, sensitivity and knowledge of theology and sacred Scripture.

Might the teaching church one day, taking account of changing circumstances, be inspired by the Holy Spirit to study and reinterpret this biblical tradition?

Finally, why is a divorced Catholic who has remarried denied the Eucharist? Such people are considered living in an irregular union.

Valid marriages remain indissoluble. However, in confession a priest, after reviewing the circumstances with a remarried penitent, already can assist that person to develop a clear conscience with God and resume receiving the Eucharist.

Last month, Pope Francis stated that divorced and remarried Catholics were “not excommunicated,” perhaps suggesting that prohibition of the Eucharist is under review.

In surveys today, the question “to what church do you belong?” increasingly prompts the answer “none.” Polls show that many high school and college students have gradually come to believe that what they learned as children about the nature of God can be erased as readily as Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

The culture that surrounds them focuses on science, growing out of the long history of Copernicus, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Hawking. Still, most young people become not atheistic but agnostic, still searching even as they entertain doubts about God.

Pope Francis prefers the simple title “bishop of Rome.” So I ask my brother bishop: Should we not convene a third Vatican Council just as ethical and paradigm-shifting as Vatican Council II of the 1960s?

A Vatican Council III would bring together the world’s bishops under the unifying guidance of Peter. It would include representative major theologians, scholars of sacred Scripture, scientists and appropriate academics, lay people of all ages, clergy members and parishioners, and officials of other faiths.

st petersIn addition to the three issues dividing the church, this council and future councils would explore the morality of world economies, spiritual life, human sexuality, peace and war, and the poor and suffering.

Such a council might slow or reverse the flow of the faithful out of the church. It would also stimulate a new conversation about God, one that shows young people that God is not an old man with a long white beard. God is infinite and unlimited.

This is not easy to grasp. God is incomprehensible to our finite minds. We surmise that God is spirit, straddling the universe and parallel universes. At the same time God is intimate to each of us. We cannot prove existence by reason, nor can science disprove God’s existence.

Moreover, faith and science are not in conflict.

Many of the young say they relate to God personally and do not need a church. We applaud this personal relationship, but it is also truly human to do things in community: We party together, we play sports together, we enjoy meals together. The three generations of my own nieces and nephews are just as moral as I am, if not more so. Could it be that they know more clearly what Pope Francis has been asking of us for the past two years — to be more loving and accepting?

What caused much of the church over the centuries to underestimate the gospel’s core message, which is love? After the emperors Constantine and Theodosius embraced Christianity in the fourth century, one strain in the church developed a spirit of power and dominance, seen most clearly in the Crusades and the Inquisition. Many, including Pope Gregory VII, tried heroically, but unsuccessfully, to stop this trend.

Therefore, the main challenge facing the church today is not simply to resolve questions like celibacy, but to relearn how to communicate a deeper, more intelligent, more relevant religion that leads to a life of acceptance and love.

Complete Article HERE!


Vast majority of U.S. Catholics who left the church can’t imagine returning, study says

Pope Francis has a light moment as he leaves St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after an audience with with altar boys and girls on Aug. 4.

Most Americans who were raised Catholic but have since left the church could not envision themselves returning to it, according to a new Pew Research Center survey examining American Catholics and family life. The survey’s findings were released Wednesday, weeks before Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States, and as Catholic leadership contends with dramatic demographic shifts.

005Seventy-seven percent of those who were raised Catholic but no longer identify with the religion said they could not envision themselves eventually returning to the church, according to the Pew survey. The survey also examined U.S. Catholics’ views on issues such as divorce, same-sex marriage and sinful behavior, finding an openness for non-traditional family structures.

Although Catholics have long made up about a quarter of the U.S. population, recent data has shown that percentage dropping. In 2007, 23.9 percent of Americans identified as Catholic. In 2014, 20.8 percent of Americans said the same, according to previous survey results from Pew.

But the new survey illustrates something else about Catholic life in the United States: while the percentage of Americans who may identify their religion as Catholicism is dropping, a much larger group of Americans identify as Catholic in some way.

In all, 45 percent of Americans say they are either Catholic, or are connected to Catholicism. That larger percentage includes “Cultural Catholics” (making up nine percent of those surveyed) who are not practicing Catholics but who identify with the religion in some way; and “ex-Catholics” (also nine percent) who were formerly Catholic but no longer identify with Catholicism at all. And another eight percent said they had some other connection to Catholicism, for instance by having a Catholic partner or spouse. For the purposes of the survey, Pew kept each category mutually exclusive.

According to the survey, about half of those who were raised Catholic end up leaving at some point, while about 11 percent of those who left have since returned.

The breakdown provides an interesting look at the cultural reach of Catholicism, beyond those who would call themselves members of the religion. For instance, the survey also found that eight in ten American Latinos have some direct connection to Catholicism, whether as a current practicing Catholic, as an ex-Catholic, or otherwise.

The study also sheds some light on how Catholic American attitudes on family, sex, and marriage compare with church teaching. When asked whether they believed the church should change its position on a variety of issues, a very large percentage of religiously identified Catholics — 76 percent — expressed a desire to see the church allow the use of birth control. Sixty-two percent felt that the church should allow priests to marry, and about the same percentage thought that the church should allow divorced and cohabitation couples to receive communion.

004Fifty-nine percent of Catholics surveyed thought women should be allowed to become priests. Meanwhile, just 46 percent of Catholics believe the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Among those Catholics who attend Mass weekly, support for these changes was lower overall. But Pew notes that even among this particular population, two-thirds of Mass-going Catholics think the church should relax its prohibition on contraceptives.

Overall, cultural Catholics were more supportive of the changes named by the survey, while ex-Catholics were more supportive of allowing priests to marry, and for women to become priests.

Although an overwhelming majority of Catholics (nine in ten) believe in the concept of sin, they don’t seem to agree on what, precisely, constitutes one. Fifty-seven percent of Catholics think it’s a sin to have an abortion, compared to 48 percent of the general U.S. population who say the same. Forty-four percent think homosexual behavior is sinful (about the same say this among the general public). And just 17 percent of Catholics believe its a sin to use contraceptives, while 21 percent say the same of getting a divorce.

And although those percentages are higher for those who attend Mass weekly — 73 percent of weekly churchgoers say that abortion is a sin, for instance — the numbers are still pretty low on the issue of contraception: just 31 percent of weekly Mass attendees say the use of artificial contraception is a sin.

Despite those disagreements between U.S. Catholics and church teaching, the poll does not indicate that a change in that teaching would lead more Catholics to “revert” to their faith than do already.

Cultural and ex- Catholics gave a variety of answers when asked why they decided to leave Catholicism, and no consensus emerges from those reasons that could point to any one factor driving away those who were raised Catholic from the faith. A 2008 Pew study asked a similar question, and found that fewer than one in four Catholics said that the rule banning priests from marrying was an important reason for leaving Catholicism. About 3 in 10 said that the church’s teachings on abortion and remarriage were important.

Far more common, in that 2008 survey, were those who said they simply stopped believing the church’s overall teachings, or gradually drifted away from Catholicism, or said that their spiritual needs weren’t being met.

The latest survey finds clearer answers for why “cultural Catholics” identify with the religion in some non-religious way – 59 percent of those who were raised Catholic or have a Catholic parent cite this familial connection as the reason they are tied to the church. Cultural Catholics without a parental connection cite a variety of reasons, including having a Catholic spouse (15 percent), a general affiliation with Christian beliefs or practices (nine percent) or the idea that their religion is rooted in Catholicism (15 percent).

The 2015 Pew survey was conducted between May 5 and June 7 among a national sample of 5,122 adults reached on conventional cellular phones, including 1,016 Catholics. The margin of sampling error for results among Catholics is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the error margin is 5.5 points among the sample of 425 “Cultural Catholics” and among the sample of 413 “Ex-Catholics.”

Complete Article HERE!