"People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex," said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican's representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The latest research that finds many U.S. Catholics out of sync with their church's teachings on personal morality is out. This time it's a look at Catholics' support for gay rights, in particular marriage and civil unions.
The Public Religion Research Institute report, based on surveys of 3,000 people, finds:
- 43% of Catholic favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry
- 31% would allow them to form civil unions
- 22% say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.
A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin. Among the general population, less than half (46%) believe it is not a sin. 60% of Catholics favored adoption rights for same-sex couples, 49% percent think gays should be allowed to be ordained as clergy, and 73% percent believe they should have legal protections in the workplace – all higher percentages than found in the general population, the Public Religion Research Institute said.
"When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse — they are vilified, and prosecuted," Tomasi said on Tuesday.
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In his statement, Tomasi said the Vatican "condemn(ed) all violence that is targeted against people because of their sexual feelings and thoughts, or sexual behaviors." The Vatican also rejects all legal discrimination "based just on the person's feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings."
But the Vatican envoy said that there is an international "consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law," citing pedophilia and incest as examples.
The conclusions fit with a strong pattern of liberalism among Catholics that stands in opposition to the church hierarchy, said Michele Dillon, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire asked by researchers to comment. There has been a gulf on social issues between church teachings and the American laity since the mid-1970s on subjects such as abortion, divorce without an annulment, premarital sex and artificial contraception.
“Catholics make up their own minds about these moral issues irrespective – or almost in spite of – what the bishops and official church teachings say,” Dillon said.
Catholics tend not to like or even may resent having politics in church, Dillon said. The survey found about one-quarter of church-going Catholics reported hearing about homosexuality in church – a much lower proportion than in Protestant churches. Two-thirds of the messages about homosexuality in church were negative.
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