Home > Spotlight Analysis > The Catholic Clash: How Social Issues Divide Clergy and Congregants
The Catholic Clash: How Social Issues Divide Clergy and Congregants
Darcy Cohan, Joanna Piacenza,

The Synod of Bishops is still huddled together in Rome discussing the Catholic Church’s stance on topics such as pre-martial sex, divorce, and same-sex marriage, but a “working paper” of their conversations has already caused somewhat of a media frenzy.


In line with Pope Francis’s comments a year ago, the document states that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” a sentiment distinctly different from the Church hierarchy’s historically unfavorable judgments of the LGBT community.

This stance aligns with the opinions of many American Catholics, as a majority (52 percent) support the legalization of same-sex marriage. A majority (61 percent) also favors allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, and more than three-quarters (76 percent) agree that same-sex relationships should be generally accepted by society.

That said, Catholics are split on the morality of homosexuality and the Church’s position on the issue. About half (49 percent) believe sex between two adults of the same gender is morally wrong, while 43 percent believe is it morally acceptable. And about half (46 percent) believe the Church’s stance on homosexuality is too conservative, while 43 percent believe it’s about right and 6 percent believe it is too liberal.

Immediately following the release of the synod’s “working paper,” conservative Catholic leaders retaliated saying that the document was “unacceptable” and “a deviation from church teachings.” The bishops also have to wrestle with the fact that many American Catholics have loosened their attitudes not only about same-sex marriage, but also about other social issues at the center of the culture wars: 52 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 37 percent favor legalizing the use of marijuana. Where the Catholic Church will land on gay and lesbian married couples remains to be seen.