Majority of Hispanic Catholics Support Same-Sex Marriage, a New Study Reveals

— While religion and sexuality have long been a clashing issue, a new study now reveals shifting patterns in such values and attitudes across the U.S.

About 20% of those who identify as LGBTQ are also Hispanic, according to a new study.

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Sexuality among religious Latinos has long been a complex subject. While the place of same-sex marriage among major traditional religions has been contested over decades, a new survey shows that a number of religious Latino groups in the U.S., including Hispanic Catholics, support same-sex marriage and believe it should be allowed.

The study was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, throughout 2023. With more than 22,000 adults interviewed, the institute seeks to form a detailed profile of the demographic, religious and political characteristics of LGBTQ Americans.

The analysis measures Americans’ attitudes on LGTQ rights across all 50 states on three key politics: nondiscrimination protections, religiously based services refusals and same-sex marriage.

The study comes at a contrasting time for Latino religious followers.

On one hand, Latino evangelical support for Christian nationalism is on the rise, with about 55% of Hispanic Protestants saying they supported or sympathized with the movement in 2023, a 12% increase compared to the year prior, NBC News reports.

“I believe that God is going to do something very great with the Latino people in the United States,” Pastor Dionny Baez told his protestant congregation in Miami.

On the other hand, the share of Latinos who are religiously unaffiliated (describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”) now stands at 30%, up from 18% in 2013.

Pope Francis presides over the Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on December 24, 2023
Pope Francis formally approved letting Catholic priests bless same-sex couples back in December.

But when it comes to sexuality, the Hispanic profile in relation to religion and sexuality becomes more nuanced, according to PRRI.

In the U.S., roughly one in ten Americans identified as part of the LGBTQ community. Of this number, one in five are Hispanic (20%) the second largest race in the country to identify as part of this community.

Despite these numbers, support for LGBTQ people varied widely depending on the religion.

The lowest levels of support for nondiscrimination protections are from Hispanic Protestants (61%), followed by white evangelical Protestants and Muslims (56%).

Hispanic Catholics generally support such laws, but they saw one of the most dramatic declines between 2022 and 2023, decreasing 8 points (from 83% to 75%).

When it comes to same-sex marriage, a similar pattern emerges. While strong majorities of Christian nationalism Rejecters and Skeptics are in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples the right to marry legally, most of those who are sympathizers and adherents of the movement oppose it.

89% of Hispanic Christian nationalism Rejecters favor same-sex marriage, followed by 70% of Hispanic Christian nationalism Skeptics who think similarly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 55% of Hispanic Christian nationalism sympathizers oppose allowing same-sex marriage, compared to 75% of adherents who think the same.

Catholics have long opposed same-sex marriage, but lately there have been factions seeking to present a more open stance. One of them is spearheaded by none other than Pope Francis, who back in December formally approved letting Catholic priests bless same-sex couples under certain circumstances.

While the Pope stressed that blessings in question must not be tied to any specific Catholic celebration or religious service and should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union ceremony, he also requested for such blessings to not be denied, insisting that people seeking a relationship with God and looking for his mercy shouldn’t be hold up to an impossible standard to receive it.

“There is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

‘In the name of the Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit’

— Catholic women advocate change

Participants at the conference titled “Women Leaders: Towards a Brighter Future,” to mark International Women’s Day 2024, listen to a speech by Cristiane Murray, deputy director, Holy See press office, at the Vatican, March 6, 2024.

Women meeting in Rome this week to promote female leadership in the Catholic Church are challenging the hierarchy’s resistance to change and its theological emphasis on ‘natural’ gender divisions.

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In the week leading up to International Women’s Day, Catholic women gathered near the Vatican and online to promote female leadership in the Catholic Church, demanding equality and visibility while urging the institution to set its fears about change aside.

“It’s so important that the Catholic Church be engaged in this issue, not just internally, but also externally given the contribution they make in the education sphere and the health care sphere,” Chiara Porro, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, told Religion News Service on Wednesday (March 6).

Acknowledging that in her four years in Rome the Vatican has taken significant steps forward, with high-ranking Vatican positions being filled by women, Porro represents a country that “has a very strong agenda in empowering women and women in leadership,” she said, “including in our own foreign service, which like the Catholic Church has been very male dominated for a very long time.”

She said her female colleagues — the number of women ambassadors to the Vatican has risen to 40 — talk about the issue of women’s influence often. “It’s an incredible group, an informal group, and we come from many different areas of the world. We support each other, we share ideas, we network,” she said.

Pope Francis has supported the trend, she said, meeting with the female ambassadors last year on International Women’s Day.

Chiara Porro. (Photo by Penny Bradfield AUSPIC/DPS)
Chiara Porro.

Porro works closely with the International Union of Superiors General, the leaders of the world’s religious orders, to put a spotlight on the work nuns do, especially in the poorest places in the world. But their focus goes beyond Catholicism. This week, the embassies of Australia, France and the Netherlands, all woman-led, sponsored “Women Sowing Seeds of Peace and Cultivating Encounter,” a conference of Christian,  Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu female faith leaders.

“When we talk about interfaith dialogue, when we talk about religious leaders coming together, we find that a lot of the religions around the world are led by men, so it’s really important to bring female faith leaders together,” Porro said.

On Thursday, women theologians, experts and leaders met for a one-day discussion on female leadership, asking the tough questions facing the Catholic Church on the issue. In her presentation, ordained missionary and theologian Maeve Louise Heaney questioned Catholic theology that attempts to “essentialize” women. “They speak of complementarity and name the contribution of women as essentially different to that of men,” she explained, “pitching love, spirituality and nurturing against authority, leadership and intellect.”

Heaney challenged Catholics to reconsider their idea of God and the Holy Spirit as neither male nor female, quoting her “yoga-loving” niece who prays to “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And the Mother, the Daughter and the Holy Spirit.”

A 2022 survey of 17,200 women in 104 countries by the international forum Catholic Women Speak found that two-thirds of women in the church support “radical reform,” with 29% saying they will consider leaving the church if women aren’t given more prominence.

In her interview with RNS, Heaney recognized that the church, “like any big ship, moves slowly,” adding, “We don’t have a time frame.” She took encouragement, she said, from Francis’ Synod on Synodality, born from a massive consultation of Catholics on hot-button issues including female empowerment and LGBTQ inclusion, which will hold its second session at the Vatican in October.

Pope Francis poses for a picture with participants of the Synod of Bishops’ 16th General Assembly in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis poses for a picture with participants of the Synod of Bishops’ 16th General Assembly in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Oct. 23, 2023.

She also supports the discussions underway at the Vatican about allowing women to be ordained as deacons, who can preach at Mass but cannot perform some other priestly functions, such as consecrate Communion or hear confessions.

“I think the people have a right to hear women preaching,” Heaney said. “There are spaces in which the best person to speak on a theme would be a woman. And I think a theological, doctrinal and canon law structure could open spaces for that to happen.”

According to Heaney, there are no theological barriers to ordaining women as deacons, nor would women deacons present any difficulty in terms of the church’s organization. What stands in the way, she said, is the fear that allowing women deacons would bring women closer to the altar, the priests’ dominion.

“Fear is a bad adviser,” she said. “What if we gave the church that? What if we allowed spaces for women to preach? Under the authority of the bishop, in collaboration with the parish priest, with the proper formation like all the rest of the ministry. You might find that the issue of priesthood changes in color if we have different kinds of leadership.”

While theologians push the envelope on female leadership, women who have climbed up the Vatican administration have learned to have patience about penetrating the male-dominated bureaucracy.

“It’s a long process that has to be continued,” said Sister Nathalie Becquart, the first female secretary of the Vatican’s Synod office and a leading figure in the pope’s synodal process. “They will need more time,” Becquart said, while teasing that the Vatican might soon announce a new development on this front.

On Thursday, the Catholic charity network Caritas published “Equality, Encounter, Renewal,” a pamphlet urging its 162 affiliated Catholic charities to create spaces for dialogue about women’s leadership. In an introduction, Sister Alessandra Smerilli, the secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, laments that the “systematic social and cultural exclusion of women can also be seen when looking at the face of leadership in the world today.”

Francis, meanwhile, continues to use language that reinforces the role of women as mothers and caregivers. Speaking to organizers of the conference “Women in the Church: Builders of humanity,” taking place in Rome this week to recognize the contributions of 10 female saints, the pope said “the church is female” and women have a “unique capacity for compassion” that allows them “to bring love where love is lacking, and humanity where human beings are searching to find their true identity.”

But some women in Rome this week said that Catholic theology can often emphasize too much women’s natural inclinations, which it sees as reflecting the relationship that Christ has with his church. The women asked how this view affects the roles men and women occupy in the church.

Heaney said: “It is not easy to broaden our understanding of the One who brought us to life, as no one image will work. But we owe it to the future generations.”

Complete Article HERE!

‘Rainbow Catholics’

— Mexican church welcomes LGBTQ community

Regina, who identifies as non-binary, speaks at the Sagrada Familia church in Mexico City before a mass that promotes the inclusion of the LGBTQ community

As a teenager, Victor Rodriguez felt excluded from his religion for being gay, but now he’s welcome at inclusive masses in a Mexico City church, where same-sex couples have also begun receiving blessings with the pope’s endorsement.

Speaking during the sermon, the 39-year-old said that when he was younger he was pressured to leave the seminary because of his homosexuality.

Accompanied by his husband, he asked the congregation to pray for people who reject them: “For the priest who took me out of the church for being the way I am.”

The inclusive masses at the majestic Sagrada Familia in Mexico City’s Roma district have taken on added significance following the Catholic Church’s approval in December of blessings for same-sex couples.

The following month, the first two such blessings were given in the Sagrada Familia after the inclusive mass.

“It was a miracle from God. We’re very Catholic. I never thought that a church would accept me with my partner, my sexuality,” said Arturo Manjarrez, accompanied by his husband Carlos Sanchez.

Mexico City approved same-sex marriage in 2010, becoming a pioneer in Latin America.

Twelve years later the Supreme Court legalized it throughout the Catholic-majority country.

Jesuit priest Gonzalo Rosas has worked with the LGBTQ community for more than a decade, officiating a monthly inclusive service at the Sagrada Familia that is now replicated in three churches in the capital.

Victor Rodriguez says he felt excluded from the church as a teenager for being gay, but is now welcomed at inclusive masses in Mexico City
Victor Rodriguez says he felt excluded from the church as a teenager for being gay, but is now welcomed at inclusive masses in Mexico City

When he arrived at the church in 2013, he “found a lot of sexual diversity,” said the 68-year-old priest, who uses inclusive language in his sermons.

“I looked for organizations, young people to talk to. They told me ‘father, the church excludes us’ … I invited them to see what path we could take together and the idea of a mass arose,” he said.

Reconciliation with church

There was already a choir made up of young members of the LGBTQ community who had left the seminary and used to meet to pray in a house, said choir director Eduardo Andrade.

Jesuit priest Gonzalo Rosas holds a regular mass in Mexico City welcoming the LGBTQ community into the Catholic church
Jesuit priest Gonzalo Rosas holds a regular mass in Mexico City welcoming the LGBTQ community into the Catholic church

After the arrival of Father Gonzalo, the choir felt able to be more open about its members’ sexual orientation, said Andrade, an activist with Colectivo Teresa, a theological organization aimed at LGBTQ people.

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “blessed” in rainbow colors — a symbol of LGBTQ pride — he described the inclusive mass as a “unique” experience in Latin America because of their frequency and openness.

Some parishioners, however, were uncomfortable and distanced themselves, said Andrade, a member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which works for the inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Gonzalo recalled that his superiors authorized inclusive events on the condition that they did not become politicized.

The choir’s members include Regina, a teacher who identifies as non-binary and remembers attending the mass for the first time dressed more like a straight person.

“They said to me, ‘where’s the outfit, where’s the makeup?’ And when I entered, I saw that it was totally different. I reconciled with the Church,” Regina said, wearing makeup and holding a fan.

‘All human beings’

But change is now in the air.

In December, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, its department for Roman Catholic doctrine, said priests could bless “irregular” and same-sex couples under certain circumstances.

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "blessed" in rainbow colors, LGBTQ activist Eduardo Andrade leads a choir practice in Mexico City
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “blessed” in rainbow colors, LGBTQ activist Eduardo Andrade leads a choir practice in Mexico City

Priests can only perform blessings for same-sex couples, divorcees, or unmarried couples in “non-ritualized” contexts, and never in relation to weddings or civil unions.

A third of Mexico’s 32 states accept adoption by same-sex couples, and Father Gonzalo says he has baptized a couple of babies with two mothers.

Andrade acknowledged that for some members of the LGBTQ community the blessings authorized by Pope Francis did not go far enough.

But “it’s better to take a small but safe step,” he said.

In a neighboring district, Vincent Schwahn, a retired Anglican priest from the United States whose husband is Mexican, welcomed one step “in 2,000 years of homophobia.”

But he criticized the restrictions on same-sex blessings, which he described as “like blessing a car,” and said that “all parishes must be inclusive.”

Although the majority of the attendees at the inclusive mass are members of the LGBTQ community or their friends and family, others were also participating for the first time.

“This is what we have to learn — we’re all human beings. We all have to respect each other,” said 77-year-old Irma Juarez.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis Backs Female Diaconate and Expands Rights for All Baptized Individuals

— Pope Francis advocates for a female diaconate and extended rights for all baptized individuals, triggering theological discussions on celibacy and women’s roles within the Catholic Church. This shift may redefine the Church’s future.

By Quadri Adejumo

In a groundbreaking revelation, an Italian theologian discloses Pope Francis’s support for a female diaconate and his intent to extend specific rights to all baptized individuals, previously exclusive to bishops, priests, and religious figures. This significant development was deliberated in a gathering of the Council of Cardinals, or ‘C9,’ which counsels Pope Francis on Church governance and reform.

A Plea for Change: Women’s Voices Echo in the Vatican

Simultaneously, a collective of 26 Italian women penned a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis, professing their love for priests and advocating for the abolition of the Catholic Church’s celibacy requirement. Their emotional appeal emphasizes the “soul-destroying” nature of their suffering and stresses the potential benefits for the entire Church if the celibacy rule were to be relaxed.

Tradition vs. Progression: A Delicate Balance

Notably, Pope Francis has previously articulated his inclination towards preserving celibacy, citing tradition and the positive experiences of the past. However, suggestions have emerged, proposing the replacement of the celibacy law with an alternative discipline. Yet, the Church maintains a lengthy history of skepticism towards amending its rules concerning women.

Uncharted Territory: Expanding Roles and Rights

The current discourse surrounding the expansion of rights to all baptized individuals, irrespective of their religious roles, signifies a monumental shift in the Church’s perspective. If realized, this transformation could potentially reshape the landscape of the Catholic Church. Consequently, theological discussions and debates are intensifying, as the potential implications of these changes continue to unfold.

As the conversation surrounding celibacy and the role of women in the Catholic Church forges ahead, the world watches with bated breath. The decisions made today could redefine the Church’s future, signifying a critical juncture in its storied history.

Pope Francis, in his pursuit of a more inclusive and progressive Church, faces the challenge of balancing tradition with innovation. The potential implementation of a female diaconate and the extension of rights to all baptized individuals are testaments to the Church’s evolving stance.

In this intricate tapestry of motives, histories, and potential futures, the voices of the 26 Italian women serve as a poignant reminder of the human element at the heart of these debates. As the Church navigates uncharted waters, the stories of struggle, ambition, and sheer human will continue to shape its transformative journey.

Complete Article HERE!

Reaction to Fiducia in US has revealed ‘enduring animus’ to ‘LGBT persons’, says key Pope ally

Newly elevated Cardinal, Monsignor Robert Walter McElroy gestures as he attends a courtesy visit of relatives following a consistory for the creation of 20 new cardinals by the Pope, on August 27, 2022 in The Vatican.

By John L Allen Jr

One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the Church hierarchy in the United States has criticised the reaction among some Catholics in the country to Fiducia Supplicans.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about protecting the institution of marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the opposition in the US to a Vatican document authorising the non-liturgical blessings of couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples, is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.

“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” the cardinal said on 16 February.

But, he went on to say, “it is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid.”

McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the US Church and a strong Francis supporter, added: “It is crucial to emphasise that Fiducia simply clarified questions about the permissibility of a priest pastorally blessing persons in irregular or gay unions in a non-liturgical setting and manner. No change in doctrine was made.”

McElory didn’t specify which sorts of non-ecclesially valid relationships he had in mind, but couples who live together outside of marriage would come under this.

“If the reason for opposing such blessings is really that the practice will blur and undermine the commitment to marriage, then the opposition should, one thinks, be focusing at least equally on blessings for these heterosexual relationships in our country,” he said.

“We all know why it is not,” McElroy said, attributing it to “an enduring animus among far too many toward LGBT persons”.

Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralisation.

“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.

“This is decentralisation in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.

Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralisation should not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice.

“This decentralization must not obscure in any manner the religious obligation of every local church in justice and solidarity to protect LGBT persons in their lives and equal dignity,” he said.

McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

McElroy said that in the listening sessions which led up to last October’s month-long meeting of the synod in Rome, issues related to the LGBT+ community loomed large.

“The searing question of the Church’s treatment of LGBT+ persons was an immensely prominent facet of the synodal dialogues,” he said. “Anguished voices within the LGBT communities, in unison with their families, cried out against the perception that they are condemned by the Church and individual Catholics in a devastating way.”

McElroy conceded that among the bishops and other participants gathered in Rome, there was disagreement on the subject, listing it among what he called areas of “deep divide” in the assembly. The other areas included how to empower laity without undercutting the hierarchical nature of the Church, the extent and limits of inculturation and decentralisation, and the possible ordination of women deacons.

McElory also described areas of strong consensus in the meeting, such as the need to open up more roles in the Church to laity. He cited the example of how in his own diocese he was unable to name a veteran administrator to the role of “moderator of the curia” because, under existing church law, that role is restricted to priests.

As a result, McElroy told the crowd, he simply appointed the layman as “vice-moderator of the curia” and refused to select a moderator. He predicted that when the Synod of Bishops reaches its conclusion this October, reforms on such matters could come quickly.

“I think there will be a lot of progress on questions like this,” he said.

In terms of the single most powerful theme to emerge from last October’s summit, McElory said it was the sense that the time has come for a “paradigm shift” with regard to the inclusion of women in the Church.

McElroy said that while there were contrasting opinions on women deacons, a more “full-bodied” discussion ensued beyond a “binary” yes or no. For example, he said there was some discussion of perhaps ending the transitional diaconate, which would make ordination as a deacon the final step before priesthood.

Doing so, McElroy said, might sever the connection between the diaconate and the priesthood, which “could make it easier to have women deacons”.

In response to question about the perception that certain American bishops are anti-Francis, McElroy said the political dimension is less important than a bishop having a pastoral orientation.

“The ultimate criterion for a bishop is, is he pastoral? The question of whether he’s strongly pro-Francis, medium Pope Francis, Okay but not great with Pope Francis, leaning for or against, is secondary,” he said.

Going forward, he explained, a major practical challenge for the Church will be to find ways to make it more participatory and rooted in listening, but without replicating the cumbersome system of the synod itself.

“The process of discernment used in Rome is far too time-consuming to use with regularity in parish and diocesan life and decision-making,” he said. “It won’t work here.”

Instead, McElroy called for “analogical methods of discernment” which would be “practical for general use in our diocese and our parishes and groups of faith”.

With regard to Catholic doctrine, without offering specific examples McElroy suggested that in general it is time for change.

“It is becoming clear that on some issues, the understanding of human nature and moral reality upon which previous declarations of doctrine were made were in fact limited or defective,” McElroy said.