WASHINGTON — Although recent polls on Catholics supporting same-sex “marriage” are viewed as less disheartening than they appear, the results have sparked a call for education on the beauty and truth of Church teaching.
Tim Roder, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said that Catholic belief in marriage is about “remaining faithful to Jesus and his teaching.”
He cited Christ’s words about married couples in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
“We cannot be driven by polls,” Roder told CNA March 7.
Surveys indicating some Catholics’ rejection of Catholic teaching show “there is still much work to be done, particularly in educating the faithful on the beauty of marriage as the unique union of one man and one woman.”
Two recent polls suggest that some Catholics approve of same-sex “marriages” not only in U.S. law, but even in Catholic churches.
The U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision’s recent global poll of Catholics about their views indicated that about 54% of U.S. Catholic respondents support “gay marriage.” Among this subset, 59% of respondents agreed that the Church should not perform “gay marriages,” but 35% said the Church should. Among the 12 countries polled, only Spanish Catholics showed more support than Americans for these ceremonies in Catholic churches.
Roder said it was a positive sign that even among supporters of same-sex “marriage” most rejected such unions being performed in Catholic churches.
However, a February survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 50% of all Catholic respondents said they think the Church should “recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples,” while 43% did not. Only 36% thought this would be likely by the year 2050. The Pew survey had a sample size of 351 Catholics and a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points.
Roder noted, though, that even in the Pew survey, only one-third of Catholics who attended Mass weekly or more frequently supported Church recognition of same-sex “marriages.”
He said that the survey results help show that changing the legal definition of marriage “can indeed have a cultural impact swaying more to support it.”
“The law teaches for good and ill,” Roder said. “When it teaches something false, many just accept it, and this increases the profound cultural crisis in marriage and family that Pope Francis spoke about in Evangelii Gaudium.”
Roder said marriage is “a question of definition, not expanding rights.” It is “impossible” for the Church to perform same-sex “weddings.”
“The body matters. Sexual difference between man and woman is essential to marriage,” he said. “The Church cannot affirm something that is not true or real. Only a man and a woman can enter a conjugal union open to the possibility of children.”
Roder noted that even in countries where marriage has been redefined, like France and Argentina, the majority of Catholics still do not support the redefinition of marriage or coercing the Church to perform it.
“I think many come to realize that such laws redefining marriage are fundamentally unjust,” he said.
Roder did not foresee immediate pressure on the Church to perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. Rather, the “most urgent threat” beyond the threat to marriage and the family is to the religious freedom of individuals, businesses and religious organizations.
“Beyond religious ceremonies, there is a serious concern that many persons may be pressured to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct,” he said.
Changing the civil definition of marriage would also impact “hundreds, even thousands” of laws at the same time and give rise to “countless” violations of religious freedom.
Roder encouraged Catholics to respond to such threats with prayer, fasting and “honest study of the faith.”
“We need to move beyond merely reading the headlines and sound bites that often do not convey the full truth,” he said. “Although there is a concerted effort to redefine marriage, this attempt still cannot change the fact that marriage can only ever be between one man and one woman.”
He noted the “Call to Prayer” movement, which involves fasting on Fridays, praying for weekly prayer intentions and holding parish Holy Hours and daily Rosaries to increase awareness of the challenges to life, marriage and religious liberty and to build “spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful to address these challenges in truth and love.”
Roder recommended the resources of the U.S. bishops’ Marriage: Unique for a Reason website, including the bilingual video Marriage: Made for Love and Life.