Is Homosexuality in the Priesthood Diminishing? Evidence from Sexual Attitudes, Behaviors, and Contexts of Catholic Clergy in the United States
32 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2021
Date Written: October 28, 2021
This study explores the results of the 2021 Survey of American Catholic Priests, an effort to replicate the 2002 Los Angeles Times survey of priests, in evaluating stability and change in the sexual beliefs, dispositions, and behaviors of Catholic priests in the United States. Reinforcing widespread perceptions, we find that younger priests hold more conservative sexual attitudes than their older counterparts. We also find them to be less likely to report homosexual attraction, and we perform a very basic projection of the future sexual orientation composition of the US clergy using baseline assumptions and a cohort replacement model. We find that orientation and orthodoxy are intertwined, with heterosexual priests reporting higher celibacy adherence and belief that behaviors identified by the Church as sins are in fact sins. Our analyses further suggest that the present lower clergy supply is largely explicable by a decline in progressive priests.
Keywords: Catholicism, Clergy, Religion
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