Danes hold progressive but private stance on sex and gender ethics

Denmark prides itself on its egalitarian culture. The country has one of the highest rates of female employment in the world, and also one of the highest divorce rates in Europe, at 46.5 percent.1 Parents receive tremendous support from the state for child rearing. Excellent, subsidized daycare is available for all parents, and workweeks tend to be short to allow time for families to be together.

Denmark was the first country to allow same sex couples to establish legal partnerships, in 1989. In 2012, it allowed same-sex marriage, including in the Lutheran churches. The Catholic Danes interviewed for this project tended to oppose same-sex marriage in an ecclesial context, but to be “OK” with civil unions and other forms of living arrangements that did not bear the name marriage.

One priest admitted that in nine years as a priest there, only one couple he had ever married had not lived together before marriage. That couple, both immigrants, said they were often asked to explain to others why they thought this a good idea.

On sexual ethics, both in school and parish settings, there are efforts to communicate the reasons behind the Church’s stance. At the same time, priests and catechists know that Catholics often differ from the Church on sexual issues. That disagreement does not seem to take the form of protest. Given the privacy of Danes, one person described the situation as, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  • 1Lindhardt Olsen, Annemette. Marriages and Divorces. Rep. Denmark Statistics, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.dst.dk/en/Statistik/emner/vielser-og-skilsmisser.aspx>.