Nearly 70 percent of American Catholics agree with Pope Francis' recent observation that the church has become too focused on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives. That's the finding of a Quinnipiac University national poll released this morning. The survey found little difference between more observant and less observant Catholics in that opinion.
Quinnipiac reports that support for the Pope's warning about an "obsessive" focus on these controversial social issues, a concern he described in an unprecedented interview which was published by America ("A Big Heart Open to God"), is strong among men, women and all age groups.
"American Catholics liked what they heard when Pope Francis said the Church should stop talking so much about issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
And, according to the survey, Catholics like their new Pope: 36 percent have a "very favorable" opinion of him and 53 percent have a "favorable" opinion, with 4 percent "unfavorable."
"Maybe they were just waiting for a Jesuit," said Carrol. "Overwhelmingly, across the demographic board, Catholics - men and women, regular or not-so-regular church-goers, young and old - have a favorable opinion of Pope Francis."
The Quinnipiac pollsters also survey Catholics about those hot-button issues the pope spoke of. "On the two issues that have prompted some pulpit thundering, same-sex marriage and abortion, Catholics are right in line, or even a little ahead, of their non-Catholic neighbors," Carroll said.
"There's one big issue where Catholics split with current church practice: by 2-1 they'd like to have women priests. Women and men feel about the same on this issue."
The survey found that U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage 60 to 31 percent, compared to the 56 to 36 percent support among all U.S. adults. More devout Catholics, who attend religious services about once a week, support same-sex marriage at a slightly lower level, 53 to 40 percent, while less observant Catholics support it 65 to 26 percent.
Catholic women support same-sex marriage 72 to 22 percent, while Catholic men were more divided at 49 to 40 percent. Support for same-sex marriage, according to Quinnipiac pollsters, ranges from 46 to 37 percent among Catholics over 65 years old to 64 to 27 percent among Catholics 18 to 49 years old.
Researchers also asked U.S. Catholics what they thought about women's ordination. They found that 60 percent support the ordination of women priests, with 30 percent opposed. Even regular weekly Mass-goers support women priests, according to Quinnipiac, 52 to 38 percent. That compares to 66 to 25 percent among those who attend services less frequently. Pollsters found almost no gender gap.
They did find a difference in support for women priests, according to age, with older Catholics proving more receptive to the idea. Quinnipiac reports that women's ordination was supported by 57 percent of Catholics 18 to 49 years old. Almost 70 percent of those aged 65 and older supported the ordination of women.
Catholic opinion on abortion is similar of the opinions of all American adults, according to the survey:
• 16 percent of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all cases, compared to 19 percent of all Americans;
• 36 percent of Catholics say abortion should be legal in most cases, compared to 34 percent of all Americans;
• 21 percent of Catholics say abortion should be illegal in most cases, compared to 23 percent of all Americans;
• 21 percent of Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to 16 percent of all Americans.