Beliefnet Poll: Catholics Observant, But Some Seek Change

Catholics participating in a Beliefnet survey say they attend Mass, pray often, but disagree with the Church on some key issues.

As Pope Benedict XVI prepared for his first papal visit to the U.S., Beliefnet conducted a survey of U.S. Catholics. While the survey is not a representative sampling, it offers insight into the American Catholics that Pope Benedict will encounter. The1,502 survey respondents were personally religiously observant, agreed with the Church on some key positions like opposition to the death penalty, but disagreed with Church teachings like opposition to artificial birth control and the requirement of a celibate priesthood.

Religious Observances and Church Policies

Traditional religious observances, like attending Mass and regular prayer, were important to the respondents. A significant majority, 68.8 percent,  attend Mass once a week or more, and 54.2 percent said they pray more than once a day. Of the 54.7 percent who go to confession, 46.7 percent go more than once a year, and 65 percent of those responding said they have a favorite saint. 

While they have a personal religious practice, they  are concerned about the Church. When asked about the state of the Catholic Church in the U.S., 42.3 percent said the Church was "in serious difficulty."  And when it comes to Church policies, most do not agree with the Church on a celibate preisthood.  Asked whether priests should be allowed to marry, 71.5 percent said yes.  Most, 71.5 percent ,agree with the U.S. bishops in their call for immigration reform, and 73.7 percent oppose the death penalty.

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Sexual Morality

In issues of sexual morality, our poll respondents disagreed with Church positions on some basic issues. A vast majority, 73.8 percent, do not believe that artificial contraception is sinful and 59.4 percent say that they have used artificial contraception. More than half, 68.6 percent, think Catholics who support abortion rights should not be denied communion, and 79 percent say that Catholics who are divorced and remarried should be allowed to receive communion. Yet, in some areas, respondents do follow Church positions. Almost 57 percent do not support marriage or civil unions for gays and lesbians and 58.7 percent do not believe the Church should bless homosexual couples.

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