In the days following the death of Pope John Paul II, Beliefnet surveyed our readers, including Catholics and followers of other religions, to find out their vision for the future of the Catholic church. More than 11,400 readers responded to the survey, which asked opinions on the legacy of the pope, the importance of adherence to tradition, the level of interest in ordaining women priests, and more.

According to the results of the survey, Catholics want several major changes within the Church, including movement on some controversial issues such as allowing married men to be ordained, giving the laity greater power in decision-making, and being more open to divorced members. But there is not majority support for other items high on the reform agenda, such as ordination of women or broader acceptance of homosexuality. Of more concern to American Catholics than any of these hot button issues are social justice issues, such as fighting poverty.

Half of Catholic respondents said they wanted the church to become more progressive, while 28% said the church is "fine as it is" and the rest favored a return to more traditional Catholicism.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • 63% of Catholics would like the ban on artificial birth control lifted.

  • 56% of Catholics would advocate priests being able to marry.

  • 87% of Catholics would like increased efforts in fighting poverty.
  • 67% of Catholics favor more lay participation in the church.

  • 63% of Catholics would like remarried Catholics to be able to receive Communion without receiving an annulment.

  • 41% of Catholics think the church should ordain women.

  • 30.5% of Catholics felt the greatest failure of John Paul ll's papacy was the handling of the sexual abuse scandal.

  • 58% of non-Catholics think the church should allow the use of birth control.

  • 86% of non-Catholics think the church should reach out more to other faiths.
  • 58% of non-Catholics think the church should ordain women as priests.

    For more complete survey results, click here.
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