US Catholics divided on church’s direction under new pope

By agency reporter
February 28, 2013

As the pontificate of Benedict XVI comes to an end, many American Catholics express a desire for change, says the Pew Forum on Religion and public life. For example, most US Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry, while six-in-ten Catholics say it would be good if the next pope hails from a developing region such as South America, Asia or Africa.

At the same time, many Catholics also express appreciation for the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. While about half of US Catholics (46 per cent) say the next pope should “move the church in new directions,” the other half (51 per cent) say the new pope should “maintain the traditional positions of the church.” And among Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) want the next pope to maintain the church’s traditional positions.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted 13-18 February among 1,504 adults (including 304 Catholics) also finds that nine-in-ten US Catholics have heard a lot (60 per cent) or at least a little (30 per cent) about Benedict’s resignation. Just one-in-ten Catholics say they have heard nothing at all about his resignation.

In a separate national survey conducted 14-17 February among 1,003 adults (including 212 Catholics), three-quarters of US Catholics (74 per cent) express a favorable view of the pope. Benedict’s ratings among Catholics now stand about where they were in March 2008 (just before his US visit) and are lower than they were in April 2008, when 83 per cent of US Catholics expressed favorable views of him. Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was rated favourably by upwards of 90 per cent of US Catholics in three separate Pew Research polls in the 1980s and 1990s.


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