As the pontificate of Benedict XVI ebbs, some American Catholics are not opposed to change, according to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It found that six-out-of-10 would approve of a pope hailing from a developing nation in South America, Asia or Africa. And a near equal number wouldn’t mind if priests were allowed to marry.
But those longtime traditions are hard to part with: 51 percent 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, that number is 63 percent.
Less than half (46 percent) want the incoming pope to “move in new directions.” What directions does this group have in mind?
The most voluntarily mentioned improvement was that the church simply become “more modern,” cited by 19 percent, the pollster says. In second place: “end sexual abuse,” cited by 14 percent, followed by allowing priests to marry if they chose (14 percent). Nine percent hoped for allowance of same-sex marriage and inclusion of women priests, 7 percent cited allowance of birth control.
“Currently, about three-quarters of U.S. Catholics express either a very favorable (32 percent) or mostly favorable (41 percent) opinion of Benedict; roughly one-in-six U.S. Catholics (16 percent) express an unfavorable opinion. Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week are far more likely to express a favorable opinion of Benedict than those who attend less often (87 percent vs. 64 percent),” the poll says.
See the complete results here: Pewforum.org