Survey data from the Barna Group, a research firm that specializes in polling Americans on issues of religious concern, finds that eight out of 10 Catholics are “comfortable” with the notion of having a woman priest.
That’s just one finding from “What Americans Think About Women in Power,” a Barna publication released last week.
Protestants overall were slightly less approving of women as pastors, with 71 percent saying there comfortable with the idea. And with only 39 percent of them saying they are comfortable with women preachers, evangelicals were the Christian demographic least favorable to women clergy.
The Vatican officially teaches that the priesthood is reserved exclusively for men and has defrocked clerics who have participated in ceremonies to order women to the priesthood. Rome often defends the male-only priesthood by pointing to Jesus as the model of the priesthood and observing that Jesus’s apostles were all men.
“The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as a male,” Fr. Wojciech Giertych, who served as a papal theologian under Pope Benedict XVI, told the National Catholic Reporter in February 2013.
Evangelicals, by contrast, tend to point to New Testament passages laying out the criteria for church elders and pastors, including the Apostle Paul’s admonition to his protege Timothy that he did not permit women to teach or exercise authority over men.
While evangelicals tend to oppose women in governing roles in the church, however, Barna’s research finds most (77 percent) are comfortable with women as CEOs or as president of the United States (73 percent).
What’s more, 94 percent of evangelicals said they would be comfortable if women were to comprise half of the U.S. Congress, which is eight percentage points stronger than GOP respondents overall and just two points shy of the 96 percent of Democrats comfortable with gender parity in the legislative body.
Barna’s report can be found online here.