American Catholics accept non-traditional families, views

Pope Francis touches his ear as he leaves after his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. Some credit Francis with changing views within the church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

WASHINGTON — American Catholics are opening up to nontraditional families and sexual identity, among other issues, according to a Pew research poll conducted this summer.

The Pew Research Center’s 2015 Survey of U.S. Catholics and Family Life found that U.S. Catholics are more accepting of gay and lesbian parents, unmarried couples raising children and contraceptive use, among other issues.

The poll was conducted between May 5, 2015 and June 7, 2015 through phone calls made to more than 5,000 U.S. residents. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent for Catholics and 1.6 percent for the entire poll.

Views on families

While 90 percent of U.S. Catholics believe that a heterosexual, married household is the best environment in which to raise a child, 84 percent say unmarried heterosexual couples who live together also are capable of raising a child. Sixty six percent of those surveyed said that gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to raise children.

The study also found a correlation between Catholics who attend mass regularly (weekly or more) and Catholics with less accepting views on nontraditional families.

Among those surveyed, 36 percent of weekly church attendees see same-sex parents raising a child as unacceptable, compared to 22 percent of less frequent attendees.

Almost 60 percent of weekly attendees see homosexuality as a sin, compared to 39 percent of less frequent attendees.

Views on sexuality

Eighty five percent of Catholics in the U.S. say that an unmarried man and woman should be able to live together, and 70 percent say gay or lesbian couples can live together as well.

At 41 percent, those who are against homosexuality are in the majority, but 39 percent of those surveyed don’t consider it to be a sin.

Thirty three percent say living with a partner outside of marriage is wrong, but more than half say it’s OK to live together.

More than half the Catholic population in the U.S. approve of contraceptive use, while only 17 percent see it as a sin.

Identifying as Catholic

The survey found that 45 percent of the U.S. population has a connection to Catholicism, whether as a practicing Catholic, a “Cultural Catholic,” or an ex-Catholic.

Twenty percent identify as religiously Catholic, 9 percent are culturally Catholic, meaning that they were raised Catholic or married to a Catholic, and another 9 percent are ex-Catholics. An additional 8 percent have a connection to the faith but are not Catholic themselves.

The report found that more than half of U.S. adults who were raised Catholic have left the church at some point in their lives, but many Catholics have hope that these former Catholics will return to the fold.

This hope is anchored in something called “the Francis effect,” Pew researchers report. Pope Francis has a reputation as a progressive pope, winning over a lot of ex-Catholics who felt alienated by potentially restricting views within the religion.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Advertiser Content