A new global poll shows that the majority of Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on many sexual issues, but in regard to same-gender marriage, a majority of those polled support the magisterium’s prohibition against such relationships.
The Washington Post reported on the survey, which was conducted by the U.S. Spanish language television station, Univision:
“Most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests, according to a large new poll released Sunday and commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision. On the topic of gay marriage, two-thirds of Catholics polled agree with church leaders.
“Overall, however, the poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: Between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which hews closely to doctrine on these issues, and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.”
As evidence of the geographic split, the news report highlights the vast difference in response to same-gender marriages from different parts of the globe. In response to the question “Do you support or oppose marriage between two persons of the same sex?”:
“40 percent of Catholics in the United States oppose gay marriage, compared with 99 percent in Africa.”
The report noted that 54% of U.S. Catholics were in favor of same-gender marriage.
Looking at the data, Spain was the country with the largest support among Catholics for legal marriage equality, with 64% supporting such measures, and 27% opposing them. In Latin America, Catholics in Brazil and Argentina polled similarly, and in both countries, the populations were almost equally divided about marriage equality. In Brazil 47%oppose it and 45% support it; in Argentina, 48% oppose it and 46%support it. The greatest opposition came from Catholics in the two African nations polled: in Congo, 98% oppose marriage equality, and in Uganda, 99% oppose it.
When a second question was asked, “Do you think that the Catholic Church should perform marriages between two persons of the same sex?,” the majority of Catholics in all 12 nations polled answered negatively. Spain, once again, had the greatest support for Church marriages, with 43% of Catholics polled saying they favored the idea. In the U.S. 35% of Catholics said they were in support of church marriages for same-gender couples.
Although the report only covered 12 nations, the Washington Post notes that they are nations “with some of the world’s largest Catholic populations. The countries are home to more than six of 10 Catholics globally.”
The Washington Post also noted that Pope Francis has already been aware of these great differences of opinion among Catholics:
“After his election to the papacy 11 months ago, Francis seemed to immediately grasp the significance of the divisions among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He has chosen inclusive language, has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up ‘in small-minded rules.’ The poll reflects previous ones in finding that the vast majority of Catholics appreciate his approach. . . .
“Pope Francis appears particularly eager to engage with divisions around sex, marriage and gender and has called a rare ‘extraordinary synod’ this fall on ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family.’ For that, he has asked bishops to survey Catholics about their views of cohabitation, same-sex parenting and contraception, among other things.”
And the poll results showed that most Catholics approve of the pope’s performance so far:
“The poll suggests that in his first year, Pope Francis has proved apt at navigating this diverse flock. Eighty-seven percent of Catholics around the world said the Argentine pastor is doing an excellent (41 percent) or good (46 percent) job.”
While we’ve grown accustomed to hearing how U.S. Catholics support LGBT issues, it is sobering to realize that globally, not all Catholics share that point of view. This new report, though, seems to contradict a Pew Research Center report from 2013 that showed that culturally Catholic nations were among the most supportive of LGBT equality. The divisions on sexual issues, and the two different findings in these two reports show that these are topics that require serious reflection for Catholics and their leaders. This reality makes the October 2014 Synod on Marriage and the Family all the more important. And even more important that bishops follow the advice of the Vatican in seeking input from lay people on these matters.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry