February 28, 2013

Majority of U.S. Catholics Say Next Pope Should Allow Priests to Marry

58%

About six-in-ten U.S. Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry.

As the pontificate of Benedict XVI comes to an end, many American Catholics express a desire for change. For example, 58% of U.S. Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry while 35% say this would be bad.

Six-in-ten Catholic women (61%) say allowing priests to marry would be a good thing — about twice as many as say it would be a bad thing (30%). Men are more inclined than women to say that allowing priests to marry would be a bad thing (41%), though a narrow majority (53%) still says this would be good.

College graduates express more support than those Catholics with less education for allowing priests to marry (71% vs. 53%). There is little generational difference on this issue.

Looking ahead to the next pope, about half of Catholics in this country (51%) say the church’s new leader should maintain traditional positions while 46% favor moving in new directions.

But among Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week, nearly two-thirds (63%) say the new pope should maintain the traditional positions of the church, while about one-third (35%) say the new pope should move the church in new directions. By contrast, among those who attend Mass less often, 54% say the next pope should move in new directions while 42% prefer to maintain the church’s traditional positions.

Catholics who say the next pope should move the church in new directions were asked to describe, in their own words, in what new directions they would like to see the church go. About one-in-five Catholics who think the next pope should move the church in new directions say simply that the church should become more modern (19%). And 15% want the next pope to do more to end sex abuse in the church and punish the priests involved. Read more