U.S. Catholics Divided on Direction of Church under New Pope
Just over half of U.S. Catholics say the next pope should maintain the traditional teachings of the church; nearly as many favor new directions.
As the process gets underway for selection of a new pope, many American Catholics express a desire for change. For example, most U.S. Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry. And fully six-in-ten Catholics say it would be good if the next pope hails from a developing region, such as South America, Asia or Africa.
At the same time, many Catholics also express appreciation for the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. While about half of U.S. Catholics (46%) say the next pope should “move the church in new directions,” the other half (51%) say the new pope should “maintain the traditional positions of the church.”
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.
Six-in-ten Catholics who are college graduates say the next pope should move the church in new directions, compared with 38% who say the pope should maintain the church’s traditional positions. This balance of opinion is reversed among Catholics with some college or less education, among whom 56% want the church to maintain its traditional positions and 41% would like it to move in new directions. Read more
Bruce Drake is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.