New Survey Shows Global Catholics Divided on Sexuality Issues

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

0 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    The WaPo report and some others describe the findings as showing that “Catholics” are divided on sexual beliefs. That’s accurate as far as it goes, but I don’t think it’s the most important revelation in this poll: a better description is that by TIME magazine – “Poll: Catholic Beliefs at Odds With Vatican Doctrine” The major division is not between Catholics, but between the Church as a whole and its leadership.

    It’s well worth investigating the full report at the Univision site (and yes, it is in English). One fascinating detail on gay marriage, is that in the only country covered where gay marriage has been legal for any length of time, a majority of Catholics want to see same – sex weddings in church . The conclusion must be that once Catholics witness the reality of marriage equality rather than the scare – mongering of opponents, they can see the benefits, to the couples involved, their children, the wider society – and for the Church. .

  2. Kevin O'Brien
    Kevin O'Brien says:

    As enunciated by Pope Francis, if the Church wants to sustain itself, it needs to grow with the intellect of God enlightened science and be relevant within societal norms!! Failure in doing so is what is driving members away towards secularism!!! Rigidity will only further the exodus and demise of the Church as we know it, and the closing of more and more churches!!

  3. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    The Univision poll illustrates the need for progressive Catholic organizations like Equally Blessed to intentionally include people of color in networking and outreach efforts. In the US, Latinos are the largest demographic in the RCC, but very few are aware of CTA, Dignity, RCWP, etc. This is an isolated example that is representative of the bigger picture.

  4. Sean Karees
    Sean Karees says:

    After many years of indoctrination by the Catholic hierarchy against gays in the Church, there are two problems with the results:
    1. Brainwashed laity
    2. Uncharitable teaching from the last two papacies against gay people
    3. Probably bias polls produced by many bishops who want to skew the results

  5. Gay Spirituality
    Gay Spirituality says:

    I’m not sure the survey really proves that 2/3 of Catholics approve of church leaders. Official teachings on homosexual acts are very subtle. Most Catholics in the pew don’t know the theology, but react out of prejudice or bias, I’m pretty sure.


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