Canadian and U.S. Catholics want the church to become much more liberal, according to a new poll that found strong support for allowing priests to marry and women to be ordained.
The online survey by Angus Reid Public Opinion found that 60 per cent of Canadian Catholics who go to church at least once a week want a liberal or very liberal pope. Among Catholics who don’t worship regularly, support was even higher, at 69 per cent.
Catholics in the United States are slightly more conservative. Forty-seven per cent of devout poll respondents said they would prefer a liberal pope, and 51 per cent of those who don’t go to church as often also support a more liberal leader.
The poll also found that 71 per cent of Canadian weekly churchgoers think the new pope should allow priests to get married and 62 per cent support the ordination of women.
As well, 57 per cent of devout Canadian Catholics want more liberal policies on birth control and 43 per cent support a relaxed approach on divorce. One-third want a liberal approach on same-sex relations and just 18 per cent support such a view on doctor-assisted suicide. Among the poll’s other findings for regular Canadian churchgoers:
94 per cent believed the late Pope John Paul II was good for the Catholic church, while only 78 per cent said the same about the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI.
84 per cent were very or moderately surprised by Pope Benedict’s decision to retire.
Nearly half think the next pope should be between the ages of 54 and 64.
44 per cent think the new pope should come from the Americas.
63 per cent believe sexual abuse by priests is an ongoing problem.
The online survey of 1,207 Canadian and 1,212 U.S. Catholics – half of whom attend church at least once a week while the other half go less often – was conducted between Feb. 26 and March 1. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 per cent.