- (Reuters/Stefano Rellandini)
Nearly six in ten American Catholics believe it would be a good thing for the Catholic Church if the next pope allows priests to get married, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in February.
The study, which examined the attitudes of American Catholics as they look forward to welcoming a new pope, showed overall that Catholics were divided on the direction they would like their new leader to take the church. Just over half, 51 percent, of American Catholics feel that the new pope should maintain the church's current traditions, while 46 percent feel the church should go in a new direction.
Among traditions that Catholics would like to see retired is the required vow of celibacy for priesthood. According to the study, approximately six-in-ten, or 58 percent, of Catholics say it would be a good thing for the Catholic Church if priests are allowed to marry if they wish to do so. Some 35 percent of Catholics say it is a bad idea. The majority of Catholics supporting the idea attend mass less than once a week.
Women were also more supportive of allowing priests to marry than men. Six-in-ten Catholic women agree that allowing priests to marry is a good thing, while just 30 percent believe it would be a bad move. Only 41 percent of Catholic men support the idea, while 30 percent says it would be a bad decision.
While there is no generational disparity in the support for allowing Catholic priests to marry, college graduates expressed more support for the idea, 71 percent, than Catholics with less formal education. A majority of Catholics also believe it would be a good thing for the Church if the next pope came from somewhere in the developing world, such as Africa, South America or Asia.
Among Catholics who believe the Church should be moving in a new direction, about one in five believe the Church needs to be more modern. Some 15 percent feel the new pope needs to do more to end sex abuse in the church and punish priests who are guilty of the crime.
Catholics in this group supporting a new direction for the church also called for women being allowed to serve in the priesthood and gay marriage. They also called for the Church's acceptance of contraceptives.
According to Pew Forum, most of the analysis its report is based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 13-18, 2013, among a national sample of 1,504 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.