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Global Poll Prompts Call to Overcome Catholic Divisions Through Fidelity

Jeffrey Bruno

Catholic News Agency - published on 02/16/14

“Reject the media calls to cast this as a power struggle between those in the pew and those at the pulpit."

A survey indicating mixed views on Church teaching among self-identified Catholics shows the “difficult challenge” facing Christ’s followers, but also offers a reminder of the need for fidelity, one commenter says.

“If you have a hard time understanding or agreeing with the Church on an important moral question, keep your heart open and be a faithful daughter or son,” said Joshua Mercer, political director of CatholicVote.org.

“Reject the media calls to cast this as a power struggle between those in the pew and those at the pulpit,” he told CNA Feb. 13.

Mercer said that Catholics have been “wrestling with these important moral questions for centuries,” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides many specific explanations for Church teachings and beliefs.

“The Church spells it out in plain English and backs up the position with solid explanations.”

To Catholics who are confident that the Church is wrong, however, Mercer said “the Church’s core teachings will not change.”

Mercer’s comments come in response to poll results from the U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision. It surveyed 12,038 self-identified Catholics in 12 countries containing more than 60 percent of the world’s Catholics.

The survey asked respondents’ views of Pope Francis and polled whether respondents were in agreement with Church teaching on divorce and remarriage, married priests, the ordination of women as priests, abortion, contraception, civil “gay marriage,” and whether the Catholic Church should perform “gay marriages.”

The survey found that supermajorities of Catholics worldwide believe the Pope is doing an excellent or good job. Appreciation was highest in Italy, where 74 percent said he was doing excellent. A majority of Catholics in Poland, the United States, and Argentina also said he was doing an excellent job.

However, the poll suggests significant division among Catholics about Church teaching.

Uganda was the only country where a majority of respondents agreed with Church teaching on all survey questions. The next most consistently Catholic country was the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mercer noted that the poll captures the opinions of non-churchgoing Catholics alongside those who attend Mass regularly. This could have led to misleading poll results, indicating more dissent from Church teaching than if only churchgoing Catholics had been polled.

“Many people will tell a pollster they are Catholic even if it's been years since they've sat in a pew. It's because Catholicism is deeply and profoundly a cultural (as well as religious) experience,” Mercer said.

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