I don’t think there’s much here that’s surprising. But it offers a good snapshot of the flock Pope Francis will be meeting when he arrives on these shores later this month:
When Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families later this month, he will find a Catholic public that is remarkably accepting of a variety of non-traditional families, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that provides an in-depth look at American Catholics’ views on family life, sexuality and Catholic identity. Nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics say a household headed by a married mother and father is an ideal situation for bringing up children. But the survey shows that large majorities think other kinds of families – those headed by parents who are single, divorced, unmarried or gay – are OK for raising children, too. This may be in part because Francis’ American flock is experiencing life in all its modern complexity. According to the survey, one-in-four Catholics have gone through a divorce. One-in-ten have not only divorced but also remarried. One-in-ten are living with a romantic partner, sans wedding, and more than four-in-ten have done so at some point in their lives. When it comes to matters of sexuality, there are a number of issues on which Catholics either mostly disagree with the church (e.g., on the question of whether Catholics should be permitted to use birth control) or are divided (e.g., on the question of whether the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples). But there also are numerous ways in which Catholics express their dedication to the church and its teachings. For example, seven-in-ten say they cannot ever imagine leaving the Catholic Church, no matter what. Nearly six-in-ten Catholics say abortion is a sin. And more than half say devotion to Mary and receiving the sacraments are “essential” to what being Catholic means to them personally. The survey shows, furthermore, that Catholics who say they attend Mass regularly (at least once a week) are consistently more in agreement with church teachings than are Catholics who attend Mass less frequently. The survey also shows that the United States is a nation of people whose ties to Catholicism run both deep and broad. Fully 45% of Americans are connected to Catholicism in some way, including one-fifth who claim the faith as their current religion, one-tenth who were raised in the faith and have now fallen away, and a similar share who maintain a cultural connection to Catholicism.