U.S. Catholics Divided on Church’s Direction Under New Pope

Pew Research Center, February 21, 2013

As the pontificate of Benedict XVI winds down, many American Catholics express a desire for change. For example, most U.S. Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry. And fully six-in-ten Catholics say it would be good if the next pope hails from a developing region like South America, Asia or Africa.

At the same time, many Catholics also express appreciation for the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. While about half of U.S. Catholics (46%) say the next pope should “move the church in new directions,” the other half (51%) say the new pope should “maintain the traditional positions of the church.” And among Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week, nearly two-thirds (63%) want the next pope to maintain the church’s traditional positions.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 13-18 among 1,504 adults (including 304 Catholics) also finds that nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics have heard a lot (60%) or at least a little (30%) about Benedict’s resignation. {snip}

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A majority of Catholics (60%) say it would be a good thing if the next pope is from a developing region of the world, like South America, Asia or Africa. Only 14% say this would be a bad thing, while one-in-five say it would not matter either way (20%).

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