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6 in 10 U.S. Catholics are in favor of abortion rights, Pew Research report finds

Pope Francis remains popular among U.S. Catholics, with 75% having favorable views of him, according to a Pew Research report. But many self-identified Catholics disagree with various teachings of their church.
Andrew Medichini
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AP
Pope Francis remains popular among U.S. Catholics, with 75% having favorable views of him, according to a Pew Research report. But many self-identified Catholics disagree with various teachings of their church.

Catholics in the U.S., one of the country's largest single Christian groups, hold far more diverse views on abortion rights than the official teaching of their church.

While the Catholic Church itself holds that abortion is wrong and should not be legal, 6 in 10 U.S. adult Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a newly released profile of Catholicism by Pew Research.

Catholic opinion about abortion rights, according to the report, tends to align with political leanings: Fewer Catholic Republicans favor legal abortion than Catholic Democrats. And Pew says Hispanic Catholics, who make up one-third of the U.S. church, are slightly more in favor of legal abortion than white Catholics.

Pew found that 20% of the U.S. population identifies as Catholic, but only about 3 in 10 say they attend mass regularly. Opinions about abortion rights appear to be related to how often someone worships — just 34% of Catholics who attend mass weekly say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, whereas that number jumps to 68% among those who attend mass monthly or less.

Most U.S. Catholics are white (57%), but that number has dropped by 8 percentage points since 2007, according the new report. About 33% identify as Hispanic, 4% Asian, 2% Black, and 3% describe themselves as another race.

Pew Research also found that as of February, Pope Francis remains highly popular, with 75% of U.S. Catholics rating him favorably. However, there is a partisan divide, with Catholic Democrats more strongly supporting him.

About 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics view Francis as a major agent of change, with 3 in 10 saying he is a minor agent of change.

Pew reports that many U.S. Catholics would welcome more change. Some 83% say they want the church to allow the use of contraception, 69% say priests should be allowed to get married, 64% say women should be allowed to become priests, and 54% say the Catholic Church should recognize same-sex marriage.

In December 2023, the Vatican issued guidance to priests that they may bless people in same-sex relationships. But the church insists those blessings not be construed in any way to be a form of marriage or even take place as part of a worship service.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jason DeRose
Jason DeRose covers religion for NPR News, reporting on the ways belief shapes American public life and the ways American life shapes religious expression.