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National Catholic Reporter Highlights PRRI Data in Exploration of American Catholics

Brian Roewe’s latest piece for The National Catholic Reporter uses PRRI research to explore American Catholics’ opinions on a range of issues in light of the questionnaire distributed by the Vatican earlier this year, which asked bishops around the world to answer questions on topics like same-sex couples, marriage issues and contraception.

The Vatican questionnaire delves into natural law and issues such as cohabitation, divorce, separation, remarriage and same-sex unions.

Few, if any, surveys poll Catholics’ position on natural law — specifically the idea of the union between man and woman — though a March PRRI poll provides insights into Catholics’ view of the nature of a person’s sexual orientation. They found 65 percent of Catholics view a gay person’s sexual orientation as unalterable, versus a quarter who believed it could change. And while fewer Catholics believe sex between same-sex adults is morally acceptable (44 percent) than believe it morally wrong (47 percent), 57 percent favor same-sex marriage’s legalization, creating an interesting divide, said Robert Jones, the institute’s CEO.

“Catholics are drawing a distinction between moral judgments that they’re making for themselves, and what they think ought to be enshrined in law,” he told NCR.

The 2011 NCR survey augments that position, finding 57 percent of Catholics viewing the individual as the final moral authority on same-sex relations, up 11 percent from 2005. The rise in Catholics’ acceptance of same-sex unions mirrors national legislative trends, where 16 states now permit such marriages, and a June Supreme Court decision made homosexual and heterosexual married couples equal under federal laws.

In response to the question of Catholics’ attitudes toward same-sex unions (Question 5b), the answer appears favorable to such unions. The 54 percent of Catholics supporting same-sex marriage Pew found in June represented an almost 20 percent increase from 2004. The numbers remain consistent when broken down by ethnicity (56 percent whites, 58 percent Hispanics), PRRI found, as well as more than three-fourths of all Catholics believing society should accept same-sex relationships. Fifty-five percent favor same-sex couples adopting children.

Be sure to check out the full article over at The National Catholic Reporter. To learn more about Catholics’ views on these issues and more, click on over to PRRI’s newly updated 2013 American Catholics Fact Sheet!