A poll released Monday provides new insight into the religious practices, beliefs, and other demographic trends of U.S. Catholics.
Only a small majority of Catholics in the U.S., 56%, say they accept “all” or “most” of what the Church teaches, according to the poll, released on February 24 by RealClear Opinion Research. Only 18% say they accept all the Church’s teachings and try to live them out, with another 38% saying they “generally accept most of the Church’s teachings” and try to put them into practice.
A slight majority of Catholics, 51%, believe that religion is “very important” in their own lives, while another 35% deem it to be “somewhat important.”
The research, conducted by polling firm RealClear in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed more than 1,500 Catholics in the U.S. from January 28 through February 4. The poll gathered information on the religious beliefs of Catholics, their political party affiliation, and their frequency of prayer and Mass attendance.
The poll reveals a divide in Catholic acceptance of particular Church teachings.
While more than seven-in-ten Catholics, 72%, believe that certain actions are “intrinsically evil,” a majority do not think that abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide are intrinsically evil acts.
The vast majority of Catholics, 81%, however, believe in the existence of Hell, and 78% believe that Satan exists.
A substantial majority of Catholics also do not attend Mass on a weekly basis—although the Church holds that Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
35% attend Mass at least once a week—less than one percent attend Mass daily, 5% more than go once a week, and 29% once a week.
Fourteen percent say they attend “once or twice a month,” and 25% “a few times a year,” and 3% “once a year.” Another 15% say they attend Mass less than once a year, and 8% said they never attend Mass. Divides on religious practice and political beliefs were clearly visible between Catholics who say they accept everything the Church teaches, and those who say they only accept “most” or “some” of Church teaching, or who do not think religion to be very important in their lives.
Eighteen percent of U.S. Catholics say they accept all the Church’s teachings, “and that is reflected in how I live my life.”
Within this group, respondents were far more likely than other Catholics to attend Mass weekly or more, 72%. Nearly one-in-three, 31%, of these Catholics pray the rosary daily, and 71% pray daily.
More Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s doctrine received an undergraduate degree from a religious college or university (49%) than a secular one (43%).
Such Catholics are far more likely than Catholics overall, 63% to 36%, to be aware of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty and Pope Francis’ declaration that it is “inadmissible.” Even so, 61% of Catholics who say they accept all the Church’s teachings support the death penalty, compared to 57% of all Catholics.
On religious freedom issues, Catholics who say they accept all of the Church’s teaching are more likely than Catholics overall, 57% to 45%, to support the rights of religious business owners not to serve a same-sex wedding. They are also more likely, 50% to 41%, to support the freedom of adoption agencies not to match children with same-sex couples.
Demographically, the vast majority of Catholics surveyed hail either from urban, 33%, or suburban, 50% communities, with just 7% from small towns and 10% from rural America.
Just over half, 51%, are married, while 26% have never been married. One in ten Catholics report they are living with a partner, 9% are divorced, and 4% are separated.
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