A church divided: Survey of worldwide Catholics shows sharp disagreements on abortion, contraception
Study focuses on 12 countries with some of the world's largest Catholic populations
A poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International for Univision showed sharp differences of opinion among Catholics of different nations. It must be stressed that the poll did not include Catholics everywhere, focusing on 12 countries across the continents with some of the world's largest Catholic populations. What was discovered was wide disagreement on such issues as contraception, abortion and same sex marriage.
In developing nations in Africa and Asia, Catholics were found to hew closely to doctrine on these issues.
The poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided. In developing nations in Africa and Asia, Catholics were found to hew closely to doctrine on these issues. In Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, many Catholics polled say they strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.
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The disparity suggested by the study is sure to challenge Pope Francis's year-old papacy and the unity it has engendered.
Among the findings: 19 percent of Catholics in the European countries and 30 percent in the Latin American countries surveyed agree with church teaching that divorcees who remarry outside the church should not receive Communion, compared with 75 percent in the most Catholic African countries.
Thirty percent of Catholics in the European countries and 36 percent in the United States agree with the church ban on female priests, compared with 80 percent in Africa and 76 percent in the Philippines, the country with the largest Catholic population in Asia.
Forty percent of Catholics in the United States oppose gay marriage, compared with the overwhelming 99 percent in Africa.
"This is a balancing act. They have to hold together two increasingly divergent constituencies. The church has lost its ability to dictate what people do," Ronald Inglehart, founding president of the World Values Survey, said.
"Right now, the less-developed world is staying true to the old world values, but it's gradually eroding even there. [Pope Francis] doesn't want to lose the legitimacy of the more educated people," he added.
Pope Francis has immediately grasped the significance of the divisions among the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. In response, he has chosen inclusive language, has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up "in small-minded rules."
Happily, the poll found that the vast majority of Catholics appreciate his approach.
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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