Not all self-defined British Catholics share their Church’s conservative opinions when it comes to topics such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality, a recent YouGov poll reveals. The poll was conducted one day before the start of the papal visit with a representative group of 1,636 British Catholics.
Despite Pope Benedict XVI’s repeated affirmations that contraception is wrong and that the war against AIDS in Africa should be fought with abstinence not condoms, 71% believe that contraception should be ‘used more often’ to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Just under a quarter (23%) think it is the couple’s choice, while a meagre 4% say artificial contraception is wrong and should not be used.
Regarding abortion, 30% of Catholics said that all women less than 20 weeks pregnant should be allowed to abort their pregnancy, while a further 44% think that abortion is acceptable on grounds of rape, incest, severe disability to the child or as an indirect consequence of life-saving treatment for the mother. Just 6% said that abortion should never be allowed.
The Pope declared in 2008 that ‘saving the world from homosexual behaviour’ was just as important as ‘saving the rainforest.’ But according to the survey, just 11% of Catholics consider homosexual acts to be ‘morally wrong’. In fact, a substantial 41% responded ‘good for them’ when asked about ‘consenting adults having homosexual relations’ and believe we should ‘celebrate all loving relationships, whether gay or straight’.
Catholic priests are traditionally required to be celibate, in the belief that sexual abstinence increases their purity. There are increasing calls for priests to be allowed to make their own choice; this is backed up by 65% of Catholics who believe that Catholic priests should be allowed to marry, compared to 27% who think they should remain celibate.
The Catholic Church has been widely criticised for abuse scandals, which have seen senior members of the Church allegedly cover up cases of sexual abuse against minors. Most British Catholics are scathing towards the allegations. 87% think that the Catholic Church has been permanently damaged by the scandals, while 65% believe that the Vatican did try and cover up abuse cases and has been rightly criticised for doing so. Just 18% of Catholics consider the criticism to be unjustified. Despite criticisms regarding recent child abuse allegations, 72% are behind the Pope, believing he should continue in his position. However, Catholics are divided on the forthcoming papal visit, which will cost the British government an estimated £12 million. While 47% think this is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money, a close 44% consider it inappropriate.