US Catholics tilt left, Pew survey finds


Washington, Jun. 30, 2008 - A newly released study from the Pew Forum shows that many self-described American Catholics ignore Church teachings on both theological and social issues.

In March the Pew Forum released the first findings of an ambitious"religious landscape" survey, showing an important demographic shift within American Catholicism, with with younger Catholics less likely to remain active in the Church, while Hispanic immigrants replace many of the "cradle Catholics" who no longer practice the faith. The Pew survey found widespread dissent from Church teaching and a massive exodus from the Catholic Church, concluding that "roughly released earlier this month, the Pew Forum explains that "roughly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church, and approximately one-in-ten American adults are former Catholics."

In its follow-up report, comparing the beliefs and practices of America's major religious groups, the Pew Forum found that 48% of Catholics respondents favor legal abortion (16% in all cases, 32% in most cases), while only 18% agree that abortion should always be illegal. A substantial majority of the Catholics polled-- 58%-- said that society should accept homosexuality.

On theological issues, only 16% of American Catholics believe that the Church is the one true means of salvation, the Pew Forum found. (By comparison, 36% of the Evangelical respondents chose that answer.) An overwhelming 79% of the Catholics said that many different faiths could lead to eternal life.

The Pew Forum survey did not make a distinction between active and lapsed Catholics. In fact, 48% of the respondents who identified themselves as Catholics said that they attended Mass "a few times a year" or even less frequently.

The Pew survey demonstrated an apparent liberal tilt in the political views of American Catholics. Although 36% of those surveyed described themselves as conservatives, and only 18% as liberals, a slim majority (51%) favored more government programs and 60% supported stronger environment laws. About one-third (33%) of the respondents said that they favored the Republican party, while nearly half (48%) favored the Democrats.