American Catholics want a younger leader of the Church

American Catholics want a younger leader of the ChurchWhat Type of Pope Should the Cardinals Choose?

In a New York Times/CBS poll, American Catholics have voiced their opinion of who should sit on the Papal Throne.  The majority favor a more ‘liberal’ Pope on issues such as birth control, ordaining women and allowing priests to marry.

Two out of three American Catholics want to see a younger man become the leader of the Church, and three out of four believe Benedict XVI did the right thing by stepping aside, bearing in mind he entered the Papacy at age 78.

Most Catholics feel the Bishops and Cardinals are ‘out of touch’ with the daily lives of the Church’s members.  “I don’t think they are in the trenches with the people,” Therese Spender, 51, a homemaker in Fort Wayne, Ind., told the pollsters. “They go to a lot of meetings, but they are not out in the street.”

Shortly after Pope Benedict’s resignation, a poll revealed that 54 percent wanted a more liberal Pope.  19 percent thought the Church should maintain current policy, and only 18 percent believed it should follow an even more conservative role.

When polled, Catholics said the most important area for discussion and change should be in the use of birth control.  91 percent believed the Church should approve the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the HIV virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.  71 percent believe the Church should allow artificial means of birth control.

69 percent believe that priests should be allowed to marry, and the same percentage believes women should have the right to be priests.  56 percent believe the new Pope should continue to oppose abortion.  However, they believe that it is still possible to disagree with the Church on abortion and birth control, and still be a “good Catholic”.

American Catholics say they are often at odds with Church doctrine concerning birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage and the death penalty.  62 percent would sanction same-sex marriage, 74 percent would allow abortions, and 61 percent favor the death penalty.

78 percent polled said they were more likely to follow their own conscience than to strictly adhere to the Pope’s teachings on matters that are morally difficult.  Not surprisingly, Catholics who spend more time in church are more likely to closely abide by the Church’s strict guidelines.

Most agreed that the biggest problem facing the Church today is the sex scandal.  70 percent felt that the Church under Pope Benedict did a poor job handling it.

As for the former Pope, 12 percent think his leadership has hurt the Catholic Church and 26 percent believe he has helped it. In contrast, according to CBS, 63 percent of Catholics felt the leadership of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had helped the church at the time of his death in April 2005.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express