U.S. Catholics want more say in church decision-making at all levels but remain loyal to the church, with almost half saying it is one of the most important elements of their lives, according to a Gallup survey that was commissioned by the National Catholic Reporter.
Results of the survey of 803 Catholics, taken by telephone during the first two weeks of May, appear in the Sept. 11 issue of the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal weekly published in Kansas City, Mo.
Nine of 10 adult Catholics said they should be involved in decisions on the morality of birth control, and seven of 10 want to participate in arriving at church positions on the morality of abortion and of divorce and remarriage.
Eight of 10 want a say in determining how parish income is spent, seven of 10 believe they should have the right to give occasional sermons in their parishes and six of 10 want the right to select their parish priest.
While calling for greater democracy in the church, seven of 10 Catholics said they would almost never consider leaving. Forty-nine percent described the church as the "most important" or "among the most important" parts of their lives, while 38 percent said it is "quite important" and only 12 percent described it as "not terribly important".
Only 29 percent of lay Catholics were aware of the bishops' 1983 peace pastoral, compared with 67 percent who were not and 5 percent who were not sure. Of those who knew about it, 57 percent agreed with its recommendations, 29 percent disagreed and the rest were uncertain.
The bishops' 1985 economics pastoral was known to 25 percent of adult Catholics, compared with 71 percent who were unaware of it and 4 percent who were unsure. Of those who knew about it, 71 percent agreed with its conclusions, 20 percent disagreed and the rest were uncertain.
An ethnic breakdown indicated that all the black Catholics who know about the economics pastoral agreed with it, compared with 70 percent of Hispanics and 69 percent of whites.
Asked how the church's teaching on abortion affects their commitment to the church, 45 percent said it had strengthened it, 32 percent said it had had no effect, 19 percent said it had weakened it and 4 percent were unsure.
Thomas C. Fox, National Catholic Reporter editor, said this represents the highest overall support for any of the church teachings involved in the survey.
Church efforts to give preference to the poor of Latin America had strengthened the church commitment of 43 percent of U.S. Catholics, had no effect for 35 percent and weakened it for 14 percent, while 8 percent were uncertain.
Of the Vatican clampdown on dissenting theologians, 39 percent of the respondents said it has no effect, 25 percent said it has weakened their commitment, 21 percent said it has strengthened their commitment and 16 percent were uncertain.
The issue in the survey that had no effect on the largest number of Catholics was reports of significant numbers of homosexual priests in the U.S. church. Forty-seven percent said such reports had had no effect on their commitment to the church, 35 percent said they had weakened it, 14 percent were uncertain and 4 percent said the reports had strengthened it.