Catholics no Different on Abortion, Embryo Research but More Liberal on Homosexuality than Non-Catho

Fri Apr 3, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

PRINCETON, New Jersey, April 3, 2009 ( - Catholic social teaching on the death penalty has had some impact on American Catholics, leaving bishops with the task of urging their congregations away from the mainstream on topics such as abortion and embryo research, according to a Gallup data survey released Monday.

The new Gallup analysis, based on aggregated data from Gallup’s 2006-2008 Values and Beliefs surveys, indicates that despite the Roman Catholic Church’s strong opposition to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, there is almost no difference between rank-and-file American Catholics and American non-Catholics in terms of finding the two issues morally acceptable. 

Abortion was considered morally acceptable by 40% of Catholics, versus 41% of non-Catholics; "medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos" was approved by 63% of Catholics, one percentage point higher than non-Catholics.

The data showed modern Catholics in the United States are even more liberal than non-Catholics on issues such as homosexuality, where Catholics led non-Catholics 54-45% in approving homosexual relations.

The only controversial topic in which Catholics heeded Church teaching significantly more than non-Catholics was the death penalty: 68% of non-Catholics considered the death penalty morally acceptable, versus 61% of Catholics.  While the Catholic Church does not consider the death penalty intrinsically evil, Church officials have strongly encouraged the eradication of the death penalty in countries where it is rendered unnecessary by adequate detention facilities.

"While much educational work has been done, much work still lies ahead in reaching out to believers and non-believers alike with the truth about the dignity of human life," said Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the pro-life secretariat of the U.S. Bishops Conference.

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