WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2011 ( – Support for same-sex “marriage” and civil unions runs high among the Catholic population, even claiming the majority of Catholics who attend Mass weekly, according to a poll released this month.

The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that Catholics surpass other Christians and even the general public in their support for homosexual unions, both as “marriage” and other marriage-like unions recognized by the state.

The results among Catholics were broken down among those who attend Mass weekly or more (38 percent of Catholics), once or twice per month (20 percent), or less often (41 percent). Support for same-sex “marriage” was far higher among the last group with 59 percent support, and only 16 percent against all types of homosexual unions.

But even among those attending Mass weekly or more, only 31 percent were against legal recognition of homosexual unions; 26 percent favored same-sex “marriage” and 38 percent favored civil unions.

The PRRI survey was funded primarily by the Arcus Foundation, which was founded by gay rights billionaire Jon Stryker.

While one expert cited by the Catholic News Agency questioned the study’s failure to cite a margin of error, he said the results were overall “pretty consistent” with other publicly available data on the topic.

“Over time there’s been a growing percentage of people who agree specifically with the questions about civil unions and marriage, something that we’ve seen in surveys. A lot of it we see in terms of generational differences,” said Mark M. Gray, Ph.D., director of CARA Catholic Polls and a research associate for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Some have recognized the data as a somber wake-up call to Catholic pastors who have fallen silent rather than tackle the increasingly controversial issue of sexual morality.

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington noted in a blog post Wednesday that, “With the combination of a loud culture and quiet pulpit and classroom, it is no surprise that that recent statistics show that a growing number of Catholics do not hold the Catholic faith when it comes to moral issues, especially the sexual ones.”

While modern culture “shouts promiscuity and normalizes both the heterosexual and homosexual expressions of it,” said Pope, clergy and catechists meanwhile provide no strong counter-arguments and remain “quite silent and vague about it.”

“In the Church I think we have to accept that a generational shift has occurred, both in the Church and in the culture. And it has happened on our watch,” he wrote.

The priest reflected that the Church in America has long remained silent on the breakdown of the family, notably beginning with the implementation of no-fault divorce in the late 1960s, leaving leaders “scrambling to teach the faithful again on the basics of marriage.”

“Yes, we have returned to the battle late,” wrote Pope. “But start we must.

“And while we do so, we will called all sorts of names by a culture that now finds the Gospel and its moral vision to be obnoxious, even hateful. It will be our task to re-propose the Gospel in creative and thoughtful ways, and to present why it makes sense and is not, in fact hateful,” he wrote.