Most Roman Catholics in the United States approve of the way Pope John Paul II is leading the church but strongly disagree with many of his key teachings, according to three polls released Saturday.
The polls are the latest to measure how sharply U.S. Catholics split with papal doctrine on issues such as divorce, abortion and contraception.
They were reported by U.S. News & World Report, Time magazine and CNN, and CBS and The New York Times in advance of the pope’s arrival Wednesday for a five-day visit.
The Time-CNN poll found that 83 percent of American Catholics are satisfied with the pope’s leadership, but only 15 percent believe they should always obey his teachings on such moral issues as birth control and abortion.
Seventy-nine percent believe Catholics can make up their own minds.
U.S. News & World Report found a similar split, with two-thirds of Catholics saying abortion is not morally wrong in every case and three out of four saying the same about divorce and contraception.
In the CBS-Times poll, 73 percent said knowing that the pope had taken a position on a social or moral issue would make no difference to them.
Seventy-six percent said they think someone who does not believe in the authority of the pope can still be a good Catholic, while respondents were split over whether the church is in touch with the needs of Catholics, the CBS-Times poll said.
Catholics are also split on homosexuality, with 50 percent agreeing with the church’s position that it’s morally wrong and 49 percent disagreeing, U.S. News & World Report said.
The magazine’s poll also found overwhelming support among Catholics for the ordination of women and allowing priests to marry, both contrary to church policy.
Still, more than four in five Catholics in all three polls gave high leadership ratings to the pope, as well as to their bishops and parish priests.
For U.S. News, Market Facts polled 1,000 people, including 493 Catholics, on Sept. 23-24. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
For Time and CNN, Yankelovich Partners surveyed 500 Catholics on Sept. 27-28. Sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
CBS and the Times polled 1,536 people Sept. 18-22, including 423 Catholics, for whom the sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: POPE’S VISIT Wednesday: Arrives Newark International Airport at 3 p.m. Eastern time, and speaks at welcoming ceremony. Then attends service at Newark’s Sacred Heart Cathedral and speaks. Thursday: Addresses United Nations. General Assembly and staff. Offers homily at Mass at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Friday: Morning Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack. Tours the grounds of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., leads the evening prayer service there and addresses seminarians. Saturday: Mass on the Great Lawn of Central Park. Meeting with Cardinal John O’Connor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan; pope recites the rosary and delivers a brief address in the cathedral later that afternoon. Visits the Holy See Mission to the United Nations. Holds a series of informal meetings at O’Connor’s residence with leaders of other Christian churches, regional Catholic bishops and representatives of Jewish organizations. Sunday: Journeys to Baltimore. Celebrates Mass at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Attends lunch at soup kitchen, along with 20 guests, clients of Catholic Charity programs. Visits Basilica of the Assumption. Meets with leaders of the Catholic Relief Services. Speaks at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Stops by St. Mary’s Seminary on the way to Baltimore-Washington International Airport; speaks at airport before 8 p.m. departure.
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