Roman Catholic Opinion

The recent spate of surveys triggered by the forthcoming papal visit continues with the publication this morning of a ComRes poll of a random sample of 500 UK Catholics conducted for the BBC between 6 and 9 September. Interviews were by telephone.

The full results from this poll have not yet been released.* The following headline findings are based on the discussion in today’s Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 (which can be heard for the next seven days via the BBC iPlayer service) and on a BBC News press release at:

69% of Catholics expect the forthcoming papal visit to Scotland and England to be helpful to the Catholic Church in Britain. 14% fear it will be unhelpful and 17% are uncertain.

57% do not consider that their Catholic faith is generally valued by British society, almost twice the proportion who think that it is (30%), with 13% don’t knows.

62% of Catholics believe that women should have more authority and status in the Catholic Church. Identical numbers of men and women say this, but younger Catholics rather more than older ones. 30% disagree and 8% don’t know. This question was somewhat vague, but it will doubtless have been interpreted by some respondents as being code for their views on women priests.

49% of Catholics seek a relaxation in the Church’s rules on clerical celibacy, with a high of 63% for the 35-54 age cohort. 35% oppose any change and 17% don’t know what to think.

52% of Catholics claim that their faith in the leadership of the Catholic Church has been shaken by the priestly sexual abuse scandals and their subsequent handling. This is perhaps a lower figure than might have been expected, although it is ambiguous whether leadership refers to that of the Church in Britain or more globally. 43% state that their faith has not been shaken.

Commenting on the results, the ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins writes: ‘Overall there is a sense of strong support for the Pope’s visit but disquiet both about some aspects of Papal teaching and the perception of the Catholic Church in wider society having been harmed.’

* POSTSCRIPT: The full data tabulations (with breaks by age, gender, region and social class) were later posted at:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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