Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Polls: Catholics Would like to See Women Priests

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Polls: Catholics Would like to See Women Priests

Article excerpt

Catholics would like to see women priests, but most don't feel strongly about the issue. That is what opinion polls suggest about the attitudes of American Catholics toward the ordination of women.

Surveys show that support for women's ordination has climbed steadily among Catholics in the United States. Gallup polls have indicated that as many as two thirds of Catholics would like to see the church lift its ban on women priests. In 1985, fewer than half of the Catholics surveyed by Gallup took the same position.

Still, only a minority of Catholics, 37 percent, said they "strongly agreed" that women should be ordained, according to a 1992 Gallup poll.

Supporters of women's ordination have used the polling data to buoy their contention that Catholics oppose the male-only priesthood.

"It's a tidal wave of opinion that's clearly running in opposition to the Vatican," said Sr. Maureen Fiedler, coordinator of Catholics Speak Out, an activist group that promotes the ordination of women. "The polls show that the ban on women priests doesn't make sense to the average Catholic anymore."

But those who defend the church's teaching on women priests are quick to argue that the average Catholic does not care much about the issue either way.

"Catholics are concerned about other things, like how good the local Catholic school is or whether the sermon on Sunday is relevant to their lives," said William Donohue, executive director of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, based in New York. He said few Catholics would leave the church over the women's issue, whether or not the church decided ultimately to ordain them.

Fiedler agreed, to a point. "I don't think this is an issue that average Catholics in the parish would see as affecting their daily lives," she said. But that may change, she said, as more Catholics are unable to receive the Eucharist because of the priest shortage.

"I think you'll see Catholics saying that the male-only priesthood is nothing compared to our right to the Eucharist," Fiedler said. …

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