An article in last week's Tuesday Briefing examined the influence of religion for both Catholic and Protestant teens (see The Influence of Religion: Protestant vs. Catholic Teens.) A further examination of the views of Catholic teens -- as well as those of Catholic adults -- on issues related to sex, morals and marriage shatters the stereotype of Catholics as being more "conservative" or "traditional" on such matters.
A 2000 Gallup Youth Survey* shows that Catholic teens are far more likely than their Protestant counterparts to express approval of marriage between homosexuals, by a margin of 60% to 36%.
Catholic teens are less likely than Protestant teens to say it is morally wrong to have sex before marriage -- 37% of Catholic teens hold this view compared to 49% of Protestant teens. Catholic teens are also less likely to say it is morally wrong to live together before marriage than are Protestant teens, 26% to 34%.
Finally, 52% of Catholic teens think it is morally wrong for a couple to have a baby before marriage, compared to 62% of Protestant teens who think so.
The relatively liberal views of Catholic teens today reflect the attitudes of their elders. A Gallup survey of adults** aged 18 and older shows that a far higher percentage of Catholic adults (47%) than Protestant adults (29%) express the belief that homosexual behavior is morally acceptable. On the issue of sex between an unmarried man and woman, a larger percentage of Catholic adults (54%) say this is morally acceptable than Protestant adults (43%).
Catholic and Protestant adults, however, are in total agreement when it comes to married men and women having an affair: Ninety-one percent (91%) of Catholics and 92% of Protestants say such behavior is morally unacceptable.
*Findings for teens are based on telephone interviews with a representative national sample of 501 teen-agers, aged 13 to 17, conducted December 2000 through February 2001. For this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5%.
**Findings for adults are based on telephone interviews with a representative national sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-14, 2001. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3%.