Ahead of Pope Francis's Visit to U.S., Catholics More Liberal on Same-Sex Couples, Contraception

Pope Francis will meet with an increasingly liberal U.S. Catholic church in his first visit to the U.S. this September. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

American Catholics have increasingly liberal views on social issues such as same-sex marriage and contraception, new polling released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found.

According to Pew, 46 percent of U.S. Catholics believe a same-sex couple in a romantic relationship living together is acceptable and "as good as any other way of life," while 24 percent say it is an acceptable way of life but "not as good as some others." Only 25 percent say it is not acceptable. In 2001, 57 percent of U.S. Catholics opposed same-sex marriage. Today, only 39 percent do.

Furthermore, Pew found two-thirds of American Catholics believe it is acceptable for same-sex couples to raise children, and 43 percent say such an arrangement is just as good as any other. Meanwhile, 23 percent say such an arrangement is acceptable but not as good as some others, and 27 percent say it is not acceptable. However, most U.S. Catholics (90 percent) still view the traditional arrangement of a married mother and father raising children as ideal, like 92 percent of U.S. adults overall.

U.S. Catholics remain divided on whether engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin: 44 percent say it is, while 39 percent say it is not. On the issue of abortion, 57 percent of U.S. Catholics say it is sinful to have an abortion, while 23 percent say it is not. But a majority of U.S. Catholics disagree with the church on contraception; two-thirds say using birth control is not a sin.

In June, the pope released an encyclical titled "Laudato Si," in which he said global warming is driven by human activity. But Francis has a long way to go to convince U.S. Catholics to make the environment a priority, Pew found. Most U.S Catholics, 61 percent, say using energy without considering its impact on the environment is not a sin, while only 23 percent say it is. Meanwhile, 73 percent of U.S. Catholics say it is not sinful to live in a much larger house than your family needs, while 12 percent say it is.

Francis will make his first visit to the U.S. in September for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He will also visit New York and Washington, D.C.