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Poll: US Catholics More Accepting of Non-Traditional Families

The U.S. flag flies in front of a mural of Pope Francis on the side of a building in midtown Manhattan in New York, Aug. 28, 2015.

As Pope Francis prepares for his first trip to the United States later this month, a survey finds that many Catholics are becoming more tolerant of families not headed by a married man and woman.

In a report issued Wednesday, the Pew Research Center found that while 90 percent of American Catholics believe a traditional household is an ideal situation for bringing up children, 84 percent believe unmarried parents living together can create an acceptable family arrangement, including those who say it is acceptable, but not as good as any other situation. Meanwhile, 87 percent think it is acceptable for children to be raised in single parent households, and 83 percent think divorced parents raising children is acceptable.

But nearly half of those asked about single parent households believe it is not as good as some other arrangements, and another 52 percent feel the same way about divorced parents.

Sixty-six percent are okay with same-sex couples raising children, with 43 percent, saying it is as good as any other family arrangement.

Diverse family arrangements

The Pew Center says the results of its survey may be in part because the pontiff's U.S. flock "is experiencing life in all its modern complexity." The researchers found that 24 percent of all Catholics have gone through a divorce, while one-in-10 have remarried, and nearly 10 percent are living with a romantic partner.

Differences become more conspicuous when the numbers are broken down by how often Catholics attend Mass. Pew says only 26 percent of Catholics who attend weekly Mass fully accept children raised by divorced parents, compared to 34 percent who attend less often.

Just 38 percent of regular Mass attendees fully accept children raised by unmarried parents living together, compared to 55 percent who attend less often, while 34 percent of Catholics who regularly go to Mass fully accept families led by same-sex couples, compared to nearly half of those in the opposite category.

Pope Francis's six-day visit to the U.S., which begins on September 22, includes a visit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, speeches before a joint session of Congress and the United Nations General Assembly, and Mass before the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.