Washington — Catholics, by and large, haven't heard endorsements for one presidential candidate over the other while in the pews this presidential election season.
But they reported they have heard about religious liberty, abortion, immigration and the environment as among the topics coming from the pulpit, according to a survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center in Washington.
Just one out of 10 or fewer Catholics "say their clergy have publicly supported or opposed particular candidates," reported Pew in its survey conducted online and by mail June 5-July 7 among a national sample of 4,602 adults who say they attended religious services at least once or twice in the few months before the poll was conducted.
Catholics reported that clergy spoke mostly in favor of and against certain issues. About 38 percent of Catholics surveyed said clergy addressed religious liberty from the pulpit, with 32 percent reporting that they heard a defense of it. Two percent reported hearing from their religious leaders that they don't believe religious liberty is "under attack." Another 5 percent said they heard both points of views.
Abortion is another topic Catholics said they heard about from the pulpit. About 3 in 10 Catholics said they "recently heard clergy speak out against abortion" during Mass, while 1 to 2 percent said they heard "clergy speak in support of abortion rights."
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Two other topics reportedly heard about during Mass included immigration and the environment.
About a third of Catholic churchgoers said they "have heard clergy speak out about the need to be welcoming and supportive of immigrants in recent months," and about 3 percent reported hearing clergy talk "about a need for stricter immigration enforcement," according to the survey.
The survey also questioned Protestants, evangelicals and other Christians about the same topics, and while some responses showed similarities, the environment and its defense by Catholic clergy seemed to stand out, perhaps in a nod to Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment released in 2015.
About 31 percent of Catholics said they heard the environment mentioned by clergy at Mass, the highest percentage of any other group surveyed, with 24 percent reporting that they heard leaders speak of "the need to protect the environment" and less than 1 percent said they heard clergy speak "against environmental regulations."
Of the Catholics who said they heard a leader speak in favor of or against particular candidates for president, 5 percent said they heard leaders support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and less than 1 percent heard support for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Those who say they heard leaders speak against a presidential candidate said they heard 2 percent of clergy speak against Clinton and 7 percent speak against Trump.
Other issues surveyed included homosexuality and economic inequality. About 8 percent of Catholics said they heard clergy speak against homosexuality from the pulpit and 13 percent said they heard clergy encourage acceptance of gays and lesbians.
On the issue of economic inequality, 14 percent said they heard religious leaders speak of "the problem of economic inequality," while 4 percent said they heard clergy speak in defense of capitalism or free markets.
The margin of error for the entire sample was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For church-going Catholic respondents, it was plus or minus 6.8 percentage points.