Ninety percent of Austrian Catholics are opposed to mandatory celibacy and support allowing priests to have sexual relationships and get married, according to a poll released today.
The survey, conducted by the market research group Linzer Meinungsforschungsinstitutes based on a sample of 1000 residents over age 16, shows that the percentage opposed to celibacy is the same among Catholics as among the general population. Women were slightly more supportive of ending the celibacy requirement than men.
Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed opined that the Catholic Church should in all cases allow priests to have sexual relationships, while 22% said they were generally in favor of this.
Only 5% opposed sexual relationships for priests and defended celibacy, while another 5% declined to answer.
Seventy-two percent indicated that they were compltetely in favor of allowing priests and pastors to marry, and an additional 18% said they generally supported this.
At the same time, 89% were "understanding" of priests who have had children.
A recent poll conducted by Gallup for the Vienna daily "Österreich" found basically the same results as the market poll. The Gallup poll showed 87% of Austrians supported Catholic priests’ right to marry and only eight percent did not, with five percent having no opinion.
The newspaper added that around 700 priests in Austria have been suspended from their positions in the Church as a result of violations of their vows of celibacy.
The newspaper quoted theologian Paul Zulehner as claiming 22 percent of Austrian priests had relationships with women and said other sources put the percentage as high as 50 percent.