A new Pew Research poll on religion in American life reveals that the majority of American Catholics look to their own conscience for guidance on moral questions. Despite the overwhelming popularity of Pope Francis among American Catholics, only one in 10 said they turned to the pontiff "a great deal" for moral guidance.
Slightly less than three-quarters of American Catholics (73 percent) responded that they rely on their own consciences "a great deal" when facing difficult questions of morality, compared to 21 percent who look to the Catholic Church, 15 percent who look to the Bible and 11 percent who look to the pope.
Naturally, Catholics who are more religious tend to seek out guidance from more than one of these sources. But no more than half of highly religious Catholics gave great weight to any of them.
The poll also featured a set of questions about how Catholics make major life decisions. Around eight of 10 Catholics said they depend heavily on their own research and knowledge in the decision-making process, with the second most popular choice being advice from relatives.
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Of those Cathoics polled, 39 percent said they rely heavily on prayer or personal reflection, and 30 percent said they relied on advice from professionals. Perhaps surprisingly, only 10 percent of Catholics said they rely heavily on advice from religious leaders when making major life decisions.