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Pope Francis Orders Survey Of Catholics On Hot-Button Social Issues

LOS ANGELES ( — In an unprecedented move to survey parishioners, Pope Francis is calling on bishops to see what Catholics think about matters facing modern families, including many issues that go against the norm of the church.

KCAL9's Dave Bryan reports U.S. bishops are among those the pope is asking to find out from their parishioners how they feel about abortion, same-sex marriage, divorce and birth control.

"For years, people said, 'The Catholic Church doesn't take polls,'"  said the Rev. James Martin, editor at large of America, a Catholic magazine. "We take polls now."

The decision is dividing some parishioners, some of whom fear the poll could be the first step in the church changing its stance on hot-button issues.

Mario Carandang said he's not concerned that public opinion would lead to such change.

The pope is just being "a good person, a good Catholic who wants to know the opinions of others. But I don't think, you know, it's going to go to the higher level," he said.

But Mark Benson, who grew up in a Catholic and Jewish household, said if the survey is the first step in liberalizing the church, he has no problem with it.

"If the church becomes more liberal with their views it definitely would make a difference," he said.

In the survey, as reported by the Religion News Service, the pope also wants to know how the church is reaching out to divorced and remarried couples, unmarried couples living together and same-sex couples and their children.

"He knows, for example, that divorced and unmarried Catholics feel unwelcome, that gays and lesbians feel unwelcome, so he wants to get to know how people feel about the church and church teachings," Martin said.

Parishioner Myra Banjyan is among those concerned about such outreach.

"I still value, you know, the sanctity of marriage ... of keeping family together," Banjyan said. "I don't favor it if they will change that, no. Not at all."

Others like Daniel Carr Crawford, interviewed outside the USC Catholic Center, hope the papal survey is the first step to something bigger.

"It seems like a lot of times the church is holding onto ways that people may not agree with anymore," the USC senior said. "And I feel like if we can get all the opinions into more of a greater debate regarding these issues and still maintaining the teachings of the church, then I believe we can really open up for greater change in the church," he said.

Bryan reports we do not yet know how they survey will be used.

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