The poll also found a large majority of Catholics approve of same-sex relationships and sex before marriage

A record percentage of Catholics support abortion, same-sex marriage and premarital sex, according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey.

The annual poll by NatCen Social Research found over three fifths of Catholics think a woman should be able to have an abortion if she simply does not want to have the baby. Meanwhile, 62 per cent of Catholics now believe same-sex relationships are “not wrong at all”, while more than three quarters see nothing wrong with pre-marital sex.

A higher percentage of Catholics than Anglicans now approve of homosexual relationships and sex before marriage, according to the survey.

The findings, if true, will come as a blow the Church hierarchy in Britain, suggesting they are fighting a losing battle in educating Catholics in the key moral teachings of the faith.

However, the report itself urges readers to be careful with the data, saying “small sample sizes mean caution should be used when looking at figures for the Roman Catholic group in 2012 and 2016”.

The total number of Catholics surveyed is 260, compared to 442 Anglicans and 1,551 of no religion.

Meanwhile, the definition of “Catholic” is also based on respondents who choose to describe themselves as such, and does not take into account how religiously observant – how often they attend Mass etc – they really are.

BSA data previously hit the headlines when an analysis by the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society found only 17.1 per cent of cradle Catholics attended Mass at least once a week, although 55.8 per cent still identify as Catholic.

The centre’s director Dr Stephen Bullivant told the Catholic Herald: “However depressing our retention stats are, they’re actually the strongest of the main denominations. To put it a bit crudely, it’s a “losing game” for everyone, but we’re doing something less catastrophic than others.”