(RNS) Pope Francis rocked the Catholic world last month when he gave a wide-ranging interview in which he declared that the church had become “obsessed” with a few moral issues and needed to find a “new balance.”
Now a new poll indicates that American Catholics think he’s right, and by a wide margin.
The survey, released Friday (Oct. 4), by Quinnipiac University, shows that two in three (68 percent) adult Catholics questioned said they agreed with the pontiff’s observation that the church has become too focused on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception.
Just 23 percent disagreed, and the breakdown was virtually the same across age groups and among both weekly Mass-goers and those who attend church less frequently.
The national poll — conducted the last week of September — also showed that American Catholics have a favorable (53 percent) or very favorable (36 percent) opinion of Francis, and just 4 percent view him negatively.
“American Catholics liked what they heard when Pope Francis said the church should stop talking so much about issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The survey also found that Catholic support for same-sex marriage continues to be strong, as other surveys have found, with six-in-10 Catholics approving of gay marriage and 31 percent opposed. That’s slightly above the national 56 percent approval rating.
But the latest research also indicates that support for same-sex marriage only drops slightly among weekly churchgoers, to 53 percent, with 40 percent opposed. That finding could cause consternation among social conservatives who argue that the most devout Catholics tend to support the hierarchy’s position against gay marriage.
Another finding likely to provoke concern among tradition-minded church leaders: Catholics support the idea of ordaining women priests by a 60-30 margin; it only drops to 52-38 percent among those who attend service about once a week. There is almost no gender gap in that support.
The number of Catholics surveyed was not large — 392 adult Catholics out of an overall selection of 1,776 respondents, and the margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points. But the trend lines seem to be in keeping with other research.
"Who Am I To Judge?"
Pope Francis has had a busy week at World Youth Day in Rio as he visited his slums and prisons, blessed the Olympic flag and brought three million people to Copacabana Beach for a final Mass on Sunday morning. Now he has made another headline, this time when the pontiff said, "Who am I to judge a gay person?" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/pope-francis-gays_n_3669635.html" target="_blank">Read more from The Huffington Post</a>
There Is No Catholic God
"And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being." <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/" target="_blank">Read more from La Repubblica</a>
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. " <a href="http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview" target="_blank">Read more from America Magazine</a>
Abortion, Gay Marriage, And Contraception
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time." <a href="http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview" target="_blank">Read more from America Magazine</a>
The down-to-earth Pope called for greater austerity from religious figures last week, saying, “It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest-model car. You can’t do this. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world." The Ford Focus is a compact car with a starting sticker price of just about $16,000. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/15/pope-francis-car-ford-focus-humble_n_3598402.html" target="_blank">Read more from The Huffington Post</a>
The Court Is The Leprosy Of The Papacy
"You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/pope-francis-gays_n_3669635.html" target="_blank">Read more from The Huffington Post</a>
Consider The Person
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. " <a href="http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview" target="_blank">Read more from America Magazine</a>
“Then, Holy Father, creativity is important for the life of a person?” I ask. He laughs and replies: “For a Jesuit it is extremely important! A Jesuit must be creative.” <a href="http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview" target="_blank">Read more from America Magazine</a>
A Poor Church
On his election to the papacy, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose to name himself after Francis of Assisi because the 12th-century saint "is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation," Pope Francis said Saturday. "How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor," he told about 5,000 journalists gathered for an audience with the pope. <a href="http://ncronline.org/blogs/pope-francis-i-would-love-church-poor" target="_blank">Read more from the National Catholic Reporter</a>
Proselytism Is Solemn Nonsense
"Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us." <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/" target="_blank">Read more from La Repubblica</a>