Poll: American Catholics Uneasy With Pope Francis

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 8, 2018   

Discontent with the Pope on the rise

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows a growing number of Catholics are discontent with the current Holy Father.

The survey was conducted in mid-January and published this Tuesday. It found that 84 percent of Catholics have a "favorable" view of Pope Francis. This is almost unchanged from four years ago when it was 85 percent.

However, the percentage of Catholics with an "unfavorable" view of the Holy Father has more than doubled, rising from 4 percent in 2014 to 9 percent in 2018.

Other parts of the survey confirmed this growing sense of discontent. In the past four years, the percentage of Catholics who consider him "too liberal" has risen from 19 percent to 34 percent. Likewise, the percentage who consider Pope Francis "naive" has risen from 15 percent to 24 percent.

According to the poll, the percentage of Catholics who think the Pope has done a bad job of defending the Church's morality has skyrocketed. In 2014, it was 15 percent. In 2015, it was 13 percent. In the 2018 survey, 26 percent of Catholics said the Pope's defense of traditional morality was "fair" or "poor." This is double the 2015 findings.

Similarly, Pope Francis rates poorly among American Catholics for spreading the Catholic faith. The percent of negative reviews soared to 25 percent in 2018, roughly double what it was in the 2014 and 2015 polls.

Not surprisingly, Pew also found that Catholics with conservative political leanings are much more likely to have negative views of the current Pope's effectiveness. Of Catholics who identified as Republican or conservative-leaning, 34 percent disapproved of the Pope's job at spreading the Catholic Faith and 31 percent thought he has not been good at upholding the Church's moral teachings.

Despite the increase in negative views of the Holy Father, the vast majority of American Catholics still deemed the Pope "humble" (91 percent) and "compassionate" (94 percent).

The most recent Pew survey also shows shaking confidence in the Pope's handling of sex abuse. Surprisingly, the survey was taken right before the frenzy over Pope Francis' shocking response to a sex abuse scandal in Chile which further undermined many people's confidence in the Pope.

During an in-flight interview in February, Pope Francis firmly told the press he did not believe the allegations that Bp. Juan Barros was guilty of covering up abusive priest Fr. Fernando Karadima. Pope Francis had appointed Barros the bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015 despite allegations that he had helped cover up the sexually abusive priest.

A large number of those surveyed, however, were supportive of Pope Francis' supposedly more "welcoming" stance regarding sodomy, adultery and other sins against chastity. Only about 7 percent said he has done "too much" to make the Church more accepting of homosexuality. In like manner, only about 3 or 4 percent of those surveyed felt the pope has done "too much" to be more accepting of divorce and civil remarriage.

Furthermore, many Catholics surveyed said they wanted the pope to make the Church even more "welcoming" to homosexuality and divorce.

Surprisingly, Pew's survey found that practicing Catholics tended to view the Pope more favorably than non-practicing Catholics.

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