US Catholics Praise Pope Francis in Polling and Words

Frank Bruni

Polling done by The Huffington Post and YouGov reveals that 81% of American Catholics believe Pope Francis is having a positive impact on the Church, with negative ratings in the single digits.

In answer to another question in the survey

“. . . 46 percent of U.S. Catholics think Francis’ remarks, during [his recent] interview [in America magazine], reflect a ‘good change’ in church direction, while 20 percent say his take on the issues ‘doesn’t go far enough in changing church policy.’

“Just 15 percent of Catholics said the pope strayed ‘too far from traditional church values,’ while 19 percent were unsure how they felt.”

Commentaries on Pope Francis’ interview reflect this warmness as Catholics spoke more personally and practically on how the pope is making waves. Below, Bondings 2.0 provides previews of articles that are worth reading in their entirety by clicking on the provided links.

Frank Bruni, a gay columnist in the New York Times, wrote about the pope’s humility in a piece titled, “The Pope’s Radical Whisper.” Bruni writes:

“But it wasn’t the particulars of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking message in an interview published last week that stopped me in my tracks, gave fresh hope to many embittered Catholics and caused hardened commentators to perk up.

“It was the sweetness in his timbre, the meekness of his posture. It was the revelation that a man can wear the loftiest of miters without having his head swell to fit it, and can hold an office to which the term “infallible” is often attached without forgetting his failings. In the interview, Francis called himself naïve, worried that he’d been rash in the past and made clear that the flock harbored as much wisdom as the shepherds. Instead of commanding people to follow him, he invited them to join him. And did so gently, in what felt like a whisper.

“What a surprising portrait of modesty in a church that had lost touch with it.”

Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ

From the perspective of clergy, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese spoke with NPR about what Pope Francis’ words could mean for those in ministry. Many priests and religious are supportive of LGBT people, but refrain from publicly speaking out due to fear. Fr. Reese believes the pope could mean less fear and more liberation among clergy to minister as they desire:

“I think it will [shape how priests act]. I’ve, you know, heard from other priests how delighted and affirmed they are by what he is saying. I think this is going to liberate a lot of people, a lot of priests in their preaching to say the kinds of things that the pope has said. I mean, frankly, five years ago I would have been afraid to say the very things that the pope himself is saying today. So, I think this is going to liberate a lot of priests.”

Critiquing the ‘culture wars’ mentality of the American bishops that has led many Catholics to leave their parishes over LGBT equality and other issues, James Salt of Catholics United writes at Fox News about a new trend he is witnessing among progressive Catholics:

James Salt

“But with his message of love and inclusion, Francis is, hopefully, staunching this trend. With his words and actions, he is showing us how a more authentic and humble expression of our faith can inspire a culture.

“I can personally attest this fact. Speaking for myself and for many of my friends, we can say for the first time in many years that we see signs of hope from the leadership of our church…

“So this Sunday, I expect to see more faces of formerly lost sheep in the pews. I know many of my progressive friends are planning to give Sunday services a second look.”

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs-Graham

Kate Childs Graham wondered about those very bishops’ response to Pope Francis in a Quote to Note last week, and now suggests silence on LGBT issues as a good first step for the American hierarchy in The Guardian, writing:

“All I could think was, ‘This guy gets it’. He gets what Catholics have been saying for years. He gets that Catholics don’t want our hierarchy to have limited views that don’t reflect our own. He gets why so many Catholics have been searching for the nearest exit. He gets that things need to change…

“Since Francis’ election, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops hasn’t seemed to reverse course. The bishops are still advocating against the rights of LGBT people with both money and voice…Perhaps the bishops can’t go cold turkey and they need to wean themselves off their ‘obsession’ – Francis’ word – with abortion and gay and transgender people. I’d suggest silence as a good option.”

Fr. Peter Daly

Fr. Peter Daly, who writes the column, “Parish Diary” in the National Catholic Reporter lauded Pope Francis as a fellow pastor for re-emphasizing the role of mercy, reconciliation, and healing in parishes:

“A good pastor will eventually get around to moral issues, but our first words should be good news, not rules. As Pope Francis puts it, ‘The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.’…

“The Christian life is not so much about rules as it is about relationships. It’s about a relationship with Christ and with each other. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, they won’t care if you quote the rule book to them. If you do have a relationship with someone, you probably won’t need to quote the rules. That’s what St. Paul means by the law of love…

“Pope Francis recognizes the complexity of life. People must be seen in the context of their lives. I tell the catechumens that God sees our lives as a movie, not a snapshot. It’s God’s view of the life that the church should be trying to take.

“I admired John Paul II. I respected Benedict. But I think I could love Francis.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

11 replies
  1. duckman44625
    duckman44625 says:

    Francis I as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Church has shown the lead in new attitude towards gay Catholics and non-Catholics – tenderness, love and acceptance as God created us. that is, to use the older adage “what would Jesus do”. Unfortunately his fellow bishops fail to imitate him in word and action. While Francis has not changed teaching, he is showing pastoral care – love of the person – in spite of differences – he does not judge. Our own Bishop, Robert Cunningham of the dioceses of Syracuse and Rochester has taken a diametrically opposed stance – returning to the rod of iron and exclusion of LGBT. In an interview on television Sunday, September 22, reflecting on Francis’ words and leads – he could only say that Francis has changed nothing in the Hierarchies position on Gay issues – reiterating everything the Church will NEVER accept and condemns concerning gay relations, marriages, female ordinations, divorce, etc. It is this type of Bishop which should be silent if he can not at least show humility, deference to his Pontiff’s words – cease to undermine the change in attitude which Francis is attempting to achieve. It is this kind of Bishop who is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – preaching exclusion, hatred – he betrays not only Francis’ leads – but Christ Himself.

  2. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    So many of the bishops are hell-bent on their position and their “doctrine.” Where are the pastors we grew up with? Where are the Cardinal Bernardins, the Fathers Farrell, Kennedy, and Thomas, who in my growing up years,in St Mary’s, were always there to help whomever was in distress. That the bishops have been so unaccepting of gay people is a disgrace. Young people are hearing what the pope has said and they are hopeful. My granddaughter, who is straight, is running for Homecoming Queen at her University. The guy who is running for King is gay. They are very good friends and have aligned to do this. This may seem trivial, but I see it as an example of how young people accept diversity. They believe that their colleagues will see this “wonderful” bonding and actually vote for them because the potential King IS gay. I am so proud of her. This what it means to live like Jesus.

    • Richard Novak
      Richard Novak says:

      Yes – well stated. If the current crop of (overly orthodox) bishops choose to continue their “hardline” and non-dialogical style (in opposition to the trend being set by Pope Francis), their credibility will continue to decline and they will further alienate more marginal Catholics. But then again, there are segments in the church who prefer a “controlling & punishing God” and therefore feel at home with bishops who likewise reflect this.

  3. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    Recently, Cardinal Dolan was asked on tv about the new Pope’s new tone and in his usual jovial way thought it was great and lauded the change in emphasis. This is, of course, Dolan being the toady that he is following the new party line. However, we should not be deceived that the hard line bishops will change their hearts. They will only change their PR.

  4. Lea
    Lea says:

    Well, for one thing: you, Mr. Quirk, MAY be correct about Cardinal Dolan, or you may be making an incorrect assumption. Let’s see what he does before judging him. Just the election of a Pope who holds the views that Pope Francis seems to, was, to me, definitely ‘Holy Spirit’ inspired as I, for one just ‘assumed’ the same ‘party line’ would be elected. It was not, it appears, so, let’s see.

    Secondly, let’s be clear about one thing: no homosexual person “should” have rights or privileges that are not afforded, religiously or societally, to any heterosexual person. For example, regardless of sexual orientation, if someone is single, according to the current moral standard, chastity is expected; however, once in a committed one-partner-for-life relationship, if that relationship is homosexual, it “should” be considered equal what is allowed and celebrated in a heterosexual relationship – marriage. With adoptions now being open to homosexual couples, it seems to me that the traditional Catholic definition of marriage (“More [the children] and better [the parents] lovers of Christ”) would still remain.

    • Larry Quirk
      Larry Quirk says:

      Dear Lea, My comments about Dolan come with the background of his previous attempt to engage the gay community [after bashing us for decades] only to have him backtrack with the “dirty hands” episode. I believe that rather than really opening his heart to the gay community, he is just trying to figure out the best way he can spin this and stay on the good side of his new boss.

      Your second comment brought a smile to my face. Now you give the gay Catholics a lecture on having no more rights than heterosexual Catholics? How about first chiding the American Bishops [for a start] on their use of their prestige and your money to defeat gay CIVIL rights in this country, telling Rome to apologize for and retract the evil label “inherently disordered” they applied to us, forcing our Catholic parents to believe we would go to hell for just being gay and doing everything they could to make us disappear. After all this, I think we are entitled to stand at the back of the line and let you lecture first the heterosexual Catholic couples who practice birth control and live together . When the Church preaches from the pulpit forcefully to them, give me a call.

      • duckman44625
        duckman44625 says:

        As per Vatican II…Gaudium et Spes…the Church is both Holy (as the true Church being the Mystical Body of Christ united with ALL the Father’s children not just Catholic – IT is what is unfailing and eternal – not the institutional Church comprised of fallible hierarchy and humans ) and Sinful (corrupted by humans who can go astray in pursuit of their own power/desires, etc.). As to Cardinal Dolan…no one can judge him but himself…by his actions he has revealed himself to be self-interested…changing his words according to the currentainstream hierarchal thinking and whims. He has condemned gays or remained silent as they were purse cited and even killed in New York City…his diocese under Benedict. Then came the hateful homily concerning dirty hands…barring LGBT persons from worship in St. Patricks Cathedral – something both contrary to Canon Law and later condemned by Francis. As far as Dolan is concerned O choose to ignore him as a wolf in sheeps clothing or one who deceives himself into thinking (contrary to Christ’s admonition ) he can serve two Masters – God and mamon. Namaste

      • Lea
        Lea says:

        Well said, Mr. Quirk. I fully understand (and, in the shadows, agree) that Dolan may well be doing a ‘sand dance’ in his seeming openness toward the lesbian and gay community, but, I continue to say that even he is capable of change. And, yes, he may follow the ‘Pope Francis Party Line’ in his current and future approach, but, if he does so – even for the wrong reasons – to me that’s the Holy Spirit having some good come out of evil.
        Secondly, I fully agree that the Church has to rid itself of labels, like “disordered”, but still maintain that no ‘non-heterosexual’ “should” have rights or privileges – religious or political – that are not equally given to straights. Yes, in my mind, the Sacrament of Marriage should be readily accessible to gays (or civil marriages), but I do not believe that gays should be allowed sexual freedoms that are not allowed for the straight population. And, as an aside, I advised Catholic Charities quite some time ago that I would not give to them if the money that I was donating for the needy was being used instead toward the “Defense of Marriage” act. I got a reply that NONE of the funds given to Catholic Charities would be used for ANY purpose other than charit
        able work toward the needy.
        In all, I think we actually agree. I thank you, Mr. Quirk, for taking the time to respond.


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  1. […] polling  indicating American Catholic support for LGBT right echoes previous numbers, reported on here and here by Bondings 2.0. However, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute’s latest numbers […]

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