American Catholics Enthusiastically Support Pope Francis

Tuesday, 19 Mar 2013 10:08 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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An overwhelming number of Catholics in the United States are enthusiastic about Pope Francis, but will likely follow their own consciences on issues like birth control.

A CNN/ORC International poll shows 88 percent of American Catholics surveyed approve of Pope Francis' selection, reports CNN. In comparison, an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in April 2005 found only 60 percent approved of the selection of Pope Benedict XVI.

However, while they approve of Francis, more than 75 percent of the Catholics surveyed said they will be more likely to make their own decisions on moral questions than to follow his teachings.

Pope Francis was inaugurated Tuesday at a Vatican ceremony. Moving forward, his main challenge in leading the church will be in dealing with the ongoing problem of priests who commit sexual abuse, American Catholics believe. Nine out of 10 surveyed for the CNN poll want the new Pope to enforce stricter policies against such priests.

In addition, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio should consider several radical changes to church doctrine, Catholics responded. Nearly 75 percent said Francis should allow Catholics to use birth control, but 54 percent don't want the Pope to make church doctrine on abortion less strict.

Another 64 percent said the Argentine Pope should allow priests to get married, and nearly 60 percent said he should allow women to become priests. Further, by a 52-46 percent margin, American Catholics believe Pope Francis should allow church members to divorce and remarry without requiring an annulment.

When it comes to matters of faith, six out of 10 polled believe the Pope is infallible when he teaches religious doctrine such as the divinity of Christ.

The poll also showed 86 percent of the Catholics surveyed support Pope Benedict’s decision to retire from the papacy. However, if the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis have a public disagreement over church doctrine, as some fear, more than 90 percent of American Catholics say the church policy should be determined by the new Pope. Only 6 percent said the church should continue to be led by Benedict’s views.

The telephone poll, conducted by ORC International from March 15-17, questioned 190 American Catholics.

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