Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Pope is Catholic and Catholics Like That

Rather hidden back on page A11 in yesterday’s Washington Post, news that American Catholics like the new Pope a lot better than the media do:
An overwhelming majority of American Catholics approve of the selection of Pope Benedict XVI and predict that he will defend the traditional policies and beliefs of a church that many members say is out of touch with their views, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that more than eight in 10 Roman Catholics broadly supported the selection of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to replace Pope John Paul II.

Nearly as many, 73 percent, said they were “enthusiastic” about the new pontiff, though only one in four said they were strongly enthusiastic about the choice.
This support came in spite of the apparent liberalism of about half of Catholics:
Half [of the sample] say they want the church to adhere to tradition, while almost exactly the same proportion believe the church must change its policies to reflect modern lifestyles and beliefs.
For the people asking this question, “reflect modern lifestyles and beliefs” was intended to measure support for abortion, female clergy, cohabitation and other things that liberals think are acceptable. But it’s not at all clear that the respondents interpreted it this way. It might mean responding to the needs of a more educated and mobile nation.

The raw data from the poll can be found here.

That the majority of Catholics are far from being politically correct is made obvious in their rankings of what the new Pope’s priorities should be:
American Catholics say the new pope’s top priority should be to deal with sexual abuse by priests, followed closely by the need to encourage human rights. These priorities were shared by a majority of more active and less active Catholics.

Four in 10 also said the pontiff should follow in his predecessor’s footsteps by paying special attention to the needs of younger churchgoers. Only three in 10 said Benedict's highest priority should be making it attractive for men to serve as priests.

Responding to the specific concerns of women in the church ranked lowest among the seven priorities listed, even among female Catholics.
Thus, the role of women in the Church, an issue over which the mainstream media obsesses, barely registers among rank and file Catholics.

We are all familiar with the rhetorical question: “is the Pope Catholic.” This pope’s media critics are people who would in fact prefer a Unitarian pope, or failing that a gay Episcopalian. The vast majority of American Catholics, in spite of some disagreements on this or that issue, are happy with a pope who is indeed Catholic.


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