How do Americans view the Pope and the Church?

This just in from The Earth Times:

Washington – Most Americans have a positive view of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI, ahead of his visit to the United States next month, despite years of negative publicity resulting from the US priest abuse scandal, a survey said Tuesday. "Some of the results may be a bit surprising to those who tend to assume that the church’s critics are representative of American public opinion as a whole," said Carl Anderson, head of the lay organization Knights of Columbus, which commissioned the poll.

The survey conducted in late February and early March showed 65 per cent of Americans have a positive view of the Catholic Church, while 28 per cent have a negative view. Hispanics, people over 65 and regular church attendees had the most favourable views of the church.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents had a positive view of Benedict, and 13 per cent had a negative opinion of him, but the vast majority admitted they knew little about him and fully 17 per cent had never heard of him.

Still, there appeared to be large interest in his visit with 42 per cent interested in attending one of his public events in the US and 66 per cent of Catholics saying they would like to do so.

"The bottom line is that despite years of very negative stories about the Catholic Church scandals … affecting views of the pope … the American people have a very sensible and balanced view of Benedict and of the Catholic Church and they are very open of hearing his views on matters and how they might live their faith and put it to practice in their daily lives," Anderson concluded.

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15 Responses to How do Americans view the Pope and the Church?

  1. Kradcliffe says:

    Father, could you post a link to that? I tried to find it on the web site and could not. Thank you!

  2. Scott W. says:

    Good news. Let’s get out there and convert! As usual, it is a case of the minority being more vocal and getting more press time (I guess “400,000 priests execute their office with diligence and piety” doesn’t make good copy.) Our enemies are paper tigers.

  3. TNCath says:

    Yes, this is encouraging to know that Americans in general view the Church and the Pope favorably. However, we must always keep in mind that the Church is essentially a countercultural institution and, consequently, does not and should not take popularity as a measure of its effectiveness.

  4. Kradcliffe says:

    Good point, TNCath!

  5. John Enright says:

    Here’s a link to the information on the K of C website: http://www.kofc.org/un/news/releases/detail.cfm?id=547470

  6. TomG says:

    God bless the Knights of Columbus! How about the Holy Father suppressing the Jesuits and letting the Knights take over their functions? As William F. Buckley, Jr. once said, “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

  7. TNCath says:

    While I am not a Knight, I do follow some their activities, which are extremely Catholic is focus. Last summer, the annual convention of the Knights was held in Nashville with Cardinal Bertone in attendance as their special guest where he spoke of his support of the furtherance of the cause of Father McGivney for canonization. From what I read and watched on EWTN, it was a very powerful Catholic event. He also visited the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville and publicly praised them for being models of religious life. Bishop Choby of Nashville was a very gracious host and has been very supportive of the efforts of the Knights. Not unsurprisingly, our bishop (also in Tennessee) is NOT a big fan of the Knights, despite their longtime presence and contributions to our diocese. Consequently, they are not as visible to us as they used to be. Very sad.

  8. Alice says:

    Now zee here. We like apple pie, too. Typically, Americans have had a “favorable view’ of the Church and the Pope. But compare that with the fact that only about 5% accept the Church teaching against contraception, views on abortion and divorce are only slightly lower than mainstream, and so on…

    The favorable view amounts to saying, “It’s got a nice beat but I just can’t dance to it.”

    Maybe it’s just because he wears a neat hat. Got to start somewhere.

    The favorable view, btw, does not extend to a Catholic Momma hustling through the supermarket for a few gallons of milk with 7 kids in tow… People don’t like the commonness of Catholic life.

  9. What our Catholics need from the Pope is straight talk regarding sin. I was taught for example that sunday Mass is an obligation, the use of contraceptives is mortal sin, etc. etc. I never hear this said by our clergy. People tend to joke about how crowded it is on Easter in the churches. Why aren’t these truths being stated in a positive manner?
    The Pope needs to give explicit words so the people will know what is expected of Catholics.

  10. Maureen says:

    A lot of people don’t know what to think about sin or the Church’s teaching, because they’ve never been exposed to it in its fullness. The Pope is good at that. If they have a favorable view of him, they will be more likely to listen to him — maybe even long enough to learn something.

    I suspect that EWTN, Catholic Answers, and a lot of us anonymous layfolk have had something to do with the positive view of the Catholic Church. Hopefully, we can build on that.

  11. TNCath says:

    Alice wrote: “Typically, Americans have had a “favorable view’ of the Church and the Pope. But compare that with the fact that only about 5% accept the Church teaching against contraception, views on abortion and divorce are only slightly lower than mainstream, and so on…Maybe it’s just because he wears a neat hat. Got to start somewhere.”

    I agree with Alice on this. And, remember that a large percentage of people who claim to be Catholic do not accept Church teaching on contraception, abortion, and divorce, either. Many do not understand or believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation. Nonetheless, the “neat hat” the Pope wears as well as all the other attractive externals of Catholicism that are not found in protestant ecclesial communities are very important evangelization tools. Also, I think that, regardless of whether they agree with him or not, the Pope (and the papacy in general) is attractive simply because the Pope is indeed the Vicar of Christ and perhaps possesses that “something” that the rest of us simply don’t have: the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

  12. Matt Q says:

    Maureen wrote:

    “A lot of people don’t know what to think about sin or the Church’s teaching, because they’ve never been exposed to it in its fullness. The Pope is good at that. If they have a favorable view of him, they will be more likely to listen to him—maybe even long enough to learn something.

    I suspect that EWTN, Catholic Answers, and a lot of us anonymous lay folk have had something to do with the positive view of the Catholic Church. Hopefully, we can build on that.”

    )(

    As Maureen said, with the efforts of those who practice and learn their Faith and grow in it, yes, hopefully, we can build the Church–brick by brick. :-)

    Secondly, however, the Faithful not knowing about sin or the Church’s teachings are primarily the fault of the average priest. Whom else does the majority of the Faithful come into contact with to further their religion? It’s the weekly ( if that ) attendance at Mass. It’s in the homilies where the priest is supposed to teach and enforce the principles of the Faith. It’s all just “Love one another and you’ll be fine” hack.

    What is Sin, the nature of it, and what does it do to the soul and one’s relationship with God? This is what is NOT preached, not presented at Mass. This is why lines for Communion are long and takes about 15-20 minutes for Distribution, but average wait time for Confession is five minutes. When goes regularly, and even at the different times offered, hardly anyone is there. One knows what one’s own parish is like. It’s frightful to think of the injustice going on with clergy and laity alike with an anecdote like this.

  13. “but the vast majority admitted they knew little about him and fully 17 per cent had never heard of him.”

    And so their opinions count for what exactly?

  14. TJM says:

    Notwithstanding the best efforts of the anti-religious, left-wing loon, simpleton American media, people still have a favorable view of our Holy Father. The
    Holy Spirit must be at work indeed! Tom

  15. Dave Deavel says:

    Alice and TN Cath have a point about positive views not translating into consistent practice or theology, but I must question the 5% stat about Catholics and contraception. I’ve only seen this stat cited from 10-15 year-old data. Other broad studies of Americans show an increase in the percentage of people not using contraception–my guess is those increases would include a large number of younger Catholics. Does anybody have any recent data on Catholics?

    I don’t deny that things still aren’t where they should be, but since I entered the Church 11 years ago there seem to be a lot more people following the Church’s teaching. The same goes for practice and views on abortion and even divorce. The sociologist (and Catholic convert) Brad Wilcox has written in various journals about how Catholics still have the lowest divorce rates.