(Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)
Pope Francis' recent comments on abortion, homosexuality and contraceptives have been praised by the majority of U.S. Catholics according to a new poll, with the Vatican leader enjoying a very high favorability rating in general.
The independent Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University poll found that support for Pope Francis' widely-reported comments is at 68 percent among American Catholics, though 23 percent have disagreed. The support was found strongly among men and women of all age groups.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context," Pope Francis said in an interview conducted in August with Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal.
"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person," Francis added.
The Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 1,776 American adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points, as well as 392 Catholics with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, also found that support for the Vatican leader's comments is also strong both among those who weekly attend services, at 65 percent, and those who attend less often, at 70 percent.
The poll also found that among U.S. Catholics who responded to the poll, 36 percent hold a "very favorable" view of the pope, with another 53 percent at "favorable" and only 4 percent "unfavorable." In comparison, Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down in February, enjoyed a 16 percent "very favorable" opinion in a March 2013 poll, with another 58 percent "favorable," 15 percent "unfavorable" and 3 percent "very unfavorable."
Maurice Carroll, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute director, suggested that the poll results reflect Catholics embracing the first-ever pope from the Jesuit order.
"I wanted something more. But I did not know what. I entered the diocesan seminary. I liked the Dominicans and I had Dominican friends. But then I chose the Society of Jesus, which I knew well because the seminary was entrusted to the Jesuits. Three things in particular struck me about the Society: the missionary spirit, community and discipline," Francis said about his decision to become a Jesuit.
The Quinnipiac University poll asked a series of other questions relating to social issues, and found that 60 percent of American Catholics said that they would support a law in their state allowing same-sex marriage, though 31 percent said they would oppose it.
The issue of abortion sparked a wide range of responses, with 19 percent of Catholics believing it should be legal in all cases, 34 percent said it should be legal in most cases, 23 percent said that it should be illegal in most cases, and 16 percent said that it should be illegal in all cases.