Americans Confused Over Pope Francis' Views on Gay Marriage

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Oct 03, 2015 5:15 PM
Americans Confused Over Pope Francis' Views on Gay Marriage

When it was revealed on Wednesday that Pope Francis had a secret meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed over her refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses. People lost their damn minds. Suddenly, the "Cool Pope" seemingly lost all of his hip points.

To faithful Catholics, the fact that the pope is against same-sex marriage shouldn't even register on the "shock" scale. The Catholic Church considers matrimony to be a sacrament that can only exist between a man and a woman. While Pope Francis has taken on a softer tone when it comes to the pastoral treatment of homosexuals (which is consistent with the catechism), he has never come close to endorsing or promoting anything other than the Church's view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

survey back in August by Public Religion Research Institute showed that most American Catholics are far more socially liberal on views than the Church to which they belong. Additionally, a substantial percentage of American Catholics were either ignorant of or completely wrong about Pope Francis' attitude on same-sex marriage.

The above graph is interesting for a variety of reasons, and likely explains why people were so dismayed that the Bishop of Rome met with Kim Davis. The study notes that the number of Catholics who reported being against same-sex marriage was smaller than the number of Catholics who were in favor of same-sex marriage. A Quinnipiac Poll back in 2014 found that Catholics who attended Mass frequently (at least weekly) were more likely than Catholics who didn't go to Mass to be against same-sex marriage. Assuming (and I know I'm wandering into risky territory here) that the Catholics who were against same-sex marriage in the PRRI survey also attended Mass more often than their peers who are in favor of same-sex marriage (as there's no breakdown), it makes a good deal of sense that the faithful, Mass-attending Catholics actually understand Church teaching and would dismiss the idea that the leader of the Church would so blatantly undermine her teachings.

The other half of the infographic is also unsettling for a multitude of reasons. Nearly half of the Catholic respondents who favor same-sex marriage believe that Pope Francis supports same-sex marriage, something that has never been a part of Catholic teaching and is not consistent with the view of marriage as a sacrament. This is proof that the Church has failed to properly educate her adherents, and that's...sad, I guess. 

The same PRRI survey revealed that over half of lapsed (non-practicing) Catholics felt as though Pope Francis could bring people back into the fold. If their predictions hold true and the "Francis Effect" actually happens, it'll be very important to make sure that these new/returned members are actually aware of what the Church teaches--at the very least, to avoid feeling betrayed or blindsided when the leader of the Church refuses to adapt her teachings to popular sentiment.