Francis Must Make Changes to Have a Real Effect

Last week I noted that a recent Pew poll didn’t detect much of a “Francis effect”—sending Catholics back to the pews—and pointed to a few key numbers that I found interesting. Apparently, according to Commonweal’s Grant Gallicho, my reading of the numbers—which was more critical than his—amounted to an “extended raspberry.”

Just to get a couple of housekeeping details out of the way. Obviously, my dogma/doctrine typo was just that, as was the difference in Francis’ and Benedict’s net favorability rating, which is 11 points, not 6. But my point remains. Given the near-consensus that Benedict’s papacy was pretty much a disaster for the church, I find it a bit surprising that three-quarters of Catholics still had a generally favorable view of the guy. To me, as I said, it suggests that most Catholics don’t pay much attention to the particulars in Rome and have a more or less favorable view of every pope. And while Francis is obviously popular, even an 11 point increase isn’t all that huge, particularly given that Benedict’s popularity had been as high as 83% and that Francis’ dipped to 79% just six months ago.

Patricia Miller is the author of Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. Her work on the intersection of sex, religion, and politics has appeared in The Nation, Ms., and Huffington Post. She was the editor of Conscience magazine and the editor-in-chief of the National Journal’s health care briefings.

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