13 March 2014, The Tablet

After a honeymoon first year, what do Catholics want from Pope Francis?

How did Catholics rate Francis’ first year as pope and what do they want to see from him next? That’s what we asked readers on our website and 1,400 of you got in touch.

First, the positives. Asked what Pope Francis had done well on, an overwhelming majority of respondents (87 per cent) highlighted “communicating Christ and the Gospel” and improving the Church’s image.

Francis was overwhelmingly fêted as a pastor who can connect with people (89 per cent). Mind you, fewer than half rated him as a thinker and theologian (45 per cent).

Of the 1,208 respondents who attend Mass at least once a week, 72 per cent said Francis had made them feel prouder of their faith and almost as many said he had improved non-Catholics’ friends’ view of their faith. Half said Francis had renewed their faith.

Of Catholic clergy and Religious, some 86 per cent said Francis was a more effective Pope than Benedict, and 30 per cent of these said Benedict should have left the Vatican when he stood down.

Three-fifths of clergy and Religious said Francis had renewed their faith and almost four-fifths said Francis had made them feel prouder of their faith.

In short, almost nine out of 10 Catholics (regular and occasional Mass-goers) said they considered Francis a more effective Pope than his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Among non-Catholics, even more – 95 per cent – favoured Pope Francis over Benedict.

And more than a quarter of Catholics said Benedict XVI should have left the Vatican altogether when he resigned last February.

But respondents also had plenty to say when asked what Francis should focus on now. Some 73 per cent said Pope Francis must prioritise developing the role of women, 72 per cent highlighted the need to press ahead with curial reform and 68 per cent said they wanted him to focus on “child protection, the censure of clergy who have abused or covered up abuse, and care for victims”.

Of the 1,208 of the respondents who said they were Mass-going Catholics, almost two-thirds also wanted Pope Francis to prioritise making the Church more transparent. These priorities were closely followed by communicating Christ and the Gospel, involving the laity in decision-making and discussing Communion for remarried divorcees.

Indeed only a third of respondents, 34 per cent, said he had done well on “child protection, the censure of clergy who have abused or covered up abuse, and care for victims”. Less than a quarter, 22 per cent, said Francis had done well on developing the role of women.

Half praised him for welcoming gays and lesbians and reaching out to atheists.

Looking forward, the 299 clergy who took part in the poll listed curial reform as top priority (78 per cent). While 63 per cent highlighted improving the Church’s response to abuse, this priority emerged as seventh, behind developing the role of women, communicating Christ and the Gospel, improving transparency and collegiality and involving the laity more in decision-making.

Some 5 per cent of respondents felt Benedict XVI should not have resigned. Conversely, almost nine out of 10 respondents felt popes should be allowed to resign as a matter of course.

So Francis, you have impressed people with your pastoral touch and made Catholics prouder of their faith. But let your energetic impact on the Catholic Church be deeper than words and gestures – even faithful Catholics say there’s much more to be put right in the wake of the abuse scandal. And your lack of concrete decisions about the ways women can contribute to their Church is beginning to show.

The floor is yours – and if a few years of getting ambitious reforms past the Roman curia prove too exhausting, resigning is regarded as a most acceptable option.

Abigail Frymann is The Tablet's Online Editor

What do you think?


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User comments (6)

Comment by: Melchizedek
Posted: 19/03/2014 10:42:07

An Amazing "Teacher" on Trinity on 17 Dec,2013: “God sent his Son among men. Jesus is consubtantial with God, the Father, but also consubstantial with his mother, a woman. And this is his consubtantiality with his mother: God entered history, God wanted to become history. He is with us. He has journeyed with us”,i.e. a Collyridian - also as in Quran 5: 116- NOW as the....Leader! No one see it? The famous "who I am to judge ?" is not according to Matthew 5:37 (Yes or No-anything else ...comes from Evil One). The Sign of the Time of...Darkness

Comment by: Jim McCrea
Posted: 18/03/2014 21:42:40

Please note that Jim J. McCrea is not the same Jim McCrea who posts periodically from the US.

Comment by: Aloysius Beebwa
Posted: 17/03/2014 20:42:24

I think that the bishop of Rome has already initiated a lot of positive and amazing changes. He has enthused many people ---of all walks of life---by clearly reminding us that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit. Words and gestures are powerful means of communicating one's beliefs and convictions. This Bishop of Rome does well by not dwelling on morality but by preaching the Gospel, and seeking to understand people's hopes, joys, fears and sorrows.

As i look fascinated at the way Catholicity has turned around in a year, I would like to admit that the present reforms were initiated by the previous bishop of Rome when he, in conscience, felt it was time to rest; something which should be normal and which had only been forgotten as history rolled on. He brought back good balance and showed us that the Church is not supposed to be autocratic and should not be a monarchy. The Church as God's people is at the service of the Kingdom of God.
As we start this second year, i wish many blessings and good health both Bishop Francis, Bishop of Rome, and his predecessor Emeritus Bishop Benedict.
Aloysius Beebwa

Comment by: Francis Flynn
Posted: 17/03/2014 09:17:14

Well balanced report on survey, very surprised that only 299 clergy bother to take advantage of this straw poll on big issues that matter to the faithful.
Steady as we go is the main thing for Pope Francis and that he takes the clergy and laity with him. You will not please the top clergy that are in elevated towers of authority and have lost the purpose of their mission.
Francis has had a good first year, hope his health and his vision of the gospels carry him on his path to clear the way forward for all peoples of the world.
Exciting times await him on his mission and many obstacles will be placed from within the walls of the Vatican.
We all await and need these changes to win through.
You can do it for us all, all the best on your travels.

Comment by: Jim J. McCrea
Posted: 16/03/2014 18:37:46

I think that Pope Francis laid a good foundation in showing profound humility and charity in his first year. That is essential to credibility for his preaching of the truth. But I think now he should build on that foundation by preaching very decisively on what the Church holds in matter of faith and morals (doctrine) - things such as the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the fall of man in the Garden and Jesus' atonement for that by His death on the Cross - and in the moral sphere, he should mention the church's teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and fornication (he has already covered much of the social teaching of the Church) - he should also promote sound and reverent liturgy, for the Church cannot be reformed without that - the law of praying is the law of believing.

Posted: 13/03/2014 23:16:46

People, let Pope Francis be Pope Francis. You want everything in one go. How about one step at the time? Give our Holy Father a break. Also, assumptions what Benedict should or shouldn't is not up to you. It proves you know very little about Benedict. Be yourselves what you command and demand from Francis before shouting out loud. Try to be more grounded here. Amen +

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