Overall, 67 percent of Americans and 90 percent of U.S. Catholics hold a favorable view of the pope.
“Americans embrace Pope Francis as a celebrity — even when they don’t know what he thinks or does,” said Robert Jones, president and CEO of PRRI.
Many attached glowing traits to Francis. Asked to describe him in their own words, most just identified him by his role as pope or other neutral terms, but 27 percent chose positive terms, calling him “humble,” “compassionate” and “caring.”
The majority share his top priorities — on concern for the poor, the environment, and the economy. But the flock veers from the shepherd on doctrine, particularly on sexuality and marriage.
The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.
The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.
Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.
“It was really important that this be workable from a legal and theological perspective,” she added. “That’s what we believe we have achieved.”
Over the course of the last six months, Pope Benedict XVI delivered five major speeches to small groups of American bishops who were in Rome for their "ad limina" visits, which are required once every five years.
The ad limina visits are the way the pope and and Vatican departments keep tabs on bishops from around the world. They are also an occasion for the pope to address the major issues faced by a local church.
In his speeches, Benedict often echoed bishops' concern about religious freedom and the challenges confronting the American church. In his last address, on May 22, he warned bishops of the “threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly.”
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