October 4th, 2013
10:25 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – American Catholics overwhelmingly support newly installed Pope Francis, according to a poll released Friday, and agree with his statements that the church should focus less on contentious social issues.
Nearly seven in 10 American Catholics say the church has become too focused on same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraceptives, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Friday.
What's more, 60% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage, a number that continues to be larger than support from all American adults. Thirty-one percent of American Catholics said they do not support same-sex marriage.
This number is consistent with other polls, like a Public Religion Research Institute poll in 2012 that found 59% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage.
Despite the support among American Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church maintains rigorous opposition to same-sex marriage. But in a recent wide-ranging interview with America Magazine, the pope brushed off critics who have said he should be more vocal in trumpeting the church's position on abortion and same-sex marriage.
In the interview, Francis said if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," he told his Jesuit interviewer. "I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that."
But the pope said the church's teachings on those issues are clear, and he clearly believes in those teachings, so what else is there to say?
"It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," Francis said.
The poll also found 36% of American Catholics say abortion should be legal in most cases, compared to 34% of all Americans.
“On the two issues that have prompted some pulpit thundering, same-sex marriage and abortion, Catholics are right in line, or even a little ahead, of their non-Catholic neighbors,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
While the poll shows support for Francis' statement on social issues, American Catholics appear to disagree with the pope on the ordination of female priests.
According to the survey, 60% of American Catholics support women priests, while 30% are against it.
Earlier this year, Francis emphatically closed the door on women's ordination, telling an audience that the "door is closed" to that possibility.
In his recent interview, Francis reiterated this statement but said that does not mean the church should see women as secondary or inferior.
"Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed," the pope said. "The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role."
Overall, American Catholics are roundly supportive of the new pope, with a whopping 89% saying they have either a very favorable or favorable view of Francis. Only 4% say they have an unfavorable view.
Quinnipiac interviewed 392 Catholics by telephone from September 23-29. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
- CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.
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