U.S. Catholics back Pope Francis on changing church's focus

Reuters
Pope Francis is surrounded by cardinals as he arrives for a pastoral visit in Assisi
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Pope Francis (C) is surrounded by cardinals as he arrives for a pastoral visit in Assisi, October 4, 2013. Pope Francis visits Assisi, the Italian town that was home to his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis took his name from the saint who is revered around the world as a symbol of austerity, simplicity, concern for the poor and a love of the environment. REUTERS/Filippo Monteforte/Pool (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Pope Francis' comments that the Catholic Church should not focus so much on homosexuality, abortion and contraception have met with strong approval from U.S. Catholics, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday.

Sixty-eight percent of American Catholics agree with comments the Pope made to that effect in an interview published last month in the Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, while 23 percent disagreed, according to the poll. There was little difference in opinion between observant and less-observant Catholics, women and men, and among age groups, the poll found.

American Catholics also like their new pope, with 89 percent having a "favorable" or "very favorable" opinion, and only 4 percent voicing an unfavorable opinion, the poll found.

"Maybe they were just waiting for a Jesuit," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Francis is the first pope from the religious order of the Jesuits, an order known for its intellectuals and iconoclasts.

In the interview, Francis reaffirmed traditional church teachings, but said the church must "find a new balance" or risk seeing its entire moral edifice collapse "like a house of cards."

The poll also found that 60 percent of American Catholics support women's ordination - though the Pope had recently reaffirmed the ban on women's ordination. Support is highest among those who attend services less frequently and Catholics over the age of 65.

The survey also found that Catholic opinion on abortion is similar to the opinion of all American adults - with 52 percent of Catholics saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 53 percent of the general public.

The poll surveyed 1,776 American adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points, and 392 Catholics with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

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