The perception of Pope Francis has remained a positive one ever since his appointment at the Catholic Church 2 ½ years ago. The humble, Argentine-born man has spoken on numerous issues as wide as economic inequality, climate change and immigration and has become loved by millions of people worldwide. However, his views on abortion, gay rights, and divorce have not been perceived positively among all Christians and many Archbishops in US stand in strict opposition. Many say that although his easy going, merciful personality has been pivotal in winning the hearts of many people, his moderate approach is too lenient and is at crossroads with many of the traditional teachings of Christianity. In his upcoming 5 ½ day tour of three cities within the United States, Pope Francis is expected to find a divided audience among his Christian followers with regards to his mild approach to homosexuality. The Pope’s choice of words ‘Who am I to judge’ in reference to gay Catholic priests, was received with enormous joy from families with gay children. The Pope has expressed the reality that many Christians will simply ignore or disagree with his views and is willing to discuss these issues in more detail. The Pope’s approach to Christian teachings have been viewed as concentrating less on sin and instead more on what can be made right.
This merciful approach to the people has been described as ‘the Francis effect’, which is considered to be important for promoting a more welcoming Catholicism. Commenting on the Pope’s approach, John Gehring who is the Catholic Program Director of charity organization ‘Faith in Public’ has said that: “Pope Francis doesn’t want the church to be a fortress walling people out, but, in his words, a field hospital for the wounded. He offers a unique opportunity for the American hierarchy to build a more welcoming, healing church.” According to survey from Pew Research Center conducted 2 years ago highlighted that more than half of US Catholics deemed gay marriage as acceptable while those who perceived it as a sin accounted only for a third of the respondents. Issues related to birth control and abortion were met with more mixed results. Several surveys conducted through 2011 to 2013 found that around a half of white US Catholics believed that abortion should be legalized in all cases while two fifths of respondents viewed otherwise. A survey conducted right after the election of Francis found that nearly three quarters of respondents said that the church should allow birth control. More importantly, the survey also showed that approximately 80% of the respondents viewed Pope Francis in a highly favorable manner while only less than 5% of the respondents viewed him unfavorably. In summary, Pope Francis is viewed with tremendous respect for his loving and compassionate personality. However, considering the opposition of Christian leaders in the US, only time will tell how opinions on controversial matters such as gay marriage, abortion and birth control will resurface in the future.