Time will tell if Pope Francis really influenced America.
Clearly Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States is not just a meet and greet event. He came with numerous objectives including the effort to address certain national and global issues from poverty, migration, climate change and up to the ongoing global conflicts. In most of his speeches the Pope hoped to influence not only American Catholics but politicians as well. But many critics and surveys are already saying that the Pope’s messages have little and no lasting effect to Americans especially when it comes to political issues.
The Pope will have a difficult time convincing American Catholics
Certain Vatican leaders in the past have tried influencing Americans when it comes to certain issues presented by the church and all those efforts have eventually failed or just successful to a limited extent. The source of the problem according to experts is the division within the American Catholics. In the U.S., there’s the Republican Catholics, the Democrat Catholics, and the Hispanic Catholics.
These groups adhere to Vatican teachings but not all the teachings. The problem gets worse because one group may believe in a particular teaching but the others are in total contradiction. For example, the Republican Catholics are conservatives and church supporters when it comes to sexual issues but they may not agree to issues concerning income inequality, immigration and climate change. The Democrat Catholics on the other hand are supportive and liberal to issues like immigration, social justice and climate change but have different positions on others like the issue on same-sex relationships. Finally, the Hispanic Catholics may agree to social justice, immigration, and climate change, but they also have different views on things like abortion.
Time will tell if the Pope really influenced America
Anyone who will make an assessment of whether the Pope was successful or not in changing the American attitude towards the issues he discussed will come to a conclusion that such effect is not yet visible aside from the “feel good” phenomenon upon seeing the Pope. When he made his appeal to the global community like in the case of migration, Catholic countries on the spotlight like Hungary and the rest of Europe has continued building walls instead of bridges that the Pope called on.
When he addressed the White House, the Congress, and the general American public on issues like inequality, migration, sanctity of life and climate change, not even a single American politician supported or disagreed with the Pope’s views even up to this time. Additionally, time will tell if his request for support from interreligious groups and the Catholic bishops and leaders will prove to be fruitful in the future.
The effect of Pope’s visit on the American Catholic population
One of the indicators that will certainly be scrutinized to gauge the effects of the Pope’s visit and messages is the statistics when it comes to American Catholic population. The population of Catholics in the country has seen a noticeable decline in the past years from a quarter of the population to just a fifth now.
Right after the Pope’s visit, there’s not much change in the number of people interested in joining or coming back to the Catholic Church. As one writer describes the Pope Francis Effect in the U.S. “Love for Pope Brings Them to the Streets, Not Necessarily to Church.”
— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) September 28, 2015
— Juan Andres Muñoz (@jamcnn) September 25, 2015
Even those individuals and youth who admitted that they do not go to church regularly cited that although they are impressed and moved by the Pope’s messages and efforts, they still won’t go to church regularly.
Another writer explains that most Americans only perceive the Pope Francis Effect as an idea of a more welcoming or “softer” church leadership. And when people start feeling this way, it only comforts them in a political manner instead of the better and rightful response of becoming more comfortable to strengthening their faith and observing the church rituals or sacraments. People often wait for numbers or statistics when in fact the responsibility is within them to initiate and start the number rolling.