1. U.S. Catholics Continue to View Pope Francis Favorably, Survey Shows: Catholic Republicans, however, are concerned about the church’s direction under his leadership. 

By Ian Lovett, The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2018, Pg. A2

Pope Francis remains broadly popular with Roman Catholics in the U.S., according to a new study from the Pew Research Center, but a growing number of Catholic Republicans are concerned about the direction of the church under his leadership.

Overall, 84% of Catholics in the U.S. hold a favorable opinion of the pope, a figure that has changed little since 2014, the first full year of his papacy. The survey says that 9% view him unfavorably. His approval rating among American Catholics remains higher than it ever was for his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Still, signs suggest diminishing support for Pope Francis among his American flock. Thirty-four percent now believe the pope is “too liberal,” up from 19% in 2014; 58% say he is changing the church for the better, down from 68% four years ago.

Among conservatives, the drop in support is far steeper: 55% of Catholics who identify as Republicans called Pope Francis “too liberal” in the 2018 survey, compared with 23% in 2014.


2. Pope approves sainthood for slain Salvador Archbishop Romero.

Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, March 7, 2018

Pope Francis has cleared the way for slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be made a saint, declaring that a churchman who stood up for the poorest of the poor in the face of right-wing oppression should be a model for Catholics today.

Romero was gunned down by right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel. The country’s military dictatorship had vehemently opposed his preaching against the repression of the poor by the army at the start of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Francis declared Romero a martyr in 2015.

The case had been held up for years by the Vatican, primarily due to opposition from conservative Latin American churchmen who feared Romero’s perceived association with liberation theology would embolden the movement that holds that Jesus’ teachings require followers to fight for social and economic justice.

It was also delayed over related questions about whether Romero was killed out of hatred for his faith or his politics. If killed for his politics, it was argued, he couldn’t be declared a martyr of the faith.

In the end, Francis decreed in 2015 that Romero was killed as a martyr out of hatred for the faith – or “in odium fidei.”


3. Pope Clears Way to Make El Salvador’s Oscar Romero a Saint: The archbishop, an advocate for the poor, was killed during civil war in 1980. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2018, 7:21 AM

Pope Francis  on Wednesday took the last major step toward sainthood for the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, an outspoken advocate for the poor who was killed during his country’s civil war.

The pope recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Romero, who was shot while celebrating Mass in 1980, at the beginning of El Salvador’s civil war that lasted until 1992. He has since become an icon for progressive Catholics around the world.


4. Those saying ‘no big deal’ on ‘Amoris’ may not have their hearts in it. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, March 7, 2018

After two years of upheaval and angst over Pope Francis’s document on the family Amoris Laetitia, and its cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, some in the pro-Amoris camp have tried a different tack. Rather than pressing the argument, they’re suggesting its importance has been inflated all along.

Call it, for lack of a better phrase, the “no big deal” strategy – although, to be honest, it’s not clear how far it might go, because at times even some of its most prominent exponents don’t really seem to have their hearts in it.

That was the spirit of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s remarks Tuesday night during a presentation of his new book The Message of Amoris Laetita: A Fraternal Discussion.

In many ways, Kasper has been the prime mover in reopening the longstanding debate in Catholicism over the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried, which at one time was believed to have been settled with a 1994 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to Kasper and two other German prelates, basically delivering a firm “no.”

Pope Francis seemed to tip his hand early on in the opposite direction, however, by picking Kasper to address a meeting of cardinals on the subject before the pontiff’s two Synods of Bishops on the family got underway, and the idea even became known as the “Kasper Plan” during the synod debates.

Yet Kasper, who turned 85 on Monday, seemed on Tuesday night to express puzzlement over how much has been made of the issue, on at least three fronts.

First, he suggested, too much attention in the discussion over Amoris Laetitia has been concentrated in chapter 8, where Francis deals with the Communion issue in a footnote, calling the attention on the point “reductionistic.”

Second, Kasper insisted, whatever else the debate over Amoris is about, it’s definitely not a question of heretics or heresy.

Third, Kasper suggested that the opening to Communion created by Amoris really isn’t the doctrinal or sacramental thunderclap it’s been made out to be.

It remains to be seen if the “no big deal” tactic will succeed, in part because it wasn’t entirely clear Tuesday night that Kasper’s sold on it himself. At one point he picked up on a recent phrase from Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s Secretary of State, that Amoris represents a “paradigm shift.”

Whatever one makes of Kasper’s argument, it was hard to walk away with the impression that anyone who so obviously speaks out of deep personal conviction – not to mention, of course, comparing Amoris to one of the great scientific ruptures of all time – could ever truly regard it as just another day at the office.


5. Argentine church to hand over certificates of baptisms at torture center.

By Associated Press, March 7, 2018

Argentine’s Catholic leaders announced Tuesday that they will hand over to a judge more than 100 certificates from baptisms performed in a chapel at a navy base that served as a clandestine torture center during the country’s dictatorship.

Activists hope the information will help determine what happened to children taken from political prisoners at the center and later illegally adopted, often by military families. Human rights groups say most of the detained biological parents were later killed.

The bishops said the decision was a response to “a longing of Pope Francis,” the Argentine pontiff who previously promised human rights groups that the Church would hand over documentation to help clarify the crimes committed by the military regime.


6. Pope praises Pyeongchang Olympics as bridge to peace. 

By Associated Press, March 7, 2018, 4:51 AM

Pope Francis has praised the Pyeongchang Olympics for showing that sport can “build bridges between countries in conflict and give a valid contribution to peace.”

Francis delivered the message during his general audience Wednesday ahead of the start of the Paralympics. Francis praised the paralympic athletes as “examples of courage, perseverance and tenacity in not letting limitations have the last word.”


7. U.S. Catholics’ political leanings affect their approval ratings of pope. 

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, March 6, 2018, 2:35 PM

In the advent of Pope Francis’ fifth anniversary in the papacy, a new Pew Research poll of U.S. Catholics shows their regard of the pope is, for the first time, colored by their political leanings.

The survey, released March 6, said it saw “signs of growing discontent with Francis among Catholics on the political right, with increasing shares of Catholic Republicans saying they view Francis unfavorably, and that they think he is too liberal and naive.”

In 2014, one year into Pope Francis’ papacy, “there was no discernible difference between the share of Catholic Republicans (90 percent) and Democrats (87 percent) who expressed a favorable view of Francis,” the survey said. “Today, by contrast, the pope’s favorability rating is 10 points higher among Catholic Democrats (89 percent) than among Catholic Republicans (79 percent).”

But “the share of American Catholics who say Pope Francis is ‘too liberal’ has jumped 15 percentage points between 2015 and today, from 19 percent to 34 percent,” the poll said. And 24 percent of U.S. Catholics now say he is naive, up from 15 percent in 2015.

Since 2014, “the share of Catholic Republicans who say Francis represents a major, positive change for the Catholic Church has declined from 60 percent to 37 percent. By contrast, there has been little movement since the end of Francis’ first year as pope in the share of Catholic Democrats who view him as a major change for the better,” the poll said — 71 percent today vs. 76 percent four years ago.


8. Pope Francis Still Highly Regarded in U.S., but Signs of Disenchantment Emerge: Five years after his election, pope draws growing number of negative assessments, especially from Catholic Republicans. 

By Pew Research Center, March 6, 2018

Currently, 84% of American Catholics say they have a “favorable” view of Pope Francis, which is virtually identical to the share who expressed a positive view of the pope after the first year of his pontificate. Furthermore, roughly nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics describe Pope Francis as “compassionate” and “humble.” And though the share of Catholics in the U.S. who think Pope Francis represents a “major change” for the better is down from a high point in 2015, nearly six-in-ten still express this view.

But while Francis remains quite popular, there are signs that American Catholics are less enamored with him than was once the case. For instance, the share of American Catholics who say Pope Francis is “too liberal” has jumped 15 percentage points between 2015 and today, from 19% to 34%. And about a quarter of U.S. Catholics (24%) now say he is naïve, up from 15% in 2015.

Over the same period, the share of American Catholics who give Pope Francis “excellent” or “good” marks for his handling of the sex abuse scandal dropped from 55% to 45%. (The survey was conducted before the recent papal visit to Chile and Peru, which prompted new questions and media coverage about the pope’s handling of this issue.)

The survey also finds signs of growing polarization along partisan lines in Catholics’ views of Francis. The share of Republican and Republican-leaning Catholics who say Pope Francis is “too liberal” has more than doubled since 2015 (from 23% to 55%). Similarly, one-third of Catholic Republicans now say Francis is “naïve,” up from 16% who said this in 2015. Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning Catholics, by contrast, there has been no statistically significant change in opinion on either of these questions.