October 24, 2013

Three-quarters of U.S. Catholics say it’s important for Pope Francis to tackle Vatican reform


Most Catholics say reforming the Vatican is an important priority for Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has engaged many of the world’s Roman Catholics since his election in March with a humble pastoral approach and an emphasis on the poor and marginalized. But another top priority for this pope is something more internal to the Catholic Church – fixing the way the Vatican is run.

The Washington Post has reported that Francis plans to reduce the size of the Vatican government. That change would come on top of efforts the pope has made to reform the Vatican bank, which had been bogged down in corruption and scandal, and its diplomatic office, whose leader Francis replaced.

In a March 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 75% of U.S. Catholics said that reforming the Vatican bureaucracy should be an important priority for Pope Francis. One-in-three Catholics (35%) said reform should be a “top priority;” while 40% said it was important but a “lower priority;” 13% said it is not too important or unnecessary.

When asked about other issues that the pope should address, 70% of Catholics said the sexual abuse scandal should be a top priority.  About half (49%) said standing up for traditional moral values should be a top priority, while 39% said this about spreading the Catholic faith and 36% said this about addressing the priest shortage.

Francis’s fellow cardinals elected him, in part, to tackle the problem of Vatican reform, and one month after his election, he chose eight cardinals from around the world to advise him in that process. That group met with the pope earlier this month for the first time. Francis is trying to reform the church outside of Rome, too. This week, he temporarily relieved a German bishop who is under scrutiny for lavish spending on his official church residence in Limburg.

NOTE: The headline of this post has been updated to clarify the timing of this survey. It was taken in March of 2013, before Pope Francis’s recent Vatican reforms.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism

  1. is a Senior Writer/Editor for the Pew Research Center Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.


  1. Ralp Coelho4 years ago

    It is surprising that they do not realise the Pope Francis is highlighting teaching that is not being followed. The world over they do not realise they are a People and not members of an Institution. Like the Jews of old then clamour for the institutioin

  2. Tim Townsend4 years ago

    Brad – thanks for your comment. The post makes it clear that in our March survey of U.S. Catholics, “75% said that reforming the Vatican bureaucracy should be an important priority for Pope Francis.” That survey did ask specifically about their priorities for this pope. You’re right that the headline could have been more carefully crafted to eliminate any appearance that we had asked Catholics in recent days the moves the pope has made since his election toward reforming the Curia. We’ve changed the headline to more accurately represent what we asked – and how Catholics responded – in March. Thanks again for reading.

  3. Brad Miner4 years ago

    So . . . here we are in October, and the Pew survey was done in March. The headline above says three-quarters of U.S. Catholics support the pope’s reform. But what reform is that? What Francis has done since he was elected? Or what U.S. Catholics hoped for at the time of his election? The WAPO article linked to is from a couple of days ago, and here’s the point: When the survey was taken in March (Bergoglio was elected on March 13th) Pew was surely seeking a reading on the American mood about the papacy in general and NOT on any agenda of Francis, who had no agenda at that point and had made no comments about reform. So this is a not entirely honest presentation by Pew. After all, unless Pew surveys Catholics NOW, how do we know they actually approve of what the pope is actually doing now?