US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Catholics, evangelicals, and Pope Francis' calls for economic justice

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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The graphic of the week at the Public Religion Research Institute takes an interesting look comparing the beliefs of Catholics and white evangelical Protestants. 

Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, explained the comparison at the Atlantic: "Today, on a range of prominent cultural issues and in Republican primary politics, we often see an ironic result—there is more support for official Roman Catholic Church positions among white evangelical Protestants than among Catholics.”

And the numbers on the chart certainly seem to show that. When it comes to opposing same-sex relationships, believing abortion should be illegal, or being against providing contraception coverage in insurance plans—some of the issues that Catholic leadership shouted about the most loudly in recent years—evangelicals definitely have the Catholics beat.

But the second half of the graphic shows almost a full reversal. Catholics are generally more in line with issues that are more closely tied to the church’s messages about social justice and economic equality. Seventy-eight percent of Catholics agree that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.00/hour. Sixty-eight think the government should do more to help the poor. And nearly twice the amount of Catholics as compared to Evangelicals think that health insurance should be guaranteed for all citizens.

Jones makes the following point after looking at this data: “At first glance, the link between evangelicals and Catholics seems like a political match made in heaven, with the U.S. bishops cultivating a new evangelical flock to compensate for the loss of lay Catholic support on cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But the pope’s call for economic justice complicates the relationship, because it calls both Catholics and evangelicals to cooperation beyond a narrow band of cultural politics.”

In Pope Francis’ first year at the helm of the Catholic Church, he’s gained worldwide attention for his pastoral attitude and his emphasis on economic justice. He’s even called out his own church for being “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He’s expressed his preference for Christian unity.

What do you think? Will Catholics and evangelicals be able to "cooperate beyond a narrow band of cultural politics" and work together to make positive change? 

Image: Flickr photo cc by Catholic Church England and Wales