Monday, 6 September 2010

The chance to connect

Nick Spencer of Theos -- which published its much-discussed survey of British attitudes to the papal visit at the weekend -- says in the Guardian that there are some important findings for "Catholic spin-doctors to dwell on". Above all this:

The British public does not agree with the pope. They say so, loud and clear. Only 18% agree that "the pope generally responds wisely to problems in the world today". By comparison, 40% say that they "generally disagree with the pope's views on current affairs".

Or, at least, they think they don't agree with pope. Present them with things he has actually written and the story is rather different. The survey tested 12 statements taken directly – but anonymously – from Benedict's most recent encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate (CiV), to see if the public agreed with them. They did, strongly.

On the environment, 82% of people agreed that "technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption," (CiV, 49) and 79% agreed that "the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure" (CiV, 48). On economics, 63% agreed that "investment always has moral, as well as economic significance," (CiV, 40) and 69% agreed that "the consumer has a specific social responsibility" (CiV, 66). On human rights, 90% agreed that "food and access to water are universal rights of all human beings," (CiV, 27) and 59% agreed that "an overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties" (CiV, 43). Most remarkably, a majority of people agree with Catholic teaching about sexual behaviour, with 63% agreeing with Benedict that "it is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure" (CiV, 44). The only statement with which people disagreed, again strongly (81%), was that "poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love" (CiV, 53).
He concludes:

What can be said with some confidence is that even in comparatively anti-Catholic Britain, there remains enormous potential for the church to connect with the general public.