Britons enthusiastic about papal teaching if not papal visit
76% of Britons think taxpayers should not be contributing towards the cost of Pope Benedict XVI's visit, according to research published today by Theos, the public theology think tank.
In the ComRes poll of 2,005 adults, three quarters of Britons (76%) said that because the Pope was 'a religious figure', the taxpayer should not be contributing to the costs of his visit. Interestingly, young people are generally less hostile, with 69% of 18-24s opposed to paying compared with 82% of 55-64s and 80% of over 65s.
Public opposition appears to be focused on the cost rather than the visit itself. Only a quarter of people (24%) agree that they 'don't approve of the Pope's visit', compared with half (49%) who disagree.
Opinion is split as to whether the visit is good for Britain, with 29% of people saying it is good and 33% saying it is not. Apathy features more prominently than either approval or disapproval, however. Over three-quarters (79%) of people said that they have 'no personal interest' in the visit.
Strikingly, the Theos research reveals that whatever the public thinks about the Pope's visit, they agree with his social teaching. In the poll, people were asked to comment on whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements contained in the Pope's third encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate. Twelve representative statements, taken directly from the letter, were tested and a significant majority of the public agreed with eleven. For example:
On the environment:
82% of people agree that 'technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption' (CiV, #49). 79% agree that 'the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure' (CiV, #48).
63% agree that 'investment always has moral, as well as economic significance' (CiV, #40). 69% agree that 'the consumer has a specific social responsibility' (CiV, #66).
On human rights:
90% agree that 'food and access to water are universal rights of all human beings' (CiV, #27). 59% agree that 'An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties' (CiV, #43).
A majority of the public even agree with Catholic teaching about sexuality, with 63% agreeing that 'It is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure' (CiV, #44). The only statement people disagreed with (81%) is that 'Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love.' (CiV, #53)
Commenting on the findings of the research, Director of Theos, Paul Woolley said:
'The British public clearly has a problem with the funding of the papal visit, although this could be because they are unaware that in addition to being a religious leader Pope Benedict is also a head of state.
'It is only a relatively small proportion of people who are actively opposed to the visit itself. On the whole, the public is more disengaged than hostile.
'What is really striking is not simply that the public tends to agree with Pope Benedict's social teaching but that they agree so strongly.
'This confirms the view that beneath the terrible stories of sex abuse that have dominated coverage of Catholic Church in recent times, there remains real potential for the church to connect with the public.’
ComRes interviewed 2005 GB online between 25 and 26 August 2010. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults.