Do the Pope's Views Match Those of U.S. Latinos?

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While the world has the opportunity to celebrate history in the making, as the first Latin becomes the new pontiff, we must also wonder what Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio really stands for and whether his beliefs align with the modern Latino in the U.S. There’s no denying that he has his work cut out for him. A recent NY Times survey shows that most Catholics believe that their church is out of touch and hope that priests adopt more liberal ideologies when it comes to issues of birth control and same-sex marriage. Moreover, 7 out of 10 surveyed felt that Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican did a poor job at handling the sexual abuse scandals.

Bergoglio is going to inherit those challenges, and many others, and his stance on some of these issues may symbolize a red flag for many Catholics in the U.S. While he represents St. Francis of Assisi, a servant who lived in rags among beggars, the new Latin Pope isn’t about helping everyone in need. He has described same-sex marriage as the “work of the devil” and a “destructive attack on God’s plan” in the past. He also strongly clashed with Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez when it came to legalizing same-sex marriage. After he lobbied against the bill, she responded by suggesting that his beliefs are rooted from “medieval times and the Inquisition.” 

According to an ABC poll, most Latinos side with Fernandez on same-sex marriage and believe that it should be legalized. Nearly six-in-ten Latino voters (59%) said their state should legally recognize same-sex marriage while 32% said their state should not. Another poll conducted by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) found that 54% of Latinos in the U.S. support gay marriage.

Bergoglio also clashed with Fernandez when it came to women’s rights and free distribution of contraceptives. In 2006, he was strongly against a bill that would legalize abortion under certain circumstances. In the U.S., three-quarters of people surveyed support abortion and view it as a woman’s right. Among Latinos, 74% of registered voters agree that a woman has a right to make her own personal decisions about abortion, according to a survey conducted on behalf of NLIRH.

In a religion begging for modernization, some of Bergoglio’s views may be stuck in the past and in turn remaining “out of touch.” Despite his strong views about homosexuality and women’s rights, the Argentinean man of God has been praised for supporting a relationship with outside religions, including Judaism. Since part of his job description is keeping the peace with other faiths, this is a strong skill the new Pope possesses.

As longer term issues loom over his head including, celibacy requirements among priests and creating more transparency among the bureaucracy, the Pope will need to reconcile his viewpoints and hopefully inspire everyone to chant, “Viva el Papa,” from the heart.

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