Pope Francis Understands the Value of Research

We were almost over the fact that Pope Francis is totally on top of this whole “public relations” thing, but now he’s done it again.

This weekend we read that the modest man in the big house has commissioned a far-reaching survey designed to gauge “consumer sentiment” among the world’s one billion Catholics on some of the church’s most contentious social issues: homosexuality, gay marriage, unwed cohabitation, etc.

The reason this is so interesting is that many will tell you that church doctrine is both clear and unchangeable when it comes to the definition of the word “family.”

That may be true, but the rest of the world is changing, and the survey move is a pretty clear indication that Francis knows this. All PR professionals understand that the first step in creating a successful campaign is conducting research to see how your target audience feels about the matters at hand, right?

Is Francis going to use the results of the survey to reverse thousands of years of church doctrine? Of course not. But if you don’t think it will play some role in the church’s future messaging efforts then we don’t really know what to tell you. Everyone seems to agree that the project will, at the very least, provoke “a flourishing of opinion, debate and discussion” around the world.

Some more traditional Catholics feel like Francis is moving forward without them, and others tell “the secular news media” (aka us) that we have no idea what we’re talking about, because of course we should leave all commentary on religious organizations to people who happen to belong to said organizations.

But as members of the public, we know what we see—and we see great PR.

Oh, and a majority of Italian congregations have reported increased attendance since his election, so it seems to be working.