Greensboro, NC -- Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign at the end of February. Assistant Director of the Elon University Poll, Jason Husser explains how the resignation will affect the Catholic Church, politically.
Explain what this will do for the Catholic Church.
Husser: This resignation could cause lowered attendance for Catholics who aren't deeply invested into the Church. For some Catholics who were already suspicious of the organization, this kind of unprecedented change will raise further doubts and confirm existing fears. As a result, I'd expect to see a decline in Catholic attendance, at least in the short term. In the unlikely event an American Cardinal is elected, interest in the Catholic Church will likely rise in the United States.
What are the political ramifications of the Pope's resignation?
Husser: The resignation will probably help the Republican Party, though only slightly. If the resignation influences adherence rates in the United States, it will probably be among those who attend only occasionally. Those infrequent attenders are asymmetrically Democratic voters. As a result, the Catholic Church could become more homogeneously Republican, making Catholic voters an easier target for GOP politicians. Furthermore, if the Pope's successor continues a theologically conservative movement, Catholic voters may become increasingly likely to vote for Republicans for social policy reasons.
Politically, what does the Catholic Church need to look for in the next Pope?
Husser: From a narrow perspective of what could stem secularization in the United States, the Catholic Church could look for a Pope who can connect with young people. Young people, Millennials, are the major demographic most likely to drop out of frequent church attendance.