Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Latin Mass made headlines in July. But most U.S. Catholics heard nothing about it.

The headlines were fast and furious, with features in major U.S. newspapers about Catholics who love the traditional Latin Mass and at least one commentator suggesting that a move by Pope Francis to restrict it could be the “dumbest mistake” of his papacy. But most U.S. Catholics appear not to have noticed the change, a new survey finds. Even among the minority of Catholics who have heard about the new policy, opinion is more or less equally split.

According to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, 12 percent of U.S. Catholics “disapprove” of the pope’s decision to place additional restrictions on the Latin Mass, while 9 percent approve and 14 percent had no opinion or declined to answer.

But most U.S. Catholics, 65 percent, said they had heard “nothing at all” about the new policy while 28 percent said they had “heard a little” about it and 7 percent had heard “a lot.”

“Catholics who attend Mass weekly are both more likely to be aware of the new restrictions and more inclined to oppose them than Catholics who attend less frequently,” the report said.

“Catholics who attend Mass weekly are both more likely to be aware of the new restrictions and more inclined to oppose them than Catholics who attend less frequently,” the report said.

In July, Francis announced that priests who wished to celebrate a form of the Mass that was common before the Second Vatican Council must seek permission from their local bishop. He also restricted where such Masses can be held. The rule overturned a policy that had been enacted by Pope Benedict XVI that allowed the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass to be celebrated more widely. The rationale given by Francis for the change was that the use of the Latin Mass had exacerbated “disagreements that injure the Church, block[ed] her path, and expose[ed] her to the peril of division.”

The new survey found that Pope Francis remains popular among all U.S. Catholics, with 83 percent saying they hold a favorable view of him, roughly the same as a survey from March. Francis enjoys a slight advantage among Catholics who identify as Democrats, with 91 percent saying they hold a favorable view of him, compared to 71 percent of Catholic Republicans who share that feeling.

Francis enjoys a slight advantage among Catholics who identify as Democrats, with 91 percent saying they hold a favorable view of him, compared to 71 percent of Catholic Republicans.

“Catholics who attend Mass weekly are both more likely to be aware of the new restrictions and more inclined to oppose them than Catholics who attend less frequently,” the report said.

Among all adults, Francis has a favorability rating of 60 percent, while 11 percent of Americans have no opinion and 28 percent hold an unfavorable view.

Politics appear to play a role in how Catholics view restrictions on the Latin Mass as well, though majorities of Democrats and Republicans have not heard about the rules.

“Catholics who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party are roughly three times as likely as Catholic Democrats or Catholics who lean toward the Democratic Party to oppose the new rules (20% vs. 6%), though majorities in both groups say they are unfamiliar with the issue,” the report says. 

The survey also asked Catholics about various characteristics and how well they believed they described Pope Francis and found some partisan deviation. For example, 49 percent of Catholic Republicans said Pope Francis was “too liberal” while just 16 percent of Catholic Democrats agreed.

“And Catholic Republicans are more likely than Catholic Democrats to ascribe certain negative attributes, including ‘out of touch’ and ‘naive,’ to Pope Francis,” the survey found.

The survey was conducted with 6,485 U.S. adults, including 1,374 Catholics, from Sept. 20-26, 2021, the report said.