37% Of Catholics Mull Quitting Over Sex Scandals

Elias Hubbard
March 14, 2019

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics, up from 22% in 2002, say news of the abuse has led them to question whether they would remain in the church.

Despite the personal conscience pendulums swinging more rapidly, American Catholics do still view their local priests and Pope Francis favorably - more than 80 percent of responders said they trusted both at least somewhat, including more than 40 percent who said that they trusted them "a great deal".

17 years later, amid a new crop of recent, global allegations of continued abuse and subsequent cover-ups by some of the highest authorities in the Vatican, Gallup conducted a similar survey. Pell, the most senior Catholic official convicted of child sex abuse yet, received six years in prison for molesting two choir boys in Australia.

While Gallup said the current scandal is having a bigger impact among Catholics than in 2002, "it is unclear whether Catholics who are questioning their church membership will actually decide to leave the church".

It was the first time Gallup has polled on the issue since 2002 when the church was confronted with reports from Boston of widespread abuse by Catholic priests and efforts by the church leaders to cover it up.

The flurry of renewed coverage of the scandal was compounded by allegations of an abuse cover-up in Chile that led to the resignation of several bishops there past year; the conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell in February on charges of sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s; and the defrocking of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after allegations that the onetime archbishop of Washington, D.C., sexually abused seminarians and a minor earlier in his career. And, overall, 62 percent of surveyed Catholics in 2019 said they haven't questioned their commitment, according to the latest findings.

Lapsed and irregularly practicing Catholics were most likely to reconsider their affiliation with the church, with 46 percent of Catholics who seldom or never attend mass and 37 percent of Catholics who attend almost weekly or monthly saying they've personally questioned whether they should remain.

In November 2018, police searched the offices of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese - the see of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - as part of an investigation into a priest accused of abuse in Texas.

Some confidence, after all, remains in church leaders. One in eight have little or no confidence in Pope Francis or their own priests, the poll found.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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