Many Catholics Skeptical About Bishops' Ability to Deal With Abuse Problem

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Only one in five express a great deal of confidence in bishops

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is gathering in Dallas this week to debate a new policy concerning priests found guilty of sexually abusing young people. A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds few Catholics and even fewer non-Catholics express a great deal of confidence in the bishops to deal appropriately with the problem. Additionally, both Catholics and non-Catholics say they would rather remove all priests guilty of one instance of past abuse from the priesthood than allow them to remain as priests in any capacity.

The poll, conducted June 7-8, finds that six in 10 Catholics have at least "some" confidence in the bishops' ability to deal with the sexual abuse problem, but only 22% say they have a "great deal" of confidence. A substantial minority of Catholics, 39%, says they have little or no confidence in the bishops. Non-Catholics are much more pessimistic about the bishops' prospects -- 63% say they have little or no confidence in them to deal with the problem while just 33% have either a great deal or some.

How Much Confidence Do You Have in U.S. Bishops to Handle Abuse Problem?
June 7-8, 2002

These results are consistent with previous polling that shows the public, including Catholics, is very critical of how the church has handled the problem of sexual abuse committed by priests. [See Related Items.]

Most Prefer That All Past Sex Abusers Removed From Priesthood

The Catholic bishops have publicly stated that any priest found guilty of multiple past instances of abuse, or any priest found guilty of abuse in the future, will be removed from the priesthood. The debate concerns what to do with priests found guilty of a single instance of past abuse. Some argue that they should be forgiven and allowed to remain priests in some capacity if they meet several conditions the church sets, while others argue they should be dismissed as priests.

The poll finds widespread support among both Catholics and non-Catholics for a strict policy that would remove all priests found guilty of past abuse from the priesthood. About eight in 10 non-Catholics favor this approach. Catholics are slightly more lenient, but still the vast majority, 70%, favor dismissing all priests found guilty of past abuse. Only 19% of the public and 29% of Catholics favor allowing a priest to remain in the priesthood if he undergoes therapy, agrees to be supervised by the diocese, and has no contact with parishioners.

What to Do With Priests Found Guilty of a Single Instance of Abuse in the Past?
June 7-8, 2002

Again, the results are similar to those in prior Gallup polls that show Catholics giving strong support to very strict policies on sexual abuse.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 800 adults (including 191 Catholics), aged 18 and older, conducted June 7-8, 2002. For results based on the national sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. For results based on the sample of Catholics, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±8 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

As you may know, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will meet next Thursday to vote on a new policy concerning the problem of sexual abuse committed by priests.

How much confidence do you have in the bishops in the United States to deal appropriately with this problem -- a great deal of confidence, some, not much, or no confidence at all?

 

Great
deal


Some

Not
much

No confidence

No
opinion

National Adults

2002 Jun 7-8

12

27

31

26

4

Catholics

2002 Jun 7-8

22

38

21

18

1



What should the church do with priests who have been found guilty of a single instance of sexually abusing a young person in the past? Should the church -- [ROTATED: remove all of them from the priesthood altogether (or should the church) allow some of them to remain in the priesthood provided they undergo therapy, agree to be supervised by the diocese and have no contact with parishioners]?

 

Remove them altogether

Allow some to remain

No opinion

National Adults

2002 Jun 7-8

77

19

4

Catholics

2002 Jun 7-8

70

29

1



Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/6202/Many-Catholics-Skeptical-About-Bishops-Ability-Deal-Abuse-Problem.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030