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By Michael W. Chapman, CNSNews, January 11, 2019
(CNSNews.com) — In the wake of more revelations about sexual abuse of young people by Catholic clergy — among other scandals — a new survey shows that only 31% of Catholics give their clergy “very high” or “high” marks for their honesty and ethical standards. This percentage is down from 49% in 2017, an 18-percentage-point drop in one year.
In the survey, Gallup asked, “Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields — very high, high, average, low or very low? How about clergy?”
For Catholics, 31% said “high/very high.” For Protestants, 48% said “high/very high.”
“The latest findings, from a Dec. 3-12 Gallup poll, come after a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report in August detailed accusations of sexual abuse involving more than 300 Catholic priests over 70 years,” said the polling firm. “The report indicated that Catholic bishops and other high-ranking church leaders covered up these incidents.”
As for the Protestants, Gallup said although the “ratings of the clergy have dropped since 2004, the decline has not been as sharp, and the latest 48% positive rating of the clergy is much higher than Catholics’. Still, it is the first reading that falls below the majority level among Protestants.”
The survey also showed that church attendance among Catholics is down. Between 2014 and 2017, for instance, the percentage of Catolics who said they had attended church in the last week was 39%. Today that number is 36%.
Back in 1955 some 75% of Catholics said they had attended church within the last seven days, reported Gallup. The survey firm reported that church attendance today is down among all Americans, not just Catholics.
On the upside, at least 52% of Catholics said they view their faith as “very important” in their lives, according to the survey. That percentage has not changed, on average, since 2001.
“Since the first high-profile sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests emerged in 2002 in Boston, many similar cases have rocked the church, and 2018 brought another wave of such charges,” said Gallup. “Given the sheer breadth of the alleged and confirmed sexual abuse, the erosion of Catholics’ views of the clergy’s ethical standards is perhaps to be expected. The church’s handling of many of these cases undoubtedly weighs heavily on Catholics’ minds and likely plays a part in shaping their more increasingly negative views of the church and organized religion as a whole.”