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Practicing Catholics unfazed by abuse scandals; Pope’s popularity increasing

May 05, 2010

A new poll conducted by CBS News and The New York Times has found that 77% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly say that “the Vatican’s handling of recent child sex abuse reports” has had no effect on how they “feel about the Catholic Church.” An additional 12% of practicing Catholics say that they have a more positive feeling about the Church as a result of the Vatican’s handling of the scandals.

The survey of 1,079 adults was conducted between April 28 and May 2. Results were released on May 4.

88% of Catholics-- practicing and non-practicing-- report that the scandal has had no effect on their dealings with priests. 82% say it will not affect their Mass attendance, 79% say it will have no effect on donations, and 87% say that it will have no effect on their children’s involvement in Church activities.

52% of the general population says that the Vatican’s handling of the scandal has had no effect on their feelings towards the Church, while 36% have more negative feelings.

The survey also found that Pope Benedict’s popularity among Catholics has increased since March. 43% of Catholics have a favorable view of him (vs. 27% in March), while 17% have an unfavorable view (vs. 11% in March). 38% are unsure or “haven’t heard enough” to make a judgment. Among the general population, 16% have a favorable view of the Pope, 24% have an unfavorable view, and 59% are unsure or “haven’t heard enough.”

62% of practicing Catholics-- vs. 13% of the general population-- have a favorable view of the Church’s leadership, while 13% of practicing Catholics (and 38% of Americans overall) have an unfavorable view.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 45% of practicing Catholics, but only 13% of Americans overall, believe that the Vatican has done a good job handling the scandal
  • 75% of practicing Catholics, and 50% of the overall population, believe that the Vatican is trying to prevent child sexual abuse
  • only 17% of practicing Catholics, and 33% of Americans overall, believe that the Vatican is currently engaging in a cover-up
  • 91% of practicing Catholics, and 54% of Americans overall, have “some” or “a lot of” confidence in the Vatican’s ability to prevent future abuse by priests
  • 28% of practicing Catholics, and 40% of all Catholics, say that the abuse scandals have caused them to “doubt [the] Vatican’s authority”
  • the majority of Catholics (54%) believe that the Vatican is “out of touch” with Catholics, while 60% believe that local priests are “in touch”
  • a large majority of practicing Catholics (89%) and Americans overall (72%) believe that child sexual abuse is just as common outside the Church as within it
  • 58% of practicing Catholics, and 30% of Americans overall, believe the scandal has been blown out of proportion by the news media
  • 44% of practicing Catholics, and 73% of the total population, believe that child sexual abuse by priests is still a problem today
  • only 30% of Catholics believe that homosexuality contributes to child sexual abuse by priests; 31% believe the celibacy discipline is a contributing factor, while 17% believe the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination is a factor
  • 58% of practicing Catholics say that they “would let priests marry”; a smaller majority (54%) “would allow women priests”

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    Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
    • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 06, 2010 9:33 AM ET USA

      The Church is the Church and God is God. Any man or woman who expects their spouse to be "God" falls into the same trap.

    • Posted by: - May. 05, 2010 4:05 PM ET USA

      Some statistics are a big frightening, e.g.: 'a smaller majority (54%) “would allow women priests”'. O.K., I know that the Church isn't a democracy, but it's still a worry and a sign that the right message isn't getting through to the pews (not that it's necessarily a topic that should be preached on, but where's the catechesis?).