Child abuse scandals and cover-ups have damaged faith in clergy members, report shows
Catholics in the US have lost faith in clergy members and no longer trust church officials following a series child abuse scandals and cover-ups, a new poll has revealed.
A Gallup poll released Friday shows that less than a third of Catholics in the United States rate the honesty and ethical standards of clergy as “very high” or “high,” marking a record low and a significant drop from the previous annual survey.
The poll is the latest evidence of the hierarchy’s diminished credibility as a direct result of the, seemingly, never-ending clergy sex abuse scandal.
The all-time-low 31 percent honesty rating for 2018 is an 18-percentage-point drop from 2017.
The large fall comes after years of steady decline, with a new global explosion of the scandal and revelations of a high-ranking cover-up in the US causing a huge blow to Catholics’ trust in Church leaders.
Catholics aren’t alone in the crisis, however, as the trust in Christian clergy members has fallen across the board.
According to Crux Now, the Gallup survey also found that while the Protestants’ 48 percent positive rating for clergy is higher than Catholics’, 2018 marked the first time that fewer than half of surveyed Protestants had high marks for clerical honesty.
The poll of 1,025 adults was conducted Dec. 3-12 and had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
For results based on the total sample of 210 Catholics, the margin was plus or minus eight percentage points.
The credibility of the Catholic Church hierarchy tanked in 2018 after new reports of old abuse and cover-up were uncovered in the U.S., Chile and elsewhere and implicated Pope Francis himself.
In the U.S., the Pennsylvania grand jury report alleged seven decades of abuse and cover-up, while ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s downfall exposed how the hierarchy knew that he slept with seminarians, but turned a blind eye.
A previous Gallup poll found that Catholics’ overall confidence in the Church and organized religion – already declining last year – dropped from 52 percent in June 2017 to 44 percent by June 2018, before the U.S. scandal had even hit.
Mass attendance has also been on a steady decline and hit a new low last year, with 36 percent of Catholics reporting they had attended Mass in the past week.
Nevertheless, Gallup found that a majority of Catholics still view religion as “very important” in their lives.
And the survey noted that the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Catholic has remained stable, thanks in large part to the growing Hispanic population in the U.S.