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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 13, 2002

Church faulted in poll on sex abuse

By Glenn Thrush
Bloomberg News

Seventy-seven percent of Americans say Roman Catholic bishops who fail to report pedophilia allegations to law enforcement officials and instead assign accused priests to other parishes should resign, a Quinnipiac University poll has reported.

In addition, 67 percent of Americans — and 60 percent of U.S. Catholics — described the church's handling of the recent flurry of sex-abuse allegations against priests as "not so good" or "poor," the poll said. Just 18 percent of both groups said the church's response to recent allegations of abuse by priests has been "good" or "excellent" while 15 percent of U.S. residents and 8 percent of Catholics had no opinion.

Nevertheless, 86 percent of U.S. Catholics said the controversy "has not shaken their faith" in the church, while 13 percent said it had made them "less likely to remain a practicing Catholic."

The poll of 1,347 U.S. residents, conducted April 1-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, the Hamden, Conn.-based institute said in a press release. The nationwide survey included 326 Catholics and those results had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.

In the national poll, 77 percent of U.S. residents — and 70 percent of Catholics — said "bishops who did not report allegations of sexual abuse of young people against priests to authorities and instead assigned them to other parishes should resign," polling institute director Maurice Carroll said. Twelve percent of U.S. residents disagreed, and the remainder offered no opinion. Twenty percent of Catholics disagreed.

Other findings:

  • Thirteen percent of Catholics said they have lost faith in Pope John Paul II, while 83 percent have not.
  • Ten percent said the allegations have made them question the integrity of their own parish priest. Eighty-six percent said they have not questioned their priest's integrity.
  • By a 67 to 22 percent margin, Catholics said priests should be allowed to marry.
  • Sixty-five percent said they support the ordination of women to the priesthood while 26 percent opposed the idea.
  • Among U.S. residents, 60 percent said that religion was "very important" in their lives, 26 percent said it was "fairly important" and 14 percent said it was "not very important.