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Majority of Catholics lack confidence in U.S. bishops ability to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis

October 25, 2011

SNAPwisconsin.com

October 25, 2011

Majority of Catholics lack confidence in U.S. bishops ability to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis

More than 80% believe credibility of church leaders has been significantly impacted

Statement by John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director

CONTACT: 414.336.8575

The National Catholic Reporter’s research team recently completed an extensive survey on the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of Catholics in America.  The survey, the fifth such study conducted by NCR since 1987, finds that American Catholics continue to be unimpressed with the way in which their bishops have responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The survey, conducted between April 25th and May 2nd of 2011, before the indictment of Kansas City bishop Robert Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for failure to report child abuse, found that only three in ten American Catholics believe that U.S. bishops have done a good or excellent job in responding to the issue of clerical sex abuse.  The vast majority, sixty-nine percent, believe that the bishops have done a fair or poor job in responding to what has been described as the greatest crisis to confront American Catholicism.

The U.S. bishop’s response to the sexual assault of their children has left Catholics convinced that the leadership of their church has been significantly damaged.  The survey found that over eighty percent of Catholics feel that the way in which bishops have responded to the sexual abuse crisis has impacted the bishop’s ability to speak out on political and social issues.

The report also finds that the spiritual and pastoral needs of Catholics have been deeply impacted by the crisis.  Three quarters of Catholics surveyed stated that the sexual abuse crisis has had an impact on their priest’s ability to minister effectively to them.

The National Catholic Reporter notes that” in 2005 we wondered what impact the sex abuse scandal might have on the way the laity would respond to our survey questions; the findings showed then that the scandal had little measureable impact.  However, six years of new headlines, nationally in Philadelphia and internationally in Ireland, Germany and Austria, have led to a more in-depth examination of the scandal and the laity’s assessment of its impact on the credibility of church leaders”.

While the survey did find differences among certain segments of the Catholic population the study confirmed that the majority of American Catholics remain disappointed in the way in which their leaders have responded to this ongoing crisis.

The recent indictment of Kansas City bishop Robert Finn, for failure to report child abuse, is another signal to Catholics that their leaders have yet to make child protection their top priority.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, could begin to restore the trust of Catholics by publicly rebuking Finn for the neglect of children in his care.  Dolan could send a powerful message to the bishops, and to Catholics, that such reckless endangerment of children will no longer be tolerated. 

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org.

 

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