U.S. Catholics' Faith in Clergy Is Shaken
BY MEGAN BRENAN
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church in the ongoing fallout from priest sex abuse scandals, a record-low 31% of U.S. Catholics rate the honesty and ethical standards of the clergy as "very high" or "high." This marks an 18-percentage-point drop between 2017 and 2018, when more sexual abuse allegations against priests surfaced and questions arose about the Vatican's response.
Gallup has measured the public's views about the clergy's ethical standards since 1977 as part of its broader "honesty and ethics of professions" poll. Initially high ratings of the clergy have been declining steadily among all adults since 2012.
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. The report indicated that Catholic bishops and other high-ranking church leaders covered up these incidents.
The latest drop in Catholics' positive views of the clergy's ethics, from 49% to 31%, is the second double-digit drop since 2004. Both declines were clearly associated with scandals in the Catholic Church even though the question about clergy does not specify a denomination.
Between 2004 and 2014, a majority of Catholics rated the clergy's ethics highly, but opinions fell sharply between 2014 and 2015. That 13-point drop from 57% to 44% followed the release of a study by the Catholic Church that found more than 4,000 priests had faced sexual abuse accus...