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After recent revelations, U.S. Catholics give Francis low marks on handling of sex abuse scandal
The long-simmering Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has been back in the headlines in recent months, beginning with widespread allegations in June against Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who resigned from the College of Cardinals. Soon after came revelations from a Pennsylvania grand jury report that more than 300 priests are accused of sexually abusing minors over the past 70 years. Most recently, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò stunned the world when he released a letter charging that Pope Francis and other senior church officials knew about at least some of the abuses and did nothing.
The accusations have coincided with a drop in the share of U.S. Catholics who approve of the way the pope is handling the abuse crisis. Just three-in-ten American Catholics (31%) now say the pontiff is doing a “good” (18%) or “excellent” (13%) job of addressing the sex abuse scandal, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. This is much lower than the 54% who gave Francis good or excellent marks in February 2014 (almost a year after he became pope), and the 45% who did so at the beginning of 2018. Meanwhile, 62% of American Catholics now say the pontiff is doing only a “fair” or “poor” job of handling the scandal.
The decline in the pope’s standing on the sex abuse issue cuts across age and gender lines. In addition, Catholics who attend Mass regularly are not significantly more likely to rate the pope positively on this issue (34%) than those who do not (30%).
The new survey also found a decline in American Catholics’ overall approval of Pope Francis. Between January and September of this year, the share of Catholics who express a favorable view of the Pope has dropped from 84% to 72%.