April 16th, 2010
12:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Most think Catholic Church poorly dealt with child abuse scandal

Washington (CNN) - Most Americans - and most American Catholics - think Pope Benedict XVI has done a bad job dealing with the problem of sexual abuse by Catholics priests, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday also indicates that recent revelations about that matter have hurt the Pope's standing with the public.

Fifty-nine percent of American Catholics questioned in the poll have a favorable view of the Pope, down 19 points from February. Among all Americans, the slippage is even greater - from 59 percent in February to just 35 percent today.

"Only a quarter of U.S. Catholics have an unfavorable view of the Pope, but they don't seem satisifed with his track record on the growing and persistent scandal within the Church," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

According to the survey, 56 percent of U.S. Catholics disapprove of how Pope Benedict XVI has dealt with the problem of sexual abuse committed by priests; only about one in three Catholics have a positive view of how he has dealt with that subject. An even larger number - 74 percent - disapprove of how the Church overall has handled that matter.

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called for "penitence" for the church's "sins" amid the sex abuse scandal that has embroiled the Roman Catholic Church across Europe, according to Italy's official news agency.

Allegations against the church have piled up this year across Europe, including in Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.\\

Pope Benedict XVI has found himself tied to the crisis after news broke last month that 30 years ago, when he was an archbishop, he approved accommodations in his diocese for a priest accused of child sex abuse so the priest could undergo therapy.

The priest, who was not identified, was let go from church service in 2008, according to church officials in Germany.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 9-11, with 1,008 adult Americans, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points and plus or minus 6.5 percentage points for the 231 American Catholics questioned.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story

Filed under: CNN poll • Pope Benedict XVI
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. John

    The Church poorly dealt with the scandal? No kiddin!

    What else could have been expected from a cronyistic and secretive patriarchy whose leadership considers itself unaccountable to common people?

    April 16, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Annie, Atlanta

    I look at the heading of this article and wonder: does that mean some think they dealt with it well? Then again, obviously, the church itself thinks they dealt with it well, because when exposed started blaming everyone but themselves, stopping just short, thank God, of blaming the victims.

    April 16, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Pope Ratzinger is a fraud.

    April 16, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Steve, New York City

    Someone who rapes anyone (ESPECIALLY CHILDREN, or other categories of the "defenseless," such as the disabled) should be chemically castrated (or perhaps shot in the head) . . .it is irrelevant that some of these sick people happen to be priests!

    April 16, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Larry

    Child abuse needs to be reported to the authorities. This includes the Catholic church and the pope himself.

    Religions shouldn't be exempt from the law. This abuse has gone on and been hidden too long.

    April 16, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. phoenix86

    Liberals should be investigated for child abuse as well...I guess aborting a fetus does not qualify for abuse.

    April 16, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. jm for sc

    Too busy trying to control the white house.

    As long as abortion is the main topic, they think people will overlook molestation. Yes, have all the children you can, just make sure they are little boys so they can become a source of satisfaction to some of those hypocrits hiding behind a preist costume.

    April 16, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Nadia Martins

    It is very sad that the Catholic Church to save its face decided to swipe al scandal under the rug at the cost of the victims. So many souls destroyed and hurt and so many who abandoned the church. The trust in the Church is gone. Were those actions by the Bishops to hide the truth also inspired by the Holy Spirit? Answer is needed. The Catholic Church is bleeding.

    April 16, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Rush Limbaugh should have been a priest,I think he missed his calling.He wouldnt have to go to Thailand and be a part time boy scout leader.

    April 16, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Marc

    The Catholic Church strategy as to how to deal with pedophiles (before all those scandals started to go to public) in its ranks was pointless, abhorrent, based on the assumption that pedophilia is a 'sin' and not a 'crime' (so there would not need to have the police and judicial system involved in the matter) and hipocryte.
    At best.
    Day after day more proofs are brought to lie to support this opinion.
    It's not an attack on the Catholic faith or on the Pope's public image.
    It's see how they were hipocrytal and crudel (with the victims of the previous attacks and those of the enxt ones).
    And rebuke any unapologetic excuse that they (from priest or fathers to archbishops) have been tried to use to diminish or negate the Catholic Church responsability for their acts.

    April 16, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Now I have become confused, yes the Pope has dealt with this matter poorly but what is to be done.

    April 16, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. JDD

    Interestingly enough, the majority of Catholics also don't attend church or follow the practices of Catholicism – which makes one wonder how exactly to take this survey.

    Or what the point was.

    In other news, Catholics who actually have decided to practice Catholicism think that our entire society has dealt badly with child abuse.

    April 16, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. btannerski

    Catholics and Republicans: 2 groups that lie, cover-up misdeeds and arrogantly decry their uninformed or intentionally ill-informed position, all the while engaging in hypocracy.

    I'm done with both!

    April 16, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Poorly dealt with is not how I would describe it. These scandals are criminal and need to be dealt with as such.

    April 16, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    "Most Americans – and most American Catholics – think Pope Benedict XVI has done a bad job dealing with the problem of sexual abuse by Catholics priests, according to a new national poll."

    Ya think??? The Catholic Church, like many religions, has done more harm in the name of religion than any other cause in the history of humanity. The fact that "God's Emmisary on Earth" is in a deep state of denial and has an attitude of "blame it on the media" speaks volumes about his connection to his fellow man.

    I suppose, though, we all must believe in something even if doing so perpetuates the misery of others.

    April 16, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Richard

    So if it's a homosexual problem, why doesn't he fire all those homosexual priests who have been abusing children for oh so many years. Blame everyone else but the actual perpertrators. It seems today no one but the other guy is responsible. That's why I am no longer a Catholic.

    April 16, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    When has the Catholic Church ever NOT handled sex abuse cases poorly? This Church has always considered itself a sovereign entity, above human laws.

    Calling the pope Holy Father no doubt helps fuel that belief . . .

    April 16, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Robert Fuller

    Since I was one of those victimized, I can say that the church has the pr sense of the New Orleans police Department. First, blame the victim, 2nd cover up the abuse, 3rd shuffle the personnel, and 4th refuse to accept responsibility. I'm a recovering catholic, and don't hate those who follow the teachings; I blame the hypocrisy of those who say church is your sanctuary then let the wolves watch the flock

    April 16, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. mother in Pa

    It is not just this pope at fault but actions taken historically by the catholic church. Abuse would be reported and that priest would be quietly relocated to another parrish or sent to their "rest" home for awhile then put in a parrish. 60 Minutes did an clip years ago about a priest and followed his path of abuse as he was moved around the country. The catholic church is nothing more than corrupt big business hiding behind christianity.

    April 16, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Tommy

    Anti catholic cnn does it again... I don't think that God judges based on poll numbers, and we all know that most american catholics know nothing about the faith...just the media bashing the church again...forgetting that it was this pope that reformed how cases were handled, making bishops report the cases to his office and dealing with bad priests as they deserve

    April 16, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. Jayne

    The Catholic church seems to have become an old boys' network that preys on young boys. Should pray more instead of preying . And when it surfaces, they circle their wagons and pretend to be the victims. Spirituality ... go figure.

    April 16, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Hugo

    Fair tax incorporates doing away with the current IRS tax code and enforcement mechanisms in current form (a 38 billion a year expense in itself) and basically applying a Federal 20% sales tax to everything we consume. Anyone getting a paycheck (few right now except in DC) would see a significant increase in your take home pay. It is based on the principal that if you spend more, you pay more, it would not unfairly impact the lower income segment of society that seems to be becoming the majority of our populous. This way, that 47 or 48% that have been skating on paying while receiving our tax money, get to pay their fair share. Businesses and Corporations would remain to pay applicable taxes but on the citizenry side, what a true up!

    April 16, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. RC for Life

    I am totally disgusted with the present chain of events. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the church hirearchy from the current Pope on down tried to hide abusive priests by moving them from place to place and hoping the problem would go away.

    For the millions of us around the word, clergy and lay, who declare oursevles Roman Catholics this is a slap in the face. The current tactics are unacceptable and dispicable.

    For that "spokesman" for the Vatican who equated pedophilia with homosexuality, a big Bronx cheer. Gays do not molest or harm minors. They cause no harm to this straight aging white guy either. What a bigoted moronic and narrowminded comment!

    April 16, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. JT

    Only 74% disapprove of how the Church overall has handled that matter? Why is this number not higher after all this time?

    April 16, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. hongli

    The Pope has dealth with the scandals like how the GOP is dealing with their country. POORLY.

    April 16, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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