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. Maureen

    It's black and white – they didn't handle it at all !!!!

    April 16, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. Hernan Diaz

    A bad message is sending the Catholic church out there. If you are a child molester and want to get away with that then become a catholic Priest! The church will protect you!

    April 16, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Most think Catholic Church poorly dealt with child abuse scandal

    Ya think?! Duh. I'm a Catholic, born in a predominantly Catholic
    country and I am here to tell you to stop the cover-ups. This 'looking the other way' mentality with it's accompanying lack of action on the part of the Church has been going on FOREVER!! Why people, suppossedly 'good Catholics' won't step up to the plate and expose this is beyond me.

    I am disenchanted with my religious hierarchy and their convenient myopic outlook. They will condone the 'rituals' that altar boys routinely suffered at the hands of parish priests, yet they have their deacons decrying homosexuality from the pulpit. The God that I worship ACCEPTS EVERYONE. He would not exclude homsexuals from His Church. And he certainly would not play musical chairs with these priests in shifting them around from parish to parish so that they can continue to spread their deviant behaviour with young innocents. You want to be a gay priest? Fine. Find an ADULT to participate in your lifestyle.

    And another thing.... you think the Church ever thought about selling some of the works of arts in the Sistine Chapel and taking care of the poor in so many countries with the proceeds as opposed to passing the basket around TWICE in one non-rousing service?! Just a thought.

    April 16, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. Zoe

    The Pope made statements about the abuse recently in response to 'the Church being attacked'. Should it really have taken media pressure to get this Pope and the Vatican to even begin to address this issue publicly? Nonetheless claiming an "attack" on the Church. Last time I checked, it was priests who were were on the attack towards children, the media and public shouldn't be vilified for finally expecting an investigation in these matters. The denials are a further insult to the victims themselves and the public's intelligence. The Church needs to follow the same rules the rest of us mere mortals do as far as being law-abiding citizens, otherwise they should lose their tax-exempt status.

    April 16, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Most Republicans - Wrong about everything, Wrong for America (and GW Bush was the worst President ever)

    "Poorly dealt with it"? Their actions were criminal and they should be treated like criminals. And when they make moral pronouncements they should told "pedophiles don't get to make moral pronouncements."

    April 16, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. El Gordo

    If a particular religion was the one and only really real truly true religion, wouldn't we outsiders and non-believers notice that the believers in that faith were somehow better than us. It seems they should be smarter, luckier, better, more capable, or more accomplished somehow than other groups.

    I notice that Jesuits are much smarter than Baptist ministers, but so are atheists. Episcopalians probably have higher than average income, but does that mean that God is rewarding them for their faithfulness. Catholic priests are more likely to have sexual problems but Protestant ministers are more likely to embezzle.

    The point is that the religion you choose to believe in makes absolutely no difference in your life that can be seen by outsiders. Now all of the believers in this religion or that religion say that the inner rewards of their faith is powerful and profound. Apparently being a Mormon is just as satisfying as being a Muslim, a Buddhist, etc.

    April 16, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. How sad!

    The only way they Catholic Church could have handled this worse is if they had let the Toyota organization help them.

    Remember, honesty is the best policy and if you screw up, admit it and move on.

    April 16, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Joe Giardina

    If CNN were polling "Faithful Catholics", those that attend MASS on Sunday and actually stay informed of their Church, the results would be different.
    This Pope has courageously been rooting out homosexual and pedophilic molesters since he took office and put into place protocols that are the most stringent in any institution. Those of us who have followed his career for decades and read his books know the measure of the man. He is a learned, kind and gracious man. We all pray God will grant him many more years to do even more good for the Church ie: stifling the rampant liturgical abuses that abound and choosing many more orthodox Bishops to positions of influence.

    April 16, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. Bob of Lompoc

    Really – The Church dealt poorly with the pedophiles? And these people of The Church want to set National policy concerning who owns the female reproductive organs? And the members of The Church refer to smaller, lesser known religions as "Cults". Good grief!

    April 16, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  10. Oregon calling

    Most churches response to child abuse is dealt with poorly to say the least. There should be laws, oh wait, there are laws, they are just poorly written and do not work for all of the United States.

    Peace 🙂

    April 16, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. get real

    "Poorly" is the understatement of the year!

    April 16, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. L

    Before this section fills with diatribe about how the RCC is full of perverts and that all religion is evil....

    Let's split two things.

    1. Some priests have been pedophiles. Everyone - even the Vatican - agrees that is wrong. Meanwhile, pedophiles are also present in schools, scouting, and any other organization that gets near children, but the vast majority of the people in all of these groups are honest caring people (including the priests).

    2. The key question is whether the leadership, both bishops and the Vatican, responded adequately to the evil. In my opinion, they did not.

    Sadly, it's still not clear that the Vatican grasps that it needs a far stronger response against such acts than it has. I would love to see it come open and cooperate fully with police and clearly discipline those leaders who failed to respond when clear complaints were present.

    Unfortunately, our tort system discourages honesty since that immediately opens your wallet to milliion-dollar settlements. It instead forces the practice done constantly (including corporations) of fighting every claim and then settling quietly with no public acceptance or acknowledgment of guilt.

    April 16, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. PJ

    I am Catholic and totally ashamed of the Hierarchy. All they can think about is saving their own skins. I would call on all who knew about this abuse to resign or be kicked out. Perhaps the Laity should help them by withholding any donations to the Church. Benedict will go down in history with other notorious and infamous Popes. Bet he will think twice about canonizing any of his predecessors now. Pious 12th and JP2 both knew what was going on and did nothing. No Sainthood for them.

    April 16, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. Pkm

    I think the pope should step down but i know he will not at least say he is sorry the pope will make every good priest have a bad name

    April 16, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. Northwest

    Why would parents put children in a place such as this to be molested for years and the question is where is the parents minds? Out to lunch?
    Isn't the safety of your childred important ?
    How many children have to be abused before the law steps in and arrests the King pin and the molesters that have been moving priests around to cover since day one of this religion .
    Nothing new about this it started ceturries ago .

    April 16, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. lou

    I am, and always will be, a Catholic. The fact that men, yes, men have committed sins and abused children, and others, does NOT reflect on the teachings of the Church, but only on those who claim to serve it. . However, I totally agree that the Church has badly mishandled the sex abuses by so many of its priests.
    Those abuses should be promptly and thoroughly investigated, perhaps even better, turned over to the local law authorities for their own investigation. Guilty priests should be defrocked immediately, and those under suspicion, until cleared or convicted, should be placed on temporary leave, and be precluded from performing their priestly duties until the investigations are concluded.
    This is a sickening situation, and the Church needs to take a clear and strong stance about it. It's time, and it's the only right thing to do.

    April 16, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. Kharen Virtue

    I left the catholic church due to its corrupt priests/nuns/popes. I am ashamed to say Iwas once catholic. If these priests were regular folk, they would have been charge with child abuse and perhaps, just perhaps go to jail. How horrible that the pope is not doing anything to the pedohile priests and even more horrible to hide behind the church.
    I still believe in GOD but I don'dt think I need a church to be saved.

    April 16, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. Dar

    And how would anyone have handled this? Someone says something and you must investgate the charges first to find the facts.
    This doesnt happen overnight by any means.

    I guess some people think that anyone who says they were abused that the chruch should just pay them off and not find out the real facts first.
    There are a lot of bad people in this world who love to take advantage of things like this.I think the pope did what he had to do, right or wrong the church will do what is needed to get through this and steps will be taken for the future.

    April 16, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Cincinnatian

    The current Catholic leadership is comparable to today's radical right-wing American political pudits:

    -not elected by the people
    -act as if they are superior
    -purposefully twist the truth
    -use fear as a means to control
    -live luxurious lifestyles
    -are socially abnormal

    Imagine Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh with Roman collars and miters!

    April 16, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. JES

    The church needs to get the current Pope out and a new one in that knows the real world.

    April 16, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. th

    I grew up as a catholic. But I don't have any faith in any of the priests that try and teach what the catholic faith is supposed to be. The priests who abuse children and then say they are against homosexuals are hypocrits. At least homosexuals are adults and aren't raping children. The church is pathetic.

    April 16, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    That includes millions of Catholics, who are totally disgusted by the dysfunction of the church's hierarchy! I dare say that the majority of American Catholics are outraged. The conservative Catholics are still in denial.

    Question to Ratzinger: What would Jesus do?

    April 16, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. Paul

    Most people from Puritan denominations or atheists who are not Catholic think poorly about Catholics. I think that should be the title for this article and not the one you are using to mislead and hurt a Church that for over two thousand years has helped the poor , served the needy and stood againg social unjustice. The church has done lot of good, leave the Holy Father alone. Thank you.

    April 16, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. Palin Power

    We need President Sarah Palin for she will straighten out the Catholic Church and root all the pedophiles out. Palin has more sacred power and sanctity than all the catholic priests, including the Pope himself for she is GOD's CHOSEN ONE!

    April 16, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. Ben in Texas

    In centuries past, sex scandals have been suppressed by the church, but these days, they can't control the message with the tools of the Inquisition, as they did for hundreds of years. These stories continue to crop up, and there is no way for the hierarchy to put a BandAid on them. Prominent people inside the church are calling for the Pope to step down, tainted as he is by the scandals. I don't think they will ever fully recover, which is probably a good thing, over all.

    April 16, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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