Poll: Vast Majority of Catholics Distrust Bishops

News: US News
by Martina Moyski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 25, 2019   

Fully 95% of those surveyed feel less confident in the bishops one year after McCarrick revelations

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A recent Church Militant poll reveals that 95% of respondents feel less confident in the bishops' handling of sex abuse one year after revelations about Theodore McCarrick's sexual predation.

Respondents were asked: "A year after the McCarrick revelations, how confident do you feel about the bishops' handling of abuse?"

Poll choices included:

  • More Confident
  • Less Confident
  • Unsure

A stunning 1,552 of respondents (95%) out of a total of 1,642 indicated they were "less confident" in how bishops are handling cases of clerical sexual abuse.

Sixty-seven respondents (4%) indicated they are "not sure."

Twenty-three respondents (1%) indicated they are "more confident."

A little over a year ago, then-Cardinal McCarrick was enjoying his 60th anniversary as a priest with fellow celebrants in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. during a May 2018 banquet.

McCarrick received a standing ovation after he said, "Never lose that, dear brothers, that desire to be holy men, to be in love with the Lord, in love with your people, in love with the Church."

The reported decrease in confidence of bishops to handle cases of sexual abuse parallels a big rise in sex abuse allegations — and vice versa.

At that time, select U.S. prelates knew McCarrick was under investigation, following an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor more than 45 years earlier, when he was a priest in New York.

Five weeks after the jubilee banquet, Cdl. Timothy Dolan of New York announced that the allegation against McCarrick was "credible and substantiated."

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, confirmed more allegations: "This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."

During what has become known as the Catholic Church's "Summer of Shame," McCarrick was suspended from public ministry.

One year later, the reported decrease in confidence of bishops to handle cases of sexual abuse parallels a big rise in sex abuse allegations — and vice versa.

According to the Associated Press, "On Friday, May 31, 2019, the U.S. Catholic Church says that allegations of child sex-abuse by clergy more than doubled in its latest 12-month reporting period, and its spending on victim compensation and child protection surged above $300 million."

What have prelates been doing?

At the November 2018 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting, two survivors of clerical sexual abuse spoke to the bishops about their experiences and their hopes for the future of the Church.


One survivor, Luis Torres, implored the bishops to "make changes to ecclesial policies and culture that might ensure that sexual abuse or coercion by anyone in the Church, including bishops, is put to an end."

Torres asked the bishops for "your courage" to take action "not in 3 months. Not in 6 months. Yesterday."

The bishops had intended to take action at their November meeting by voting on two policies they hoped would address the Church's sexual abuse crisis: a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of a lay-led panel to investigate claims of misconduct or negligence by bishops.

But as the meeting began, Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, announced that "the Holy See had insisted that the bishops not vote on their own proposals and wait until after a February meeting at the Vatican of the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world."

The announcement seemed to shock almost everyone in the room, except for Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago, who rose immediately to defend the Holy See, saying, "It is clear the Holy See is taking the abuse crisis seriously."

The four-day sex summit held last February, described by some as a "propaganda summit," found Cupich once again taking hold of the show.

Cupich advocated "openness, trust and transparency," yet shut down discussion of homosexuality as a cause of the current crisis, forbade attendees to raise even the topic of homosexuality and forbade prelate attendees to talk to the press.

The Pope himself presented eight points, largely borrowed from the World Health Organization as guidelines, hoping to add heft to a conference seen as "short on specifics":

  1. A "change of mentality" to focus on protecting children rather than "protecting the institution."
  2. A recognition of the "impeccable seriousness" of these "sins and crimes of consecrated persons."
  3. A genuine purification beginning with "self-accusation."
  4. Positive formation of candidates for the priesthood in the virtue of chastity.
  5. Strengthening and reviewing of guidelines by episcopal conferences, reaffirming the need for "rules."
  6. The accompaniment of those who have been abused with an emphasis on listening.
  7. Ensure that seminarians and clergy are not enslaved to an addiction to pornography.
  8. Combat sexual tourism around the world.

Issued on May 7, 2019, Francis' Vos Estis Lux Mundi left power in hands of bishops and placed the metropolitan archbishop in charge of any investigation into allegations of abuse by brother bishops.

Critics have slammed the document as insufficient, noting its similarity to sex abuse proposal promoted by Cupich at the November 2018 USCCB meeting. That proposal places bishops in charge of investigating fellow bishops "under the auspices of the metropolitan."

The Catholic Church has obliterated its ability to inspire trust.

The spring 2019 USCCB assembly resumed discussion of the implementation of a "third party hotline" designed to receive confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops. But many critics and faithful Catholics saw this as more of the same: bishops policing bishops.

Church Militant is not the only media foregrounding the lack of trust in the Catholic clergy in a post-McCarrick world.

"The Catholic Church has obliterated its ability to inspire trust," Elizabeth Bruenig of The Washington Post titled her article almost a year ago.

"We live in an era of diminished trust and heightened cynicism," opined Bruenig. "Over several decades, McCarrick is alleged to have sexually abused at least one child and several adult seminarians or young priests. ... Into his den, he drew them."

Catholic author John Gehring said, "McCarrick’s fall is 'gut-wrenching' for local Catholics, who worked for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops while McCarrick led the Washington archdiocese."

"Most Catholics, including myself, are just sickened by the fact that it seems like so much was known about his behavior, and he still climbed the ranks of the church. He never should have been made a cardinal. … It can never happen again," Gehring added.

But Catholics have not yet received a formal accounting that explains how McCarrick was able to climb the ranks of the Church and that communicates what Church officials knew about McCarrick's chronic sexual abuse.

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