Gallup: U.S. Catholics Question Church Membership Over Abuse Scandals

Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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More and more Catholics are re-examining their membership in the Church, Gallup revealed Wednesday, noting that the number of those who question their affiliation has jumped by 15 percent since 2002.

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics say that news of clerical sex abuse has led them to question whether they should remain in the Church, Gallup said, up from just 22 percent in 2002, the year the sex abuse crisis exploded in the United States.

“As a result of the recent news about sexual abuse of young people by priests, have you, personally, questioned whether you would remain in the Catholic church, or not?” Gallup asked 581 U.S. Catholics between January 21–27 and February 12–28.

Gallup admitted the inherent difficulties with its survey, noting that many Catholics “may have no intention of leaving but simply be responding to this question as a way to express their frustration with the way the church has handled the problem.”

Catholics who are less committed to their faith are significantly more likely to question it, Gallup found, with 46 percent of those who “seldom or never attend church” saying they have questioned whether they would remain in the Church, while less than half as many (22 percent) who attend weekly say the same.

Thirty seven percent of a middle group — those who attend church on a monthly basis — say they have considered leaving the Church, Gallup found.

There are, however, no “meaningful differences” in the share of Catholics questioning their church membership by age or gender, the poll revealed.

Catholics express their greatest confidence in the priests at their own parish church, with 86 percent of weekly Mass-goers expressing a “great deal” of confidence in their local priests and only 68 percent of this group expressing similar confidence in Pope Francis.

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