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Polls Show Catholics Back Policy on Abuse

June 29, 2002|From Times Wire Services

A flurry of polls shows general confidence in new sex abuse policies adopted by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, but overwhelmingly strong support for removing bishops who tried to cover up the scandal.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a policy June 14 that removes from ministry any priest who has sexually abused a minor. It does not call for automatic removal from the priesthood, but that remains an option for an individual bishop to pursue.

Though American Catholics generally support the new policy, 66% of U.S. Catholics think it does not go far enough, according to a survey of 1,004 adults by the Washington Post. Eighty-two percent of Catholics said bishops who tried to cover up the problem should resign, and 86% said the pope should remove them if they refuse to resign.

Penalties for bishops found even greater support in a Le Moyne College/Zogby International poll, which found that 96% of Catholics want "disciplinary action" against bishops who failed to remove known abusive priests from their pulpits. Only the pope can remove a bishop from office. A review panel will name which bishops are in compliance with the new rules and may use public pressure to seek the removal of some bishops.

The Le Moyne/Zogby poll found that 79% of Catholics endorsed the new policy, and 89% agree that abusive priests should be removed from the priesthood, as well as from public ministry.

A similar USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found slightly more support for the policy. Fifty-six percent of Catholics approved of the policy, and 63% said it would be effective. That poll indicated that 90% want bishops who hid the problem to be removed from office.

The overwhelming majority of Catholics say their faith has not been tested by the current crisis, although their faith in the institution has. The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that 22% have questioned whether they should leave the church because of it.

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