A poll conducted by Temple’s Institute of Public Affairs and the Philadelphia Inquirer shows Catholics and non-Catholics feel equally dissatisfied with the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s past handling of sexual abuse of children within the church.
The poll, released Nov. 16, found that 40 percent of Catholics sampled are “very dissatisfied” with the way the Archdiocese has handled the issue, compared with 45 percent of non-Catholics, with a margin of error of three percent. A slightly smaller portion of Catholics, 31 percent, and 28 percent of non-Catholics were “somewhat dissatisfied.”
Both Catholics and non-Catholics mainly agreed that any priest found to have sexually abused a child should be removed from the priesthood, the poll found.
“The point is that Catholics are unhappy with the way the church has handled the situation, especially in the past,” Dr. Michael Hagen, the Institute’s director, said. “Catholics are not quick to jump to the defense of the church; they’re just as dissatisfied.”
The two groups differed in their opinions of the church’s current handling of sexual abuse. While 84 percent of Catholics and 90 percent of non-Catholics said the church mainly tried to protect its reputation in the past, 43 percent of Catholics and 63 percent of non-Catholics hold the same opinion of how the diocese presently deals with abuse.
In addition to Catholics being more willing to give the church the benefit of the doubt, the ability of the church to communicate directly with its members has helped repair its image.
“It’s much more difficult to get the words out to non-Catholics, and non-Catholics are going to be much more skeptical,” Hagen said. “They don’t bring the long-term commitment to the organization that many say Catholics do.”
One student, sophomore Bonny Lipschutz, said she wasn’t surprised by the results.
“I would expect most Catholics to disapprove of what happened,” Lipschutz said. “It’s reassuring to see that they aren’t trying to justify the acts of a few corrupt officials.”
Remy Pieron, a freshman, is glad the results of the poll were released.
“Some people think that Catholics turn a blind eye to the bad things that go on within the church,” Pieron said. “Hopefully, those people can rest assured that we don’t.”
Of the 1,500 residents of the Philadelphia Metropolitan area sampled, about 500 qualify as Catholic. In order to count as a Catholic for the purposes of the poll, respondents had to either attend a Catholic church or consider themselves to be Catholic.
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.