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Pew Research says Americans think clergy abuse is ongoing issue

It was just over 15 years ago that the bishops of the Catholic church pledged to uphold a zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual abuse of children committed by priests. But many people question the effectiveness of that pledge as more and more courts are uncovering decades of sexual abuse cases that were covered up by Catholic leaders. Just last year Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was forced to resign as the archbishop of Washington D.C. amid allegations that he sexually abused both adults and children. 

Do Americans think that the abuse and coverups will come to an end?

According to the Pew Research Center, the answer is a resounding no. A survey conducted revealed that nine out of ten adults, 95 percent of whom are Catholic, say they have heard of recent misconduct by priests and those higher up. The survey also showed that eight out of ten Americans feel that sexual misconduct and coverups are an ongoing problem that is still happening in the church. While most Americans can agree that the problem is ongoing, many don't feel that it is limited to Catholic priests, but instead is a problem occurring with clergy in all religions. 

How did Catholic participants respond to the belief of ongoing abuse?

While a large portion of Catholics surveyed believe that abuse by the Catholic clergy is an ongoing problem, almost a quarter, believe the abuse has stopped. Catholic respondents were also less likely to think that abuse was more unique to the Catholic clergy, and instead feel that it is as common by other religious leaders, teachers, and others that work with children, as it is by bishops and priests. 

Has there been a response by parishioners who believe there is ongoing abuse?

A quarter of Catholics participating in the Pew Research survey have said that they attend mass less frequently or have reduced the amount of money that they donate to their local parish after reports of allegations began to surface. In addition to a reduction in attendance and donations, many Catholics in the survey had mixed opinions as to whether or not the church is doing all it can to stem the abuse. 

The Pew Research Center's survey conclusions

The survey conducted included 6,364 American adults from various religions from March through April. Some of the primary findings from the survey include:

  • Most adults feel that the sexual abuse of children is not an issue primarily with the clergy, but is a problem that occurs equally with other religious leaders and adults who work with children. 
  • Most adults surveyed have never encountered allegations of misconduct in their congregation.
  • One in ten adults said they were in a congregation where a religious leader or clergy member was accused of some sort of misconduct. 
  • While most of the adults surveyed said, they had heard reports of misconduct by leaders outside of the Catholic Church, though they are not as familiar with those reports as they are about those involving Catholic priests and bishops. 
  • Catholics who attend mass less regularly are more likely to see sexual abuse as an ongoing problem with the clergy. 
  • Most adults in the United States say that they do not hear their religious leaders speaking out about sexual abuse, harassment, or assault in their place of worship. 
  • 12 percent of adults surveyed said that their clergy has warned against false accusations and only one in four adults said that their clergy has ever spoken out on behalf of the victims. 

Victims of clergy abuse

With the research showing that many Americans feel that sexual abuse by the clergy is an ongoing problem in the country, it is crucial for victims to feel safe coming forward so that the issue can continue to be addressed and those guilty can be stopped. If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse by a clergy member, or another religious figure, don't stay silent. Contact a trusted and experienced attorney to help get you the justice you deserve. 

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