Priests sex abuse scandals dent Pope Francis popularity in US

NewsBharati    04-Oct-2018

Washington, Oct 4: The sexual abuse scandal has undermined Pope Francis’ once-soaring popularity in the United States, with a poll released on Tuesday showing that support for the pontiff has dropped precipitously among Americans, according to New York Times.

According to the new poll the popularity of Pope has declined by 19 percent since January 2017 and now only 51% Americans rate him fvorably, the report said.

In India also, the Pope had divested Bishop Franco Mulakkal of his religious responsibilities as he was found involved in a nun rape case in Kerala. The Indian court too has rejected the bail application of the Bishop.

Francis has retained the support of seven in 10 American Catholics, but that has dropped from about eight in 10 since January of this year, when the sexual abuse scandal re-emerged as an international crisis for the Roman Catholic Church.

While 7 out of 10 Catholics still give the pope an overall favorable rating, 6 out of 10 surveyed by the centre say he's doing an “only fair” or “poor” job regarding sex abuse. The pope’s negative rating — 36% of Catholics say he’s done a “poor” job on sex abuse — has doubled since a Pew survey in January and tripled since 2015.

The survey results are based on interviews of 1,754 American adults, including 336 Catholics, between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24. Among the general population, about half said they had an overall favorable view of Pope Francis. That is the lowest rating he has received since Pew began surveys about Francis after he became pope in 2013.

The poll also registered a dip in support of the pope on matters outside of his handling of abusive priests, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the centre.

The survey results, which echo two other polls last month also showing steep declines, show that Francis’ reputation, which once seemed unassailable, has sustained considerable damage in the wake of the sex abuse scandal. Until recently, the pope appeared to be a rare public figure that attracted broad appeal among Americans.

The Loss Angeles Times reported that the poll from Pew, a nonpartisan Washington-based research centre that regularly tracks religious trends, is its first about the pope since calls for his resignation began in August after allegations from a Vatican official that he covered up for a disgraced cardinal accused of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians.

Those allegations came in the form of an 11-page public letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., who claimed that Francis and several American cardinals and archbishops protected Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for years while knowing of his sexual misconduct.

McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was among the most powerful figures in the U.S. Catholic Church, resigned in July after it was reported that he sexually abused children, teens and seminarians over his decades-long leadership.

Vigano blamed church leaders for protecting a widespread “homosexual current” in the Vatican and said Francis should resign. He also criticized church leaders for having a “pro-gay ideology.”

Francis has avoided speaking specifically about the allegations or denying them outright.

The scandal is just one of several sex abuse developments that the U.S. Catholic Church and the pope have recently had to confront.

In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury report found bishops engaged in a cover-up as more than 300 priests sexually abused minors in the state over decades. The report prominently featured Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who was bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese for nearly two decades and followed McCarrick in leading the Catholic archdiocese in the nation’s capital. Last month, Wuerl said he would travel to Rome to discuss his possible resignation with the pope.

Last month, the pope also accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield after allegations arose of sexual misconduct with adults. Complaints over the church’s handling of sex abuse have also grown Ireland, Germany, Chile and the Philippines. The criticism recently prompted Francis to call for a global meeting of bishops in February to discuss the sex abuse crisis. The unusual meeting is the first time presidents of bishop’s conferences around the world — more than 100 — have been called to the Vatican specifically to tackle sex abuse concerns.