(Pew Research Center) As allegations and investigations of sex abuse in the Catholic Church become more widespread, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the crisis has plummeted among U.S. Catholics. Just three-in-ten Catholic adults say Francis is doing an “excellent” or a “good” job addressing the issue, which is down 24 points since 2015 and 14 points from when Pew Research Center last asked the question in January of this year.
While seven-in-ten American Catholics say their overall opinion of Pope Francis is favorable, six-in-ten now say he is doing an “only fair” or “poor” job handling the sex abuse scandal, including 36% who say his efforts on this front have been poor. This is nearly double the share who said he was doing a poor job at the beginning of this year, and triple the share who said this in 2015.
The declining confidence in Francis’ handling of the sex abuse crisis is broad-based, occurring across a wide variety of subgroups of U.S. Catholics. Since 2015, for instance, the share who give the pope “excellent” or “good” ratings for his handling of the issue declined by 24 points among Catholic men and 23 points among Catholic women. Similarly, both younger and older Catholics have grown increasingly critical of the pontiff’s handling of the situation.
Even among Catholics who say they attend Mass weekly, the share who give Francis positive marks for his handling of the sex abuse crisis has been cut in half since 2015; 34% in this group now give Francis “excellent” or “good” ratings for his handling of the issue, whereas 67% gave him a positive evaluation in 2015.