|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
Poll: US priests disapprove of bishops' action on sex abuse scandal
By Associated Press, 10/20/02
LOS ANGELES -- Two-thirds of the nation's Roman Catholic priests disapprove of the way U.S. bishops have handled sexual abuse allegations against members of the clergy, a nationwide poll has found.
A survey of 1,854 priests nationwide by the Los Angeles Times found that 65 percent feel the bishops have done a fair to poor job in providing for the discipline of bishops who cover up for abusive priests.
As part of the survey, priests were given an opportunity to add written comments along with their answers. Some also agreed to interviews.
Many priests wrote that bishops first delayed dealing with the crisis, then compounded the problem by adopting a "zero-tolerance" policy that denies accused clerics their rights to due process.
Just over half, or 55 percent, of priests said the bishops' national plan for dealing with the scandal will restore confidence in the church.
Meanwhile, 45 percent characterized the plan's fairness to priests as "fair" or "poor," with 35 percent rating it as "good" or "excellent."
A number of priests expressed many of the same concerns about the bishops' plan that have been raised by Vatican officials. On Friday, the Vatican released a letter to the U.S. bishops saying some aspects of the policy conflict with church law and need to be changed.
While priests disapproved of the policy in regards to priests, 75 percent surveyed said it has done a "good" or "excellent" job of protecting minors from sexual abuse by priests.
"Probably at this point the safest place for any kid to be is in the church," said Father Frank Jasper, a Franciscan priest and psychotherapist in Indianapolis who agreed to a follow-up interview.
Like many other priests, Jasper, 56, who has been ordained for 29 years, said the charter was hastily put together under intense media pressure and undermined the due-process rights of priests guaranteed by the church's canon law.
Since the sexual abuse crisis broke in Boston in January, the scandal has resulted in the removal of an estimated 300 priests nationwide and an official apology from the church.
More than three out of five of the priests surveyed said they believed that most or many of the allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests were true. More than half, or 53 percent, said they think the church has been too lenient in disciplining priests accused of misconduct.
The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.