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79% Say U.S. Clergy Abuse Reflects Continuing Problem

A strong majority (79%) of U.S. adults say recent reports of clergy abuse reflect a continuing problem, according to a Pew Research Center report published June 11.

By comparison, 12% feel such reports reflect past problems and only 8% say they have not heard of the clergy abuse reports.

While a strong majority of U.S. Catholics (69%) agree that new reports “reflect ongoing problems that are still happening,” this is far fewer than the percent of non-Catholic respondents affirming this view (81%).

Catholic respondents are also more likely than non-Catholics to say clergy abuse is as common in the Catholic Church as it is in other faith traditions by a 61% to 44% margin.

Overall, Americans are split on whether clergy abuse is more prevalent in the Catholic Church than it is in other faith traditions, with 48% saying more common, 47% feeling it is as common and only 3% thinking it is less common.

When asked about child abuse among clergy compared to non-clergy who work with children, a majority of U.S. adults (57%) say it is equally common, while 34% feel clergy child abuse is more common and 6% that it is less common.

Hearing clergy speak about sexual abuse is not common among respondents who attend religious services a few times a year or more, with 68% saying they “have not heard clergy speak out about sexual harassment, assault or abuse.”

Catholics were more likely than other Christian traditions to say that their clergy speak about abuse in church, with 41% of Catholic respondents saying their ministers addressed abuse.

By comparison, 33% of historically black Protestants, 29% of mainline Protestants and 25% of evangelical Protestants said their clergy had done so.

The full report is available here.