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Study finds US Catholics angry over handling of scandals

The sexual abuse scandal is creating a historic shift in relations between US Catholics and their church hierarchy, according to the first comprehensive national study of the effects of the sexual abuse scandal.

The research was conducted by Catholic University of America and Purdue University. It found nearly four of five people in the pews said they were ashamed and embarrassed for their church, and nearly three-quarters said the failure of bishops to stop the abuse is a bigger problem than the abuse itself.

Anger in the pews toward church leaders so far is having little effect on Catholics' commitment to their church, however. Respondents reported only a slight decline in attendance and giving as a result of the scandal; more than four in five report that being Catholic remains very important to them personally.

But what the results indicate is that while the church itself remains intact, the sexual abuse scandal is shaping up to be a seminal moment in how Catholics view the authority of bishops, some observers said.

"The development of lay organizations, such as Voice of the Faithful, demanding accountability and openness to me represents a new day. It's new in my life," said Catholic University sociologist Dean Hoge.

Joseph Kelly, chairman of the religious studies department at John Carroll University, said "it was a shocker" for Catholics to learn that the people they trusted to take care of the sexual abuse crisis were covering it up.

"I think the issue of trust will be around longer than the abuse thing," he said.

Catholics angry over scandals, study finds (The Times-Picayune 9/11/04)

11 Nov 2004