US laity remains faithful despite scandals

A media report suggests that despite the US Church's sex abuse scandals which rippled across the country from Boston to Los Angeles, the laity remains faithful when it comes to church collections and attendance.

"The church is much bigger than any one parish or any one diocese. It's not about the bishops. I attend because I believe," said Mike, 41, as he left a lunchtime Mass at St Francis Xavier church in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Declining to give his last name, he described himself as a lifelong Catholic who still contributes money because "it's part of being in the church."

He is not an anomaly. According to figures put together in 2006 by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, a Catholic university in Washington, there was a slight dip in Mass attendance after the Boston scandals broke.

But it said an analysis of surveys and polls since shows little evidence Roman Catholics have left the church in significant numbers or cut back what they toss in the collection baskets.

"The laity are very angry, but their anger is not leading them to diminish their contributions. Apparently they're used to having incompetents as bishops," the Rev. Andrew Greeley, a priest, author, sociologist and frequent critic of his church, told Reuters.

Mary Pat Fox, president of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group formed after the Boston scandals broke, said she found it "alarming" that some surveys show 74 per cent of Catholics think their bishops are doing a good job.

While contributions may not have declined, she said, the number of contributors has, so "some major contributors are carrying the load."

Her group also says weekly church attendance has slipped to 17 per cent of Catholics in some areas, compared to 34 percent estimated by the Georgetown report.

Catholic Charities said it "experienced no measurable impact on giving as a result of the scandal. We did not see a groundswell of people turning their backs on Catholic Charities and the people they serve."

Former Victorian priest convicted

Meanwhile in Australia, the Herald Sun reports that a former Catholic priest has been convicted of child sex offences dating back to the 1970s.

Terrence Melville Pidoto, 62, of Bacchus Marsh, was found guilty of 11 charges, including one count of rape, one count of buggery and seven counts of indecent assault.

Pidoto was ordained into the priesthood in 1971 and worked in Heidelberg, Box Hill North and Kilmore during the 1970s and early '80s.

Seven people made allegations against Pidoto resulting in 22 charges.

Catholic Church steady despite scandals (Reuters, 18/7/07)
Priest convicted of sex offences (Herald Sun, 19/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
US Catholic Bishops
Towards Healing (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)

Aussie victims less likely to sue, Church officials say (CathNews, 17/7/07)
US abuse crisis past peak (CathNews, 13/7/07)
LA archdiocese sells chancery to fund settlements (CathNews, 17/5/07)
LA Archdiocese settles abuse claims for $A75 million (CathNews, 4/12/07)
LA Cardinal calls sex abuse scandal a 'purification' (CathNews, 2/4/02)

19 Jul 2007