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Poll: Catholics Unhappy With Policy

June 19, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two-thirds of Catholics don’t think the bishops in their church went far enough earlier this month to protect children from predatory priests, says a new poll.

The Washington Post poll released Wednesday said three-fourths overall felt the guidelines don’t go far enough.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a policy last week that allows the church to keep some sexually abusive clergy in the priesthood but bar them from face-to-face contact with parishioners. Many have called for a zero-tolerance policy that would oust all abusers.

The survey suggested Catholics still have a generally favorable view of their church and have growing confidence that their church will handle the issue of abusive priests in the future. Half in the overall poll said they trust the Catholic church to properly handle the issue in the future.

More than eight in 10 Catholics and non-Catholics said bishops should resign if they have ever transferred troubled priests to other churches rather than reporting them to authorities. That issue remains controversial.

At the conference in Dallas, bishops deferred the issue of how to hold themselves accountable and directed an internal committee to review the issue.

The policy adopted last week would strip an offending priest of all his public duties and bar him from ministering in a church, school, hospital or other institution, while not automatically removed him from the priesthood.

Just over half of Catholics opposed the new guidelines, while just over four in 10 support them. Six in 10 overall opposed the new guidelines.

The most common emotional response among Catholics to the church’s response to the crisis was anger _ about four in 10 _ and almost as many said they were disappointed but not angry.

The poll of 1,004 adults was taken Sunday and Monday and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points, slightly larger for Catholics.

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