While a sizeable proportion of Britons and Catholics believe that the recent apology issued by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Britain was sincere, a considerable majority of respondents think the Catholic Church has not done enough to help victims of sexual abuse, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
In the online survey of a representative sample of 2,005 adults, one-in-four Britons and half of Catholics say they followed Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Britain "very closely" or "moderately closely."
But 80 per cent of Britons and 68 per cent of Catholics think the Catholic Church has done too little to assist the victims of sexual abuse. Fifty-nine per cent of Britons and 42 per cent of Catholics believe Pope Benedict XVI has handled the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church "badly" or "very badly."
The Pope's apology to sexual abuse victims was deemed sincere by 43 per cent of Britons and 69 per cent of Catholics.
In 2009, The Vatican acknowledged that "in the last fifty years somewhere between 1.5 per cent and five per cent of the Catholic clergy have been involved in sexual abuse cases." Only 26 per cent of Britons believe the incidence of sexual abuse is actually at this level, including 41 per cent of Catholics.
More than a third of Britons (37 per cent) believe the sexual abuse scandal is limited to a few priests in a few locations, while about a quarter (27 per cent) think the scandal is considerable and affects about half of the Catholic Church. One-in-five (21 per cent ) claim the sexual abuse scandal is widespread and affects practically the entire Catholic Church. More than half of Catholics (56 per cent) perceive the sexual abuse scandal as limited.
Four-in-five Britons (80 per cent) — and two-thirds of Catholics (68 per cent) — think the Catholic Church has done too little to assist the victims of sexual abuse. Only one-in-five Britons (20 per cent) believe Pope Benedict XVI has handled the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church "very well" or "well." Catholics are almost evenly divided on this question, with 39 per cent saying that the Pope has handled the scandal well, and 42 per cent claiming that he has performed badly.
Britons and Catholics agreed on some of the measures that the Catholic Church could take in order to assist the victims of sexual abuse.
More than 80 per cent of respondents agree with an acknowledgment from the Catholic Church hierarchy of failing to act, with the Catholic Church granting material support to help victims of sexual abuse, and with the Catholic Church providing the names of all priests who have been accused of committing sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities so they can be prosecuted.