Poll: Opinion Of Church Leaders Drops

SEX ABUSE SCANDAL graphic, with Roman Catholic priest seen in shadows, on black background
A new CBS News poll has found that confidence in Catholic Church leaders is falling as a result of their handling of the Church sex abuse scandals. And most believe that Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, should step down from office.

Scandal In The Catholic Church: Cardinal Law's Deposition

Even as depositions began in a civil case against the Boston Archdiocese for its handling of charges of sexual abuse of minors by a priest, the public's opinion of the way Catholic Church leaders have handled charges of sexual abuse by priests has continued to decline. Now, only about one in ten Americans, and just 14% of Catholics, think Church leaders have done a good job. Two weeks ago, positive assessments, while low, were about twice as high.

The number of Americans who think the U.S. leaders of the Catholic Church are doing a poor job is now 83%, compared to 61% who thought that about two weeks ago.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
U.S. Church Leaders' Handling Of Scandal

 All (Now)Catholics (Now)All (4/2)Catholics (4/2)
Good Job





 All (Now)Catholics (Now)All (4/2)Catholics (4/2)
Poor Job






Catholics are becoming increasingly critical of their church leaders as well. Nearly eight in 10 think church leaders have done a poor job handling the charges sexual abuse by priests. This number is up from 62% who felt that way two weeks ago.

Cardinal Bernard Law

Some of that drop in evaluation of church leaders may be due to the almost universal negative assessment of Cardinal Bernard Law and his deposition in a Massachusetts civil case. Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, began his deposition last week in a civil case against the Boston Archdiocese about the Archdiocese's response to charges of sexual abuse by a priest.

79% of Americans do not believe Cardinal Law is telling everything he knows about the situations involving a priest in his diocese sexually abusing children and teenagers. Only 5% say he is telling all he knows. Most Catholics also think the Cardinal is not telling all he knows.

Is Cardinal Law Telling All He Knows?

  • All
    Yes 5%
    No 79
  • Catholics
    Yes 10%
    No 75

    Now, 64% of the public thinks Cardinal Bernard Law should resign from his position as Archbishop of Boston, and as many Catholics agree.

    Should Cardinal Bernard Law Resign?

  • All
    Yes 64%
    No 19
  • Catholics
    Yes 64%
    No 24

    The public's opinion of Cardinal Law remains negative. Just 4% of Americans have a favorable opinion of him, while 35% view him unfavorably. Among Catholics, 6% view Cardinal Law favorably and almost four in 10 have an unfavorable view of him. Still, many people do not know much about him.

    This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 647 adults, interviewed by telephone May 13-14, 2002. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

    For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.