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U.S. Catholic Confidence in Clergy Drops Significantly

Confidence of U.S. Catholics in Roman Catholic clergy’s honesty and ethics declined to a record low in 2018, according to a Gallup report published Jan. 11.

In 2018, only 31 percent of respondents rated Catholic priests as having high or very high honesty and ethical standards.

Views of both Catholic and Protestant clergy have declined among all U.S. adults, but in 2017 both clergy groups received 49 percent as high / very high.

Ratings of Protestant clergy dropped 1 percent in 2018, while Catholic clergy declined 18 points.

“The latest drop in Catholics’ positive views of the clergy’s ethics, from 49 percent to 31 percent, is the second double-digit drop since 2004,” Gallup said. “Both declines were clearly associated with scandals in the Catholic Church even though the question about clergy does not specify a denomination.”

Other declines among U.S. Catholics were seen in questions regarding confidence in organized religion (down eight points to 44 percent in 2018) and weekly church attendance (down three points to 36 percent).

Despite these declines, Catholic affiliation / identification has remained stable (moving between 22 and 29 percent since 1948), contrary to a roughly 20 percent decline in Protestant affiliation / identification over the past decade.

The full report is available here.