Child Abuse and the Catholic Church

There have already been a couple of BRIN news posts reporting British public attitudes to the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and alleged cover-ups thereof. ‘Pope Benedict on the Back Foot’ (20 April) featured a YouGov poll undertaken on 12-14 April. ‘Ongoing Public Relations Problems for the Vatican’ (30 May) dealt with a Harris Interactive survey from 27 April to 4 May.

Now, buried among the pre-general election political opinion polls conducted by Populus for The Times, BRIN has unearthed three further questions touching on the abuse issue. They were put to a half-sample (of 742 adult Britons aged 18 and over) interviewed by telephone on 6 April 2010. The data tabulations, including breaks by demographics, will be found on pages 62-65 of the following document:—April-2010.pdf

Asked whether the Catholic Church had responded appropriately to the evidence of abuse by some priests, 65% said that it had not, compared with just 20% who thought that it had handled the matter adequately. The number holding a negative view rose to 73% among those aged 45-64 and the AB social group (upper, professional and higher managerial classes) and to 76% for Liberal Democrats.

78% agreed that the Catholic Church should give a fuller and clearer apology to the children who were abused, against 14% who disagreed. Most in favour of a better apology were Scots (81%), the over-65s (82%), the ABs (83%) and Liberal Democrats (89%). 

Still more, 87%, were convinced that any senior figures in the Church who knew about the abuse of children by priests and helped to cover it up should resign. Only 6% disagreed. A figure of 90% was recorded for the 18-24s, the 45-54s and Midlanders, with 95% for Liberal Democrats.

Although none of the Populus questions specifically enmeshed the Pope, in striking contrast to the YouGov and Harris polls, there can be little doubt that next month’s papal visit to Britain will be overshadowed by the abuse scandal to some extent.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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