A Gallup poll published Wednesday found that 37 percent of U.S. Catholics have questioned whether they will remain part of the church this year amid recent news about sexual abuse of young people by priests.
That year, the Boston Globe uncovered widespread abuse and cover-ups by Catholic leaders, a scandal that soon spread across the country. Pope Francis himself has been criticized for reacting poorly to victims' concerns.
In February, Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood for abusing children and adult seminarians. The Vatican also announced that it planned to issue a new child protection policy for the Vatican City State that covers the Holy See's bureaucracy ― five years after it told the United Nations that such a policy was in the works.
Lapsed and irregularly practicing Catholics were most likely to reconsider their affiliation with the church, with 46 percent of Catholics who seldom or never attend mass and 37 percent of Catholics who attend almost weekly or monthly saying they've personally questioned whether they should remain. More than a quarter said they have little or no confidence in the bishops. In 2019, that number jumped to 22 percent.
Almost half, 46 per cent, of Catholics who seldom or never attend church have questioned whether they will remain.
"Many Catholics may consider leaving the church but ultimately decide not to do so, or they may have no intention of leaving but simply be responding to this question as a way to express their frustration with the way the church has handled the problem", he said.
Catholics who attend church each Sunday are the most confident in their church leaders, while those who don't attend are the most skeptical.
The NGO presented the 27-page document to Pope Francis at a summit on child abuse attended by the world's top Catholic bishops at the Vatican last month.
In Poland, Catholic priests enjoy high social prestige and victims of sexual abuse by clergy are often suspected by devout Poles of making up false accusations, even long after the offender in question has been jailed.
Gallup suggested that the current sex abuse crisis could have a lasting effect on the U.S. Catholic Church.
This graph illustrates Catholics' confidence in different church leaders.
More Americans have left Catholicism behind than any other religion in the USA, according to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center.
American Catholics have considerably less confidence in their bishops, Gallup found. For every convert to Catholicism, Pew said there are more than six former Catholics.
Overall, there are 6.5 former Catholics for every convert to the religion in the USA - a far higher ratio of losses than any other religion in the country, researchers found.