Source: Huffington Post
By Carol Kuruvilla
Americans’ confidence in religious leaders’ honesty and ethical standards has been tanking in recent years.
The level of trust Americans have in clergy members has dropped to a record low, a recent Gallup survey suggests.
The polling organization found that only 37 percent of 1,025 respondents had a “very high” or “high” opinion of the honesty and ethical standards of clergy, according to a report published on Thursday. Forty-three percent rated clergy’s honesty and ethics as “average,” while 15 percent had low or very low opinions.
The 37 percent positive rating is the lowest Gallup has recorded for clergy since it began examining views about religious leaders’ ethical standards in 1977.
Currently, only 31 percent of Catholics and 48 percent of Protestants rate the clergy positively, according to Gallup.
John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania,
told HuffPost he believes the prominence of the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal this year may be contributing to a lack of trust in the clergy.
In July, Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, resigned from the church’s College of Cardinals amid allegations that he had sexually abused children and adult seminarians over decades. And in August, a Pennsylvania grand jury identified 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims in a landmark report into sexual abuse in the state. The report has inspired other attorneys general across the U.S. to start similar investigations into the cover-up of sexual abuse in Roman Catholic dioceses.
“Men and women turn toward clergy in some of the most intimate moments of their lives,” Fea told HuffPost in an email. “The kinds of scandals and authoritarian leadership that we saw this year among the clergy undermines the trust we place in them.”