Support for Pope Francis in the United States has taken a nosedive after mounting allegations of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, according to a new poll.
The pope, who in December 2013 scored a 72 percent approval rating, was down to 48 percent in the new poll, CNN reported. His popularity had been near 67 percent as recently as January 2017.
Among American Catholics, the pope’s support plummeted from 83 percent in January 2017 to 63 percent in the new poll.
The poll was conducted last week, days after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò called upon the pope to resign and accused him of covering up abuse, the New York Post reported.
Viganò, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States, said he told Francis in 2013 that disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was then archbishop of Washington, D.C., was “a serial predator.” McCarrick quit the College of Cardinals after he was accused of abusing seminarians and at least one child.
Last week, Francis met with American bishops. Although Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the meeting “a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange,” others were not so sure, The Atlantic reported.
“I worry that the cardinals are coming home empty-handed. They were listened to, but it’s not clear they’re going to have support from the Vatican in terms of handling the investigation into the McCarrick situation,” said Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum.
“The concern doesn’t go away because our cardinals had a nice listening session with Pope Francis. People want action,” she said.
“The pope’s silence is deafening,” Hasson said, according to CNS.
Francis has summoned bishops to a February meeting to address the crisis, in which ever-increasing numbers of sexual abuse cases are being discovered. In many cases, bishops and others in the church covered up abuse by parish priests. The scandal has been unfolding for more than 15 years.
A recent study from Germany revealed that more than 3,600 children were sexually abused by 1,670 clergy members since 1948. Another study from Pennsylvania reported that more than 1,000 children had been abused by clergy members in the state, The New York Times reported.
On Tuesday, the pope offered remarks that were interpreted as blaming Satan for uncovering the scandal.
“In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people,” the pope said during a Tuesday homily, the Boston Herald reported.
Catholics have said they want the church to fix the problem, USA Today reported.
“The church needs to clean up its act, but if a man like Pope Francis cannot do it, I don’t know who can,” said Vivian Hanson, 49, of Jacksonville, Florida.
Kathy Olberding of Cincinnati said it is time the denials ended.
“People are outraged at all these terrible stories of sex abuse,” she said. “I wish the stories weren’t true, but they are, and someone has to be held responsible. The pope is in charge, and so the question is whether he can fix it or whether it will have to be someone else.”
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