Survey finds six out of 10 Catholics give him a fair or poor rating, while just three out of 10 say his handling of abuse has been excellent or good
Confidence in Pope Franciss handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic church this year has fallen sharply among the faithful in the US, a new survey shows.
Francis, once seen as a charismatic and popular leader who drew huge crowds of Catholics and non-Catholics when he visited the US in September 2015, has also seen his personal ratings plummet.
More than a third of Catholics now say the pope is doing a poor job on the issue of sexual abuse three times the number who delivered the same verdict in 2015, according to research by the Pew Research Center.
Overall, six out of 10 Catholics give him a fair or poor rating, while just three out of 10 say his handling of abuse has been excellent or good.
Even among those who say they attend mass weekly, the share giving Francis positive marks for his handling of the crisis has halved since 2015, down to 34% compared to 67% three years ago.
The proportion of Catholics who have a generally favourable opinion of Francis has fallen by 12 points this year, down to roughly seven in 10. Only three in 10 say they have a very favourable view of the pope.
Among the US public as a whole, including non-Catholics, about half hold a favourable view of Francis the lowest rating he has received in Pew surveys since he was elected pope in 2013. His ratings are now on a par with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis has struggled to get on top of a wave of sexual abuse scandals that have broken into the open this year, not only in the US but also in Australia, Chile, Germany and the Netherlands.
In the US, a grand jury report into clerical abuse in Pennsylvania, released in August, found that 300 priests had harmed more than 1,000 children over several decades. The abuse was compounded by collusion and concealment by senior church figures and attempts to silence and intimidate survivors.
Francis made no comment for almost a week, but then issued an unprecedented letter to the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics that publicly acknowledged the churchs failures in dealing with clerical sexual abuse.
Published in seven languages, the letter spoke of sorrow and shame and said: Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.
But it failed to propose any specific measures or sanctions against bishops who had been found to cover up abuse or had omitted to report it to police or other authorities.
The pope has also been accused of failing to act on abuse by two people who resigned in protest from a papal commission set up by the Vatican to make recommendations on the churchs role in child protection. One, Marie Collins, an abuse survivor from Ireland, said the issue was handled with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.
On a trip to Ireland in August, survivors criticised the pope for offering sympathetic words but no concrete actions.
Opponents of Pope Francis within the Vatican and the church have seized on his missteps to attack him. A retired Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigan, released an incendiary 11-page letter claiming Francis had known of abuse allegations against a high-ranking church figure from 2013, but failed to take action.
Vigans claims had the backing of the Vaticans old guard, which bitterly resents Franciss efforts to root out what it views as centuries of clerical tradition and he sees as hypocrisy and narcissism.
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