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Pope Francis’ approval rating plummets among American Catholics in response to sex abuse crisis

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MIAMI, Florida, November 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― A growing number of Catholics are losing faith that Pope Francis is doing a good job handling the clerical sex abuse crisis.

According to the most recent poll carried out by the Pew Research Center, 36 percent of Catholic adults believe that the pontiff is doing a “poor” job in his response to the ongoing scandal.

This is triple what it was in 2015, when 54 percent of Americans thought Francis was doing a good or excellent job handing the abuse crisis.

In an interview with Crux magazine, Alan Cooperman, director of the Pew Research Center, said the question they have been asking American Catholics is “What kind of job do you think the pope is doing in addressing the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? Do you think he’s doing an excellent job, you think he’s doing a good job, only a fair job or a poor job?”

In 2014, 54 percent of Catholics polled thought Francis was doing a “good” or “excellent” job, Cooperman said.

“Today it’s down to just 3 in 10, 30 percent of U.S. Catholics, giving him a good or excellent, dropping 24 points in four years, 14 points just from the beginning of 2018,” he explained.

“On the reverse side of the coin, the number of Catholics who think the pope is doing a poor job has tripled from what it was in 2015, up to 36 percent of American Catholics,” he added.

Cooper told Crux that Catholics in general “still have a favorable attitude” toward Francis, “so they’re compartmentalizing.”

Nevertheless, Francis’ overall approval rating is dropping. In January 2018, only 9 percent of American Catholics had an overall unfavorable view of the the pope, but as of September, 20 percent of Catholics judged him unfavorably.

In terms of his predecessors, he is no longer comparing well to either St. John Paul II or the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“Overall, at the height of his favorability, John Paul II had much higher ratings than either Benedict or Francis,” Cooperman said. “Francis, I think, is somewhere in the middle. For a while, he had a far higher favorability than Benedict, but I think that now he’s dropped down to Benedict’s level and even below it.”

The Pew Research Center director noted also that approval and disapproval of Francis can now be traced along partisan lines.

“In 2013, when he was elected, there was basically no difference in the favorability of Francis between Catholic Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Overwhelmingly, nine out of 10 gave the pope positive readings,” Cooperman recalled.

“Today, there’s a significant political partisanship involved,” he revealed. “(Francis is) still viewed positively by 83 percent of Democrats, but only 61 (percent) of Catholic Republicans.”

Another poll conducted in September showed that Pope Francis’ approval rating had plummeted. According to a survey sponsored by CNN, less than half of all Americans (48 percent) had a favorable view of Pope Francis, down from 66 percent in 2017 and 72 percent during the early days of his pontificate.

The CNN poll showed also that the pontiff experienced a similar drop in popularity among Catholics in the United States, falling from 83 percent in 2013 and 2017 to 63 percent.

Steve Skojec, editor of the the Catholic OnePeterFive blog, told LifeSiteNews that he thinks public sentiment is shifting against Pope Francis because so many of his errors have risen “out of niche publications and into the public consciousness.”

“It’s been one PR disaster after another,” he said. “It would have sunk any other pope.”

Regina Magazine editor Beverly Stevens concurs that alternative media have played a role. She told LifeSiteNews that Americans are only now becoming aware of “just how broad and deep and, in fact, criminal the culture of abuse (in the Catholic Church) is.”

“This awareness is coming from social media and local coverage as most MSM outlets are still allergic to the story,” she said. “But I believe we will look back in a year and see that Baltimore was the turning point.”

At the Silence Ends Now rally outside this week’s USCCB rally, Stevens saw reporters’ faces change as they covered the protest.

“They were expecting to find skinheads and Nazis,” she said. “They found normal Catholics. And I watched their faces when they heard (McCarrick victim) James’ testimony. They looked stunned.”

Stevens said also that stories like Pope Francis forbidding the USCCB from voting on possible responses to sexual abuse did not “play well with the general public.”

“Ultimately, everything goes back to Francis, whose papacy has been enthusiastically supported by the MSM,” she added. “Problematically for him, there are (also) journalists who care about sex abuse, as we saw with Chile.”  

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