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1 in 4 Catholics giving less due to clergy sex abuse, Pew survey finds

More than a quarter of U.S. Catholics say they went to Mass less often and reduced their giving to a parish or diocese due to reports of clergy sex abuse and misconduct in the Catholic Church, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday.

Weekly Mass attendees were less likely than others to say that their attendance at Mass had dipped or that they had reduced their donations, the survey found.

The Buffalo News reported earlier this month that Buffalo Diocese parish collections were down last fall by an average of 7.5 percent at a variety of parishes surveyed by the diocese.

Nearly seven out of 10 Catholics surveyed by the Pew Research Center also said they think that abuse by clergy is an “ongoing problem,” while 24 percent said reports of abuse reflect “things that happened in the past and mostly don’t happen anymore.”

Catholics were more likely than other religious groups to think sexual abuse in the church is a thing of the past, according to the survey.

The release of the Pew study coincided with the start of the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Catholic bishops from across the country, including Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Buffalo Diocese, are meeting in Baltimore this week to discuss measures aimed at making themselves more accountable in handling clergy sex abuse claims.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Seven of 10 U.S. Catholics think sexual abuse of children is equally as common among clergy and other religious leaders compared with other adults who work with children.
  • Among regular attendees of church services, Catholics were more likely than other groups to have heard their clergy speak out in support of victims of sex abuse. However, nearly six of 10 Catholics said they had not heard clergy speak out about sexual harassment, assault or abuse.

The Pew report was based on web surveys of 6,364 respondents between March 18 and April 1.

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