Abuse allegations in the Catholic Church are nothing new, but research shows that the latest round of allegations of abuse and cover-ups have actually harmed Christians’ view of the Catholic Church, and most notably, of the Pope.
According to a Pew Research Center survey published last week, evangelicals’ approval of the current, once-popular Pope has dropped more than twice as much as fellow Catholics’ approval during the past year. This past January, 52 percent of evangelicals surveyed gave the Pope favorable ratings, whereas now he earned just a non-impressive 32 percent favorable rating from evangelicals last month. These results represent the most dramatic decline among current religious groups.
In addition to receiving low ratings from evangelicals, Pope Francis has lost favor with U.S. Catholics as well as those identified as “unaffiliated.” He has the lowest approval rating since taking the papacy in 2013, and is now being rated no more favorably than his notably unsympathetic predecessor, Pope Benedict.
Reason for the Decline
The Pope’s decline in favor is most notable because, at one point, he appeared to actually earn the respect of evangelicals and those “unaffiliated” with the Catholic Church. Where non-Catholics have historically expressed ambivalence or even general negativity toward the Catholic Church, many seemed to feel differently about the Jesuit from Buenos Aires who didn’t seem to take his cues from a script.
Early in his papacy, the Pope called for increased prayer and Bible reading from the most faithful, and he famously appealed to evangelicals and Catholics alike to follow his example of humility and compassion. This message resonated with people, especially at a time of increased tension and verbal mudslinging worldwide.
In 2015, 7 out of 10 Americans viewed Pope Francis as a positive role model. Even if they didn’t espouse his religious convictions, they felt like his warm and gracious demeanor was a good thing for the world. The new Pew Research Center survey, however, shows that only half of the U.S. public still views the Pope in positive ways.
As decades of clergy abuse continue to come to light, the Pope is facing his own personal crisis as he loses the respect of evangelicals and Catholics alike.
Scandal in the Church
As allegations continue to surface, some Catholics believe that the verbal attacks on the Pope are a direct result of his being sympathetic—and even welcoming—of the gay community. Conservative Catholics have been concerned for some time that the Pope has taken too liberal a stand on homosexuality.
The Pope initially appeared dismissive of the sexual abuse allegations against the Church, even inviting one of the accused bishops to celebrate Mass publicly alongside him. When confronted about his decision to dismiss the claims, the Pope defended the bishop, saying he hadn’t seen a single piece of evidence against the man in question.
At a time when victims of abuse are being a huge platform to speak and be heard, this broad dismissal of the allegations disappointed a watching world. Catholics in the U.S. remain so unsettled by the never-ending flood of allegations—including abuse and cover-ups all over the country—that critics are now calling for the Pope to resign.
In August, an 11-page letter was written and submitted by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a notably conservative Catholic, who accused the Pope of complicity in covering up allegations of abuse. The letter unapologetically claimed that the Pope knew about and chose not to address allegations. In the letter he wrote, “… the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy.”
He then called for Pope Francis to resign due to his negligence.
The Pope’s Response
While the Pope shows no signs of nearing a resignation, he has taken some steps to quell the public concern. Most notably, he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, after public allegations of sexual abuse over decades. He has also appeared to take more seriously the nature of the allegations in general, even penning and releasing a letter in August with these words—
“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
And this abandonment will directly impact the legacy of the Pope and the Catholic Church.
~ Christian Patriot Daily