Half of active Catholic parishioners say their opinion of senior Church leaders has been damaged by the revelations aired at the recent child abuse royal commission. Source: The Age.
The figures from the National Church Life Survey, obtained by Fairfax Media, show the “bond of trust between the laity and their bishops has been severely impaired,” says Neil Ormerod of the Australian Catholic University.
Asked whether sexual abuse by clergy had damaged their confidence in “Church authorities”, 48 per cent of churchgoing Catholics either agreed or strongly agreed, while 34 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Professor Ormerod says most Catholics would interpret “Church authorities” as bishops and senior Church officials.
Professor Ormerod said the findings of the major five-yearly survey showed a “serious erosion of trust in the hierarchical leadership of the church’’.
The survey, conducted in the shadow of the royal commission in 2016, found the “agreed/strongly agreed’’ figure was higher among older parishioners (aged 50-plus), who make up the majority of churchgoers. More than half regular churchgoers are now aged over 60.
The survey, funded by 20 Christian denominations including the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches, covers a wide range of subjects and has been conducted every five years since 1991.
It is the largest longitudinal study of church life in the world, involving 3000 local churches. Questions about the royal commission were part of smaller but targeted sample survey.
In the survey, one class of religious figure escaped strong criticism – priests are still relatively well regarded by their parishioners.
Asked if their “respect for clergy” had greatly declined as a result of the abuse offences, 29 per cent of Catholics parishioners agreed or strongly agreed. About 70 per cent, on the other hand, were neutral or disagreed or strongly disagreed that their image of priests had been substantially damaged.
Professor Ormerod says this indicated continued respect for local parish priests.