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Is the Sex Abuse Crisis in the Church
Curtailing Contributions?



According to a recent national study there is a possible significant drop-off in what Catholic contribute to the Church because of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

One-quarter of church-going Catholics say they will reduce their giving if the money were used to pay clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

The crisis is also creating calls for greater financial accountability by bishops, reports the study.

The study was sponsored by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, [FADICA], a Washington-based federation of private organizations and donors supporting Catholic activities, and done with The Gallup Organization and Charles Zech, Villanova University economics professor.

55% fear that the costs of sex abuse settlements will decrease the church's ability to fulfill its mission.

64% report bishops have done a "bad job" in dealing with clergy sex abuse of minors.

18% of church-going Catholics have stopped supporting national collections

13% have stopped contributing to diocesan collections

6% have stopped giving to their parish.

26% say they would reduce their giving to diocesan and national collections if the funds would be used for lawsuits

22% say they would lower their parish giving if the money went to pay for lawsuits.

33 percent favor selling church property rather than other alternatives to pay for sex abuse bills.

80% of Catholics have not changed their giving patterns on the parish, diocesan and national levels.

Zech reports that "Those in the pew continue to support the church because they do not want to harm its charitable mission,"

65% say the church there is need for more church financial accountability.

79% report that each diocese should give a full accounting of costs involved in clergy sex abuse cases.

68% favor annual public audits of church finances at all levels.

48% favor providing parishioners with an alternative, nondiocesan means of contributing to Catholic charitable causes.

56% favor parishioner input on parish budgets

59% favored parishioner input on diocesan budgets.

It might be further asked whether important followup questions would better help to understand how Catholics came to the conclusions they have reached in this study. For example, how much influence did newspaper articles alone have on their opinion? Did they seek out any other sources of information to help them make a judgement? Where might these additional resources be found? Did they as a parish sit down and discuss the matter of parish finances being used to finance diocesan cases of sexual abuse? What is being done presently to create greater accountability, and if nothing is being done, what should be done? Would greater accountability increase Catholic giving, evenif there were not scandals? Do we need a new age of accountablitiy in which accounting needs to be more complete and accompanied by documented success stories due to parish giving?

[These comments are by Fr. Gene Hemrick]