THE BLOG
07/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Catholic Church: A Failed Institution?

It's a tough time to be an institution
in America.

That's the take-home message from
some recent polls conducted by my polling outfit, Zogby International.
In February, we released a
poll revealing the truly abysmal levels of confidence
Americans have in many historically significant institutions. While
Americans still have "a lot" or "some confidence" in small businesses
(83%), local banks (73%), and colleges and universities (60%),
government, corporations, the media, and Wall Street all receive a vote
of confidence from fewer than 50% of the public. Organized religion
finishes in the middle, as shown in the chart below, even with a quarter
of Americans saying they have "no confidence at all" in organized
religion.

Confidence inLotSome

Total
Little
No
Total
Not sure
Small Businesses

32%
51%
83%
14%
3%
16%

1%
Your Local Bank
24%
48%
73%
17%

7%
24%
3%
Colleges &
Universities

13%
46%

60%
24%
15%
40%
1%
Local Government

9%
48%
57%
28%
14%
42%

1%
Organized Religions
19%
34%
53%
21%

25%
46%
2%
Public Education
8%
37%

45%
31%
24%
54%
1%
Federal Government

8%
33%
41%
32%
27%
59%

1%
State Government
5%
36%
41%
37%

22%
59%
1%
Corporations
5%
32%

38%
33%
28%
61%
2%
National &
Regional Banks

3%
29%
33%
32%
34%
66%

1%
Wall Street
3%
28%
31%
31%

36%
68%
2%
Labor Unions
6%
25%

31%
22%
45%
66%
3%
News Media

3%
18%
21%
34%
44%
78%

1%

More sobering news for organized religion's
future as an American institution is found in
two polls released
this week
. The Catholic
Church, arguably the most important religious institution in the country,
finds itself embroiled in another wave of clerical sexual abuse allegations
and subsequent cover-ups by Catholic Church hierarchy. While this latest
round of cases concerns incidents that occurred primarily in Europe,
these two polls demonstrate that the repercussions from American Catholics
concerning their increasingly negative views of Catholic Church leaders
are continuing.

In our own poll, conducted among 705
American Catholics between April 30 and May 3, we found that job approval
of Pope Benedict XVI and American Bishops has reached historic lows.
Only 56% of American Catholics approve of the overall job that
Pope Benedict XVI doing, with an additional 45% approving of the overall
job that the American Catholic Bishops are doing. And when it
comes to handling the sexual abuse crisis, numbers are even lower. A
plurality of respondents gave Pope Benedict XVI (30%) and the American
Catholic Bishops (43%) a "poor" rating on their efforts to address
abuse within the church.

Do you approve or disapprove of the overall job that (a)Pope Benedict XVI (b) the American Catholic Bishops are doing?

Pope Benedict XVIAmerican Catholic Bishops
Strongly Approve24%8%

Somewhat
Approve

32%
37%
Total
Approve

56%
45%
Somewhat
Disapprove

17%
26%
Strongly
Disapprove

15%
17%
Total
Disapprove

32%

44%Not sure12%11%

Overall, how would you rate (a) Pope Benedict XVI (b) the American Catholic Bishops' efforts to address the sexual abuse situation within the Catholic Church?

Pope Benedict XVIAmerican Catholic Bishops
Excellent15%8%

Good
23%
12%
Positive
39%
20%
Fair

26%
29%
Poor
30%
43%
Negative
56%

72%Not sure6%8%

Some have called for Pope Benedict
XVI to resign as a result of the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Others believe he should not resign. Do you believe Pope Benedict XVI
should resign, or do you believe he should continue as Pope?

Overall
Pope Benedict XVI should continue as Pope64%
Pope Benedict XVI should resign16%

Don't know/not sure20%