Reputation Survey: The Catholic Church - Pope's apology falls flat

A new survey highlights the full extent of the damage that has been done to the reputation of the Catholic Church by the global child abuse scandal.

Allegations of child abuse have damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church in the eyes of 82 per cent of the public, PRWeek/OnePoll's research finds.

The survey of 3,000 respondents - 16 per cent of whom were Catholics - found that a total of 72 per cent felt the Pope's recent apology to victims of paedophile priests did not go far enough.

Interestingly, 48 per cent of Catholic respondents felt the Pope's apology was sufficient, but only 24 per cent of non-Catholics felt the same.

The latest batch of stories surrounding allegations of child abuse within the Church has clearly caused reputational damage. Nearly 35 per cent of Catholics questioned said the stories would prevent them from going into a Catholic church.

And 44 per cent of Catholic respondents said the stories would make a difference when it came to allowing their children to attend a Catholic church. For non-Catholics, the figure was 61 per cent.

The news that the Vatican is to set up an investigation team has not made a great deal of difference to the public's perception of the Church. Only 23 per cent of Catholics said the investigation team had made their opinion of the Church more positive. For non-Catholics this figure was 13 per cent. Overall, 51 per cent of Catholics and 72 per cent of non-Catholics said this made no difference.

As our graph shows, Ireland is the country in which the Catholic Church has been most damaged, according to our respondents. The second most damaged country is England, followed by Italy and the USA.

How I see it

John Mahony, CEO, ReputationInc

The Catholic Church broke all reputation risk management rules, as well as a few of its own ten commandments, in handling the crisis surrounding child abuse and the protection of paedophile priests.

The Pope's recent apology has done little to restore trust and confidence. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are demanding something more substantive.

The future reputation of the Catholic Church now rests on the commitment of its leaders to apply the basic principle of good reputation risk management by acting openly, swiftly and decisively to call to account those who have committed crimes in the Church's name.

Publicly and through the use of powerful physical symbols, it needs to beg for its faithful followers' forgiveness.

It should also show through a root and branch review that it is determined to ensure the safety of its congregation.

Catholics' commitment to attend church offers a ray of hope, but time is running out.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

- Would the recent child abuse stories stop you going into a Catholic church?*

Yes: 35%

No: 65%

- Would the stories make a difference to whether you would allow your children to attend a Catholic church?*

Yes: 44%

No: 56%

Reputation

82% say allegations of child abuse have damaged the Catholic Church's reputation in their eyes**

Handling

75% feel the Catholic Church has not handled child abuse accusations in a suitable way**

The pope's apology

72% say the Pope's recent apology to victims of paedophile priests has not changed their opinion of the Catholic Church**

investigations

69% say their perception of the Church has not been affected by the setting up of a Vatican investigation team**

* Percentage of Catholic respondents ** Percentage of all respondents

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