Statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the Ipsos Reid Poll of 13 April 2010

Tuesday, April 13 2010

An Ipsos Reid opinion poll was released today on the issue of sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Church involving a sample of 1,000 Catholic and non-Catholic Canadians.

The results indicate there is serious concern on the part of Canadians and Catholics about the sexual abuse by members of the clergy. The Catholic Bishops of Canada share that concern. This is precisely why for many years Canadian Bishops have been working to implement and update diocesan protocols across Canada to prevent further cases of sexual abuse.

As in society in general, the Bishops too continue to grow in their understanding of this terrible problem. Canadian Bishops remain totally committed to a zero-tolerance policy and continue to improve their practices and protocols.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is very encouraged by a downward trend as shown in the survey. The youngest age group surveyed — 18 to 34 years old — was significantly less likely to say they personally knew someone who had been abused by a Catholic priest (4%). This indicates that the efforts by the Bishops of Canada have been largely successful.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is also encouraged by the fact that 80% of all Catholics understand that only a minor percentage of the clergy are pedophiles.

It is comforting to see that almost half of all Catholics indicate “their satisfaction with the Catholic Church in  routing out pedophiles”.  The Bishops of Canada are firmly resolved, with the help of experts from many fields, to continue to improve their preventive protocols, as they have since 1989 when committee work began on the recommendations later published in 1992 as part of From Pain to Hope.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops regrets that Ipsos-Reid did not question Catholics on their knowledge of what the Catholic Bishops of Canada have done to prevent cases of sexual abuse and to respond to concerns of sexual abuse.

A cursory reading of the results could lead one to conclude that the Catholic Church has a bigger problem with the issue of sexual abuse than any other segment of society. This is incorrect. Experts say that there is no data to support such a claim at all.

In an article written by Pat Wingert and published in Newsweek (8 April 2010), we read: “Most child abusers have one thing in common, and it’s not piety — it’s preexisting relationships with their victims. That includes priests and ministers and rabbis, of course, but also family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, youth-group volunteers, and doctors. According to federal studies, three quarters of abuse occurs at the hands of family members or others in the victim’s ‘circle of trust.’”

Useful link:

“Coverage of church sex abuse must be put in perspective” – Op-Ed by Most Reverend Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton; Edmonton Journal