Polls: Church Will Improve, But Law Should Resign

A growing number of people disapprove of the Catholic church's handling of the child sex abuse scandal in the United States, but almost two-thirds say they expect improvements to emerge from meetings of church officials in the Vatican, a poll found.

Almost three-quarters of Americans think the Roman Catholic Church has done a poor job in resolving its dilemma, the ABC News-Washington Post poll released Monday said.

The poll said 64 percent think the Vatican meetings will result in meaningful improvements, while 30 percent did not. A main source of division at the meeting, involving Vatican officials and summoned American prelates, appears to be whether Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law should resign. He is accused of transferring priests who allegedly abused children without reporting the cases to secular authorities.

Four in five questioned said Law should resign, including three-fourths of Catholics, said the poll of 1,207 adults taken Friday through Sunday.

Three-quarters of Americans now disapprove of the church's handling of the issue, compared with two-thirds who felt that way in early March. Almost six in 10 disapprove strongly, compared with half who felt that way a month ago.

Four in five said the church should be required by law to report to police any accusation of sexual abuse by a priest. Two-thirds said any priest found to have sexually abused a child should be expelled from the priesthood.

A majority of Americans, 52 percent, said the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to handle the problem in the future. A majority of Catholics, 59 percent, said the church can be trusted.

A CBS News poll released during the weekend found that four in 10 Americans said charges of child sex abuse by priests have made them feel more negatively about the church. That poll of 1,119 adults was taken Monday through Thursday.

Two-thirds of Americans — and almost as many Catholics — in the CBS poll say they believe Pope John Paul II should have done more about the situation than he has. About half said the celibacy requirement for priests has increased the likelihood of child sex abuse, but almost that many think it has had no effect or even decreased it.

Both polls had error margins of plus or minus 3 percentage points, larger for subgroups like Catholics.