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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Scores of US priests forced out
Cardinal James Stafford, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory at a Vatican press conference
Public confidence in the US Church has slumped
At least 176 US Catholic priests have been moved from their posts since the abuse scandal unfolded in the country, a study has found.

US cardinals hearing Pope's message
Critics say proposals from the meeting between the Pope and US cardinals were insufficient

The Associated Press news agency, which conducted the survey, said the number might be higher, as many dioceses were reluctant to reveal how many clergy they had suspended.

The findings come as another recent nationwide poll found that America's faith in the Catholic Church had plummeted since the scandal, with only half the population saying they had a positive view of the Church.

A total of 260 clergymen have had their details handed over to police since the scandal broke four months ago, the AP study also found.

The numbers show the scale of the scandal has reached epic proportions.

AP reported that in the states of Massachussetts and Maine alone, 550 people have made allegations against priests, according to prosecutors and private lawyers.

Lack of coherence

States are shown to have different methods of dealing with the problem within their dioceses, from the handing over of information to police to a review of the state diocese's policies.

US public opinion
52% favourable opinion of US Catholic Church, 39% disagree
56% believe abuse by US Catholic priests widespread, 35% disagree
Results from Gallup poll of 1,009 adults between April 22-24 with margin error +/- 3 %
It was this apparent lack of coherence that a meeting last week in Rome between the Pope and US cardinals attempted to rectify, although it was criticised for not explicitly condoning the sacking of paedophile priests.

The number of priests alleged to have abused minors is less than 1% of the 46,075 currently ministering in the US, and many of the accusations date back to the 1970s or even earlier.

Church leaders claimed in the AP review that this is proof their efforts to prevent the molestation of children by priests is working.

However, David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said this was merely because victims did not immediately come forward after abuse occurs.

"The unfortunate psychological reality is that it takes years, sometimes decades, for victims to realise they've been hurt," he said.

"You don't see five-year-olds ... walking into the chancery to disclose abuse by priests."

Public opinion

Only 52% of the population said they still had a favourable view of the Church, while 39% did not, according to a survey conducted by Gallup polling organisation.

The findings are a stark contrast to a similar poll conducted two years ago in which two thirds of the US population had a favourable opinion, French news agency AFP reported.

The poll was conducted while the meeting in Rome between Pope John Paul II and several US cardinals was taking place.

See also:

26 Apr 02 | Americas
US priest helped children take drugs
25 Apr 02 | Americas
US press: Vatican must go further
25 Apr 02 | Europe
Paedophile priests face expulsion
24 Apr 02 | Americas
Analysis: US cardinals get message
22 Apr 02 | Americas
US Catholics worry for future
16 Apr 02 | Americas
US cardinal welcomes Pope talks
23 Apr 02 | Americas
US press: Senior cardinal 'to go'
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