Poll: Catholics Say Celibacy, Homosexuality Contributed to Sex Abuse


CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

More than one in two Catholics see both celibacy and homosexuality as at least minor factors in child sex abuse by some priests, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

Less than one in three believe celibacy and homosexuality are "major" factors in the abuse, however -- which means that, overall, a majority of Catholics don't see those two issues as a significant factor leading to abuse.

Thirty-one percent of Catholics called celibacy a major factor leading to sexual abuse, while another 28 percent called it a minor factor. Thirty-five percent said celibacy did not play a part in the abuse.

Thirty percent, meanwhile, said homosexuality played a major role. An additional 23 percent said it played a minor role. Thirty-seven percent said it was not a factor.

Catholics were less likely to see the practice of only allowing men to be priests as a contributing factor in sexual abuse. Just 17 percent said it was a major factor leading to abuse, while 27 percent said it was a minor factor.

The majority -- 53 percent -- said the men-only nature of the priesthood was not a factor.

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Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week are less likely than Catholics overall to think these factors contribute to child sex abuse by priests.

The survey was conducted between April 28th and May 2nd, and 412 Catholics were interviewed.

More results will be released at 6:30 pm Eastern Time.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1079 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 28-May 2, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

An oversample of Catholics was interviewed, for a total of 412 interviews. The results were then weighted in proportion to the adult population. The margin of error for the sample of Catholics is five points. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.