PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) -- Churchgoing among Roman Catholics has dropped significantly as the crisis over priests who molest children has dragged on, according to a survey by the Gallup Organization.
The number of Catholics who said they had attended services in the last week fell to 41 percent, compared to 46 percent in the same period in 2001, according the poll released Dec. 18.
The rate of Catholic church attendance is now lower than that for Protestants, who have lagged behind Catholics in worship rate in the decades since Gallup has been measuring attendance. The latest poll found 47 percent of Protestants said they went to church in the last week.
The survey of just over 1,000 adults was conducted between Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.
Gallup said it could not make a direct link between the scandal and the decline in Catholic attendance, partly because Catholic churchgoing started to drop long before the crisis erupted in January.
However, there have been no similar declines in churchgoing among Protestants over the last year, indicating the scandal is partly to blame, the research organization said.
Gallup also found that four in 10 Catholics were less likely to donate to the church because of the clerical sex abuse crisis.
The scandal erupted when Massachusetts court documents released over the objection of the Boston Archdiocese showed church leaders had sheltered priests accused of sex abuse. Catholics nationwide demanded to know if their own bishops had done the same.
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