Poll Finds Condemnation for Church, Bishop

12 News [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded February 7, 2003

New accusations against former priests and the bishop could hurt the Catholic Church's annual appeal for donations and the bishop's standing in the community.

Our 12 News Exclusive Voice of the Valley survey shows nearly half of Catholics polled are less likely to give to the annual Catholic appeal.

43% say the controversy surrounding Bishop O'Brien will make them less likely to donate.

That includes 45% of men and 40% of women polled by Survey USA.

77% also believe the bishop should resign from his post because of the recent controversy over the Reverend John Picardi, Jr.

Rev. Picardi admitted to Boston church officials that had sexual relations with a man in his late 20's. But according to documents, he was allowed to resume parish work in New Jersey, where he was later accused of putting his hand on the buttocks of a fifth-grade girl. Eventually, Picardi moved to Arizona, where he's now serving as a priest at San Francisco de Asis in Flagstaff.

Pollsters from Survey USA first told respondents, "A Catholic priest in Flagstaff who previously served in Scottsdale has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation by the Diocese of Phoenix."

Then, they asked, "Do you think Bishop O'Brien should have allowed the priest accused of sexual misconduct to practice at a local church?" 77% of respondents said no. 13% said yes, and 10% were undecided.

When asked, "Based on what you know about Bishop O'Brien, do you think he should continue as bishop, or should he resign?" 76% say he should step down. 15% say he should continue. 9% are not sure.

Then, pollsters said, "The Maricopa County Attorney is investigating whether criminal charges can be filed against Bishop O'Brien for not releasing all church records relating to sex offenses by priests. The bishop has released some records which have been requested and claims he has released all pertinent records." When asked, "Do you think Bishop O'Brien should or should not be charged with a crime?" 63% say he should be, while 26% say no. 11% are not sure.

The poll taken Wed., Feb. 5, 2003, questioned 500 adults from the Phoenix metro area. It has a 4.5% margin of error.


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