Catholics: Bishops should be accountable

Bishops who fail to report or remove priests who sexually abuse minors should be held accountable and removed themselves, 90% of U.S. Roman Catholics say in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.

Bishops approved a national policy June 14 that says they must report to law enforcement authorities all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and must remove abusers from active ministry.

Though the poll focuses on compliance with the new policy, previous polls have shown that overwhelming majorities of Catholics say bishops who have covered up or ignored abuse in the past also should be removed.

The policy does not require bishops to remove abusers from the priesthood and makes no mention of how to deal with bishops who cover up or ignore abuse.

An estimated 250 U.S. priests have resigned or been suspended since the sexual abuse crisis flared in January, but no supervising church official has been charged in a sexual abuse case.

Only the pope can dismiss a bishop. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating to head a national review board that will audit bishops' compliance with their new policy.

Keating said Friday that he doesn't plan to prosecute bishops. But if his board recommends action to a diocese, ''I think it will ignore us at its own peril because the lay community in that diocese is just as anxious as all of us to clean up this conduct.''

Other findings from the poll of 468 people who identified themselves as Catholics:

* 56% approve of the new policy; 31% disapprove.

* 63% say the policy will be effective for dealing with priests who abuse minors; 28% say it won't.

* 22% say that as a result of the scandal, they have questioned remaining in the Catholic Church.

* 33% of 157 respondents with children said they are concerned that their kids may be at risk of being sexually abused by a priest.

Fewer than half (45%) of 1,020 adults polled Friday through Sunday say they have a great deal of confidence in organized religion. That's the lowest percentage since Gallup started asking the question in 1973.

It was 60% last June.

The poll of Catholics has an error margin of +/--5 percentage points.