In Religious Leaders We Don’t Trust

Our opinion of the clergy is declining:

Clergy Honesty

Kate Tracy unpacks the numbers:

Americans are divided along party lines, as well as age. Gallup found more trust in clergy among Republicans (63%) than Democrats (40%). Similarly, clergy members appear more trustworthy to older Americans than millennials: half of Americans older than age 55 trust clergy members, while only 32 percent of millennials (18 to 34 years) report the same.

Erik Voeten parses the poll:

[T]he authority of clergy is intrinsically linked to how much we trust them. This is especially problematic for religions like Catholicism that rely strongly on the authoritativeness of clergy. That is why clergy in these religions invest so heavily in symbols that are difficult to imitate, such as celibacy. Celibacy tends to deter imposters.  It is also why the Catholic Church is rightly worried about the consequences of declining trust.

My own view is that this is the crisis Francis has rightly judged to be a mortal threat to the church’s reach and message. So he has attempted to portray a pastoral dimension in his own actions as bishop of Rome that recasts moral authority not as something imparted by tradition or office or vestments or privilege. His very way of life is the only moral authority he wants to claim.