From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Questionnaire: statistics and analysis

the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 27, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

More than 2,400 parishioners in the Spokane Diocese answered Bishop William Skylstad’s questionnaire regarding the Diocese’s Plan for addressing the issues of sexual abuse, with over 84 percent saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied with his plan for addressing sexual abuse problems in the Spokane diocese.

“While these independently tallied results are heartwarming, we know a lot of work remains to be done,” said Bishop Skylstad. “The results also showed that while most parishioners are pleased with and confident in the plan, many of those who are not are very, very disgruntled with the church. We continue to not only reach out to those parishioners, but also to listen to their concerns and strong opinions.”

The surveys, which were received from almost every parish in the diocese and represent about 10 percent of the Catholic households in the diocese, posed five questions, two of which asked parishioners specifically rate the plan and its effectiveness. Those questions and the results were:

• How satisfied are you with the Bishop’s Plan for addressing sexual abuse problems in the Spokane Diocese?
Very Dissatisfied: 4.6 percent
Dissatisfied: 3.4 percent
Neither Satisfied Nor Dissatisfied: 7.7 percent
Satisfied: 47.5 percent
Very Satisfied: 36.8 percent

• If the plan is effectively implemented in the Spokane Diocese, how likely is it that your trust and confidence in the Church will be significantly increased?
Not At All Likely: 2.5 percent
Not Very Likely: 3.9 percent
Neither Likely Nor Unlikely: 16.8 percent
Likely: 37.4 percent
Very Likely: 39.4 percent

Combined, 8 percent of the respondents are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the plan, while 84.3 percent are satisfied or very satisfied. Similarly, 6.4 percent believe it is not very or not at all likely to increase their trust and confidence in the Church, while 76.8 percent believe the plan is likely or very likely to increase their trust and confidence. Of note is the fact that more than one quarter of those who responded that the plan is neither likely nor unlikely to increase their trust and confidence specifically wrote in the margins that is because their trust and confidence in the Church has not wavered (though their trust and confidence in certain individuals had).

The questionnaires were tallied and analyzed by Eric Williams, an independent consultant with Environomics.

The other questions asked parishioners what they like least and liked most about the Plan, and their suggestions for improving it. Literally thousands of individual statements were made within these three categories; put another way, more than half the respondents made specific comments and suggestions, and many made multiple comments and suggestions, said Williams.

He said that two aspects of Bishop Skylstad’s plan received the most mention as features parishioners like most. They were the diocese’s “zero tolerance” policy of sexual abuse, and the Diocesan Review Board. The board is a group of lay people, including some who aren’t Catholic, who review allegations of sexual abuse, independent of the bishop.

While zero tolerance and the review board were the features parishioners like by a considerable margin, the two aspects of the bishop’s plan that they like least fall into broader categories, Williams said. “The parishioners are mentally wrestling with those things we as Americans deal with on a regular basis. They have absolutely no tolerance for sexual abuse. They want abuse prevented, and when it does occur, they want it dealt with swiftly and sternly. At the same time, they express great trepidation of priests being falsely accused and there not being adequate safeguards to protect the rights of the accused or to re-establish their good name if they’re proven innocent.”

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