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On ethics, clergy get middling grade

What do nurses, soldiers, pharmacists, elementary school teachers, doctors and police officers have in common? Americans say they are all more ethical and honest than members of the clergy, according to a Gallup survey.

Slightly more than half of Ameri­cans (53 percent) rate the moral values of priests, ministers and other clerics as "very high" or "high," according to a random sample of 1,037 adults surveyed in mid-November.

That percentage is a slight bump up from 2009, when only 50 percent of Americans said men and women of the cloth are ethical paragons—the lowest number in Gallup's 32 years of measuring professional reputations. Before the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in 2002, two-thirds of Americans had regularly approved of ministers' morals.

"Stability is generally the norm in Americans' ratings of the honesty and ethics of professions, but Americans' opinions do shift in response to real-world events, mostly scandals, that reflect poorly on a profession," said Gallup in comments released with the study December 3.

A third of Americans this year said the clergy's morals are "average" and 8 percent rated them "poor," according to the survey.

Bringing up the bottom of the professional ethics list were lobbyists, car salesmen and members of Congress.  —RNS

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