When Gallup released the results of its survey of which professionsAmericans consider the most ethical, the clergy was not No. 1. Thatwent to nurses. Nor was clergy in the top five, either, withveterinarians and engineers trumping them. No, clergy ranked eighthmost ethical, and that’s only because Gallup didn’t includefirefighters, grade-school teachers and military officers in thisyear’s survey—if it had, priests and rabbis would have been booted fromthe top 10.
So, what happened here?
“Clergy are just held to a higher standard,” said Mary Blair-Loy, aprofessor at UCSD and Episcopal minister. “So we have a much higherledge to fall from.”
And it has been a fall. In 1977, the poll’s second year, clergytopped the list, a position they held well into the ’80s. But the groupwas surpassed by pharmacists in 1988, and it’s been all slipperydownhill slope from there.
Blair-Loy believes the slide was precipitated by media attention onclergy brought about by the sexual-abuse scandals in the CatholicChurch, the drugs-and-sex escapades of Ted Haggard of the New LifeChurch, and the financial improprieties cropping up in small churchesaround the nation. Well, that’s probably right. Hmm. Maybe the slippageisn’t surprising after all.
Then again, the priests, rabbis, ministers and imams of the country canat least know they’re sitting well above used-car salesmen, lawyersand, lest we be accused of stone-tossing from a glass house,journalists.