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Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

The Catholic Church’s sex scandal is crushing one of the world’s most powerful institutions. The numbers are brutal and speak to rapid, spreading decline: In the U.S., 6,721 priests were reported to U.S. bishops between 1950 and 2016, and 18,565 victims have come forward, according to Bishop Accountability, an advocacy group.

The bigger picture: Pope Francis arrives today in Ireland, a country whose once-unquestioned Catholic identity is now fading — a long-term trend in much of the West, which abuse scandals threaten to accelerate. The Church’s image among people under 30 has never been worse, meaning the next generation of priests — and parishioners — simply may not be there.

848 priests around the world were defrocked by the Vatican for rape or molestation of children between 2004 and 2014, per CBS. More than 2,500 were handed lesser penalties.

What we're watching...

These scandals are hitting a Church that is already struggling with declining membership in nearly every country across Europe and the Americas.

  • A Pew survey found that, as of 2015, while 32% of Americans were raised Catholic, just 21% remained so. That drop off is more than twice the rate at which Americans left Protestantism. Church attendance also fell sharply.
  • Fewer young people consider themselves Catholic, according to Pew, which found that the median age for U.S. Catholics is 49, compared to 40 for members of other religions and 36 for America as a whole.

Globally, the numbers are less bleak. Membership in the Church has held steady at around 18% of the global population for decades, according to official Church data, with growth in Africa making up for declines elsewhere.

  • While the number of priests in the U.S. has fallen steadily, global numbers have not because, according to a 2015 Vatican report, Africa “does not yet seem to be affected by the crisis in vocations.”
  • It’s not just that people are becoming less religious. In Brazil, for example, Protestantism has grown rapidly as Catholicism has become less dominant. In much of the world, the number of Muslims is climbing.

Go deeper

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California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

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California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.