In response to our informal survey, conducted from Aug. 1 to Aug. 19, 62 percent of respondents told America that the current sexual abuse crisis has changed how they see the church.
“My faith in the church is being significantly challenged,” wrote Kathy Emrich of Voorhees, N.J. “My faith in Jesus Christ is unchanged. I pray for the church and the bishops. I truly want there to be zero tolerance for abusers in the church and zero tolerance for those that enable and condone abusive behaviors.”
Some people said that they had not been attending Mass since hearing recent revelations of sex abuse by priests and their cover-up by church leaders. Emily Baroz of New York, N.Y., wrote: “I am torn between a desire to receive the Eucharist and a strong aversion to supporting the institution of the church. For the first time, I have doubts that the church can really perform the miracle of the Eucharist. I have missed multiple Masses on purpose for the first time in my life.”
Others mentioned that they appreciated statements issued by Pope Francis. “The outpouring of support for the victims and the sorrow expressed by Pope Francis and other Catholics including priests has strengthened my faith. I am reading suggestions for positive change and ignoring homophobic accusations [against priests],” said Jennifer DeSena of Manhasset, N.Y.
The words of parish priests appeared to be especially meaningful, although only 19 percent of respondents said they had heard about the abuse crisis at Mass. “After Mass our pastor read a statement from our bishop and added his personal words of sorrow and pain, and he asked for our prayers. It was moving,” wrote Ms. DeSena.
“I have not heard any homilies about the current abuse crisis, but I wish our pastors would talk about it,” said Carol Goodson of Carrollton, Ga.