Priests' abuse scandal: New details emerge in US

Parishioners celebrating the Feast of the Assumption at St Paul's Cathedral in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. A grand jury report on Tuesday described the abuse of more than 1,000 young people by hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was the site
Parishioners celebrating the Feast of the Assumption at St Paul's Cathedral in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. A grand jury report on Tuesday described the abuse of more than 1,000 young people by hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was the site of some of the most ghastly acts.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PITTSBURGH • Mr John Cabon stood quietly and crossed himself before a statue of the Virgin Mary outside St Paul's, the mother church of the Pittsburgh diocese.

"I keep the faith," said Mr Cabon, 64, on the way to noon mass.

His sister, he said, left the faith when explosive revelations of sexual abuse rocked the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.

He refused. "You don't really believe everything, you know."

But inside the church, there was no escaping the abuse scandal, which has entered a new chapter after monstrous revelations were released in a grand jury report on Tuesday, describing the abuse of more than 1,000 young people at the hands of hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania.

The priest at St Paul's spoke of "moral failure" by church leaders, "horrendous and evil acts", and the "grief, sadness, feelings of betrayal, even anger" that followed.

In Pittsburgh - site of some of the most ghastly acts in the report - and in dioceses around the country, Catholics grappled with the report's findings. Some had stayed with the church after explosive revelations of priest abuse over a decade ago, which implicated leaders but prompted promises by the church hierarchy of atonement.

And now came descriptions of priests engaged in rape and child pornography for decades, using "whips, violence and sadism", and in one case, joining together in a secret cabal of abusers. Even more painful, the report contained accounts of bishops who had actively defended the accused priests.

"I think, right now, it's really hard to be a Catholic," said Mr John Gehring, the Catholic programme director of Faith in Public Life, a national network of faith leaders.

"Everywhere you look, things seem to be falling apart."

The fallout is not limited to Pennsylvania. In Nebraska's diocese of Lincoln, the bishop apologised for his handling of misconduct allegations against priests.

A Catholic school in Baltimore will no longer be named after cardinal William Keeler, who died last year and was once seen as a champion for sexual abuse victims, but who was singled out in the grand jury report for failing to take action against more than one priest accused of abuse.

Wednesday was also the day that Catholics celebrated the assumption of Mary into heaven. The dissonance was not lost on people.

"Here we are, on the Feast of the Assumption, and Jesus is looking at his mother and saying, 'Look what they have done to my church,'" said Ms Jessica Bede, a parishioner of Our Lady of Peace Church in Manhattan, which was shuttered in a round of church closings. "They have chewed it up."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'Priests' abuse scandal: New details emerge in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe