A Pennsylvania Priest Responds To Sex Abuse Report At Saturday evening Mass in Pennsylvania, one Catholic priest took the opportunity to address from the pulpit accusations of massive clergy sexual abuse.
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A Pennsylvania Priest Responds To Sex Abuse Report

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A Pennsylvania Priest Responds To Sex Abuse Report

A Pennsylvania Priest Responds To Sex Abuse Report

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Across Pennsylvania, Catholic churches are celebrating Mass this weekend for the first time since a devastating report. In that report, the state attorney general detailed the sexual abuse of minors by hundreds of priests. Lucy Perkins of member station WESA in Pittsburgh went to one church to listen to what Catholics there are saying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUCY PERKINS, BYLINE: All the pews in St. Ursula's Parish outside of Pittsburgh were full for Saturday evening Mass. The service itself was nothing out of the ordinary. There was no mention of the grand jury report or the two priests who served at St. Ursula's in the late '80s and early '90s who were in it.

UNIDENTIFIED PARISHIONERS: (Singing) Hallelujah, hallelujah.

PERKINS: But that changed when Father Larry Adams directly addressed the report in his homily to parishioners.

LARRY ADAMS: This is a responsibility that we can't delegate to society. It's a responsibility that we must accept personally as followers of Christ. The revelations of this past week compel us to recognize the ways in which we failed as Christians.

PERKINS: Father Adams went on to say that the actions of his fellow priests and the church leadership are shameful. His message to his parish was clear and simple. They need to confront the horrific abuse and recognize that the church exposed the most vulnerable people in the community to pain and suffering. But the willingness to confront the allegations was harder to find among his parishioners. After Mass ended, Marsha Mauser said she agreed with Father Adams, but the Catholic Church has a complex, 2,000-year-long history.

MARSHA MAUSER: It's part of life. The church is an organization. Like every other organization, it's going to have its problems. It draws from the world, so it draws the problems of the world.

BOB LANG: I mean, things happen. It happened. It's over. We need to move on.

PERKINS: Bob Lang also attends St. Ursula's and came to Mass with his wife, Gina. She agreed with him and said abuse within the church isn't anything new. So she'd rather not dwell on it.

GINA: I just feel sorry for them, you know?

PERKINS: Sorry for who?

GINA: The priests, you know, because they're all - I mean, it happens in all religions. It's not just the Catholic. And they're bringing the Catholic out. You know, there's other people who are doing it.

PERKINS: Kathy Jacobs said yes, Catholics will move on but without the church.

KATHY JACOBS: I'm not going to leave the church. I'm not going to - I'll still always be a Catholic. But I told them my kids won't - my daughter especially. It's sad. It's really sad. And I think a lot of people are going to leave.

PERKINS: She said she tried to get her son to come with her to church. But he said he just couldn't do it - not yet. Father Adams understands why Catholics are frustrated to the point that they might leave. But the church's struggle with confronting abuse is why he became a priest.

ADAMS: To a certain extent, I'm kind of a "Spotlight" priest. The movie "Spotlight."

PERKINS: He's talking about the movie based on the Boston Globe investigation that uncovered abuse within the Boston Archdiocese in the early 2000s.

ADAMS: When this broke was kind of the time when I was discerning what my vocation would be. And in a certain way, what has formed me is the desire to be part of this church and be part of the solution.

PERKINS: Father Adams will be a part of that solution for the Pittsburgh Diocese but not at St. Ursula's. The church's population in western Pennsylvania was shrinking long before the grand jury report came out. Any sort of healing that Father Adams wants to do will have to begin at one of his new parishes this fall. For NPR News, I'm Lucy Perkins in Pittsburgh.

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