Brigid says: Grand jury report heartbreaking even for an ex-Catholic

By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence - [email protected]

I’ve been at a loss for words all week.

It’s not a great position to be in as a writer.

But I think a lot of Pennsylvanians can relate, especially those in the Catholic Church.

Since the grand jury report on clergy sex abuse was published Tuesday, our state has made headlines across the globe. It’s been the largest-scale grand jury report of its kind, and the details contained within the pages are without a doubt gruesome, heartbreaking and depraved.

My mother told me she never thought she would see the day that she would read some of those words on the front page of a newspaper.

To be fair, she never thought she would be reading about priests molesting, raping and abusing children either.

It’s caused shock waves in a lot of communities.

For so long, the church stood at the center of a community. Priests were revered and respected. Often, we would turn to them in times of tragedy, loss and grief.

If we can’t trust them, who can we trust?

This past week, I’ve read through countless pages of the report, in part because of the reporting I did on the matter, but partly because I couldn’t stop reading. As someone who grew up in the Catholic Church, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Up until this week, the history of abuse within the church was something that happened everywhere else but here. Like so many people in my family or in the newsroom, it was hard to read names and parishes so familiar to us.

For those who followed my Weekender column, it’s no secret that I left the church years ago. It’s not something I’ve been shy about, and this week brought up a lot of conversations about the Catholic Church.

To be clear, nothing about my decision to leave is because of any abuse I encountered.

I was never abused or in a position to know of any abuse in my parish.

I grew up in a Catholic family, and spent a good amount of time in the church. I wasn’t to miss a Sunday service, no excuses.

Even so, abuse was nothing I had even heard whispers of.

Looking through the report, my childhood parish, St. Thomas Aquinas, only comes up a handful of times. From what I read, no abuse occurred while any priest was serving there, it was just one of the many parishes that abusers were shuffled through.

Some names were familiar to me, others left long before I was born.

In fact, a lot of these cases happened long before I walked this Earth, but struck me all the same.

I kept asking myself how this was allowed to happen.

And for so long.

I wondered how many other priests had abused children who never spoke up.

I wondered what would be said this past weekend during sermons, how pastors would handle the news and how parishioners would respond.

My mother said she heard an older man at work say he threw out his donation envelopes.

My decision was made years ago. I went to church on Christmas for my mother, but that will stop this year.

The reaction hasn’t all been as harsh as that.

Scrolling through Twitter the other day, I saw someone post that they weren’t Catholic because of a priest, a bishop, the pope or the physical building of a parish. Rather, their faith is placed solely in God.

And I envy that position. Those whose faith is that steadfast and strong are admirable.

I’m not there in my faith. Maybe I never will be.

Certainly, this past week hasn’t brought me any closer to that goal.

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By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence

[email protected]

Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds

Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds