PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse of children, many Catholics have left the church, and those who remain say it must undergo a fundamental change.
“There’s no way it can survive as it was,” said parishioner Kevin Hayes. “This is just a seismic shift right now that’s happening.”
After years of remaining silent, parishioners like Hayes, at St. Thomas More in Bethel Park, have begun organizing laity-only groups to demand transparency and accountability.
“I have participated in a charade for too many years, and I’m not alone,” said Hayes. “This is what I’m hearing at all of the interactions, listening sessions, etc. It has to change, and if it doesn’t change, I don’t want to be a part of it,”
Already bleeding members before the report was released earlier this year, mass attendance is down another 10 to 20 percent in most parishes, and those who remain in the pews are making a statement with their wallets, withholding donations.
“They’re very upset. They’re very reluctant to donate to the church right now,” Hayes said.
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While many would be willing to give for parish expenses, like the lighting and heating bills, Hayes says they don’t want to pay for the sins of the fathers.
“They have no interest in giving money if they think that money is going to be used as pay out for the diocese to settle things, or for that money to be used in ways that they don’t understand or know about,” Hayes said.
In meetings and listening sessions across the diocese, the parishioners want to shine a light into the workings of the church and have a much greater say in its future.
“A lot of the feelings people expressed is, ‘This is our church, it’s not just the hierarchy’s church. This is our church,'” Hayes said.