PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The devastating grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania shocked the conscience of Catholics throughout the region one year ago.
The report made the Diocese of Pittsburgh ground zero in the global clergy sexual abuse scandal.
Many parishioners have registered their disgust with their feet and their wallets.
The diocese reports that church attendance is down nine percent and donations are down 11 percent.
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But others have decided to stay, with a purpose in mind.
“If I’m staying, I have to work to make it better,” Gretchen Jezerc said. “I can’t just stay and grumble and piss and moan about it. I need to stay and try to effectuate positive change.”
Jezerc is a founding member of Catholics for Change in Our Church, now a diocesan-wide laity-only group calling for more transparency in diocesan affairs and a greater role for parishioners.
“We really are asking for the laity to have their rightful position as co-responsible for the church,” Jezerc said.
That call comes as the diocese struggles to avoid bankruptcy.
More then 400 alleged victims have petitioned the diocesan victim’s compensation fund, almost twice the number anticipated.
As the diocese scours its finances to come up with the $10 of millions needed, it put all parishes and schools on notice to operate in the black or face closure.
Catholics for Change credit Bishop David Zubik for being up front about the financial realities, saying that continued openness and lay involvement could steer the church out of this crisis.
But that time is of the essence.
“People are willing to wait two, three years for change to happen, they’re expecting and needing things to really start now,” Jezerc said.
The Catholics For Change in Our Church website can be found here.