Lori Falce: Can I still trust a priest? And do I want to? | TribLIVE.com
Lori Falce, Columnist

Lori Falce: Can I still trust a priest? And do I want to?

Lori Falce

I have known a lot of priests in my life.

I went to Catholic school, where we were generally much more intimidated by the nuns. The priests were like visiting guest lecturers, celebrities who made appearances in the odd morning religion classes and were on hand for Friday Masses or stations of the cross.

I didn’t know until the release of Pennsylvania’s grand jury report that my favorite priest, Father Mike, was among the credibly accused.

Until I saw his name on that list, I felt lucky. I felt like I had gone through my life as a dedicated, not-quite-devout Catholic without being stained by the indelible blackness of my church’s greatest sins. I was wrong.

Father Mike baptized my brother. He gave me communion every Sunday. I always picked him for confession. He was fun and easy to talk to.

He was just the first name that I found.

The priest who baptized my youngest sister was wearing a Penguins jersey under his vestments because he forgot we were coming in for the ceremony. My family loved when he said noon Mass before the Steelers played at home because he always made sure no one missed kickoff.

He was on the list, too.

I was confirmed by the late Anthony Bevilacqua, who was bishop of Pittsburgh and later archbishop of Philadelphia. Allegations were raised in September that he groped a young girl behind a lunchroom partition in a Catholic school. I wondered if it was my school.

The monsignor who performed my marriage has been accused. So has the priest who taught the class I had to take before my son was baptized.

Each story and accusation about abuse of a child anywhere has caused spiderweb fractures in my heart, but they didn’t drive me away from my faith, something I held separate from the very mortal men who held the chalice and host.

But as more and more becomes known, and as the six degrees of separation has whittled down to just one degree in any direction, I would be lying if I didn’t say it has changed my personal feelings on my church.

I used to think that sexual abuse was something that happened in the church but just happened to other people. Peeling away the onion layers, however, has shown that even though I wasn’t a victim, every time I shared the sign of peace at Mass, I could have been shaking hands with one.

I have realized that I have never been a member of a congregation that did not have allegations. Only one priest who has given me a sacrament has not appeared in court documents amid allegations of some wrongdoing. I cling to the hope I never see his name on a list.

As the pope gathers bishops for a Vatican summit on sexual abuse this week, I want them to find a solution to a problem I have for too long had the luxury of ignoring.

None of us can ignore it anymore. Not the parishioners, not the parents, not the priests and not the pope.

I have known a lot of priests. I have trusted them and believed them and gone to them for help. But I fear doing that again.

Not because of what would happen to me, but because of what that trust could allow to happen to others.

Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.