Survivors and parishioners stood patiently in a single line at St. Thomas A’ Becket Roman Catholic Church in Jefferson Hills Monday to tell their stories and share their anger following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse.
The listening session was the second of four organized by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in an effort to provide a safe place for those in the church, including victims and members of the Catholic community, to begin the healing process.
Bishop David Zubik sat quietly near the altar and listened as survivors recounted details of sexual abuse at the hands of their parish priests.
Jim VanSickle, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, said he is continuing to heal, 37 years after the abuse and that it negatively impacted his marriage and his relationship with his children.
“I stand here to tell you it’s OK. I’m healing. But it’s been 37 years,” he said.
The grand jury report named 301 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania dioceses.
The report found several cases of child abuse had been reported and covered up by church officials in six Roman Catholic dioceses over a 70-year period.
Another survivor, who was abused more than 50 years ago, said she spent most of her adult life “wandering in a spiritual and physical desert” and voiced concern for the future of the church.
She called on the church to create a support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse “so that others wouldn’t be so alone in their faith journey as I have.”
Others said the scandal has shaken their faith in the Catholic church, and some called on Zubik to resign.
Speakers also called for more transparency and urged the church to ordain women and deacons.
Zubik plans to take the information he hears from the sessions back to the Pittsburgh diocese and determine an action plan that will be released to the public.
“I stand in admiration for every single one of you who spoke tonight,” said Zubik at the end of the session. “I am sorry for what you experienced.”