19. aug. 2018
Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, skriver bl.a.:
Sex Abuse Report Lists a Beloved Pastor, and a Pennsylvania Church Reels
The Rev. John David Crowley was once adored by his parishioners. Then came the news that he was among the priests who abused more than 1,000 children.
Everything felt normal until the news alert popped up on Cindy Depretis’s cellphone Tuesday afternoon. It was a link to a list of the hundreds of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania accused of abusing children in a bombshell grand jury report. She scrolled to the names of priests near Pittsburgh.
“I got to the C’s,” she recalled tearfully as she sat in her office at Holy Angels Parish. Friends started to text her. “Is that our Father Crowley?” She could only force out one word: yes.
The Rev. John David Crowley for decades had been the hero of Holy Angels, a white clapboard church in southeast Pittsburgh, tucked below the bypass, by the old narrow-gauge railroad running along the creek. He was the pastor there for nearly 34 years, known as one of the most popular priests in the region. Then, in 2003, he abruptly retired.
This week, the church learned why: Father Crowley had been accused of sexual abuse, including of a minor, and the claim was found to be credible and substantiated. The bishop of Pittsburgh at the time, Donald Wuerl, now a cardinal and the archbishop of Washington, gave Father Crowley the choice to voluntarily retire and quit active ministry, or face removal.
Father Crowley chose retirement. The families of Holy Angels were kept in the dark. They even protested his departure on his way out.
Across the country this week, Catholics reeled from the news that Pennsylvania priests had abused more than 1,000 children over decades, and that bishops largely hid their crimes from the public. In the Pittsburgh diocese, which had almost a third of the state’s accused priests, Catholics in nearly every parish tried to figure out if the pastors they knew had ever been accused, or had known, of allegations they kept secret.
Some of the names on the list were no surprise, as some priests had faced public criminal proceedings and were removed from ministry. Other priests had been the subject of rumors. But many, like Father Crowley, had died before their actions were publicly revealed.
As national anger has boiled over, and as the Vatican insisted to victims that Pope Francis was on their side and dioceses rolled out crisis communications playbooks, the families of Holy Angels have grappled with what to do.
A few minutes later, Father Ahlin decided to read the grand jury’s findings for the first time. He silently pulled up Page 631 of the massive report, where Father Crowley’s case was recorded: A mother and her twin adult daughters, one of whom was 16 at the time of victimization, brought a complaint against Father Crowley in 1992 and again in late 2001.
Later, an adult man reported that Father Crowley had sexually abused him when he was 11 to 12 years old.
Celebrated and Dearly Loved
After Father Crowley arrived at Holy Angels in 1969, his charisma drew so many people to Mass that they often had to stand outside on the steps, or even down in the streets, because the aisles inside were already full.
Word got around that if you were an unwed mother and your priest would not let you baptize your baby, or if you wanted to remarry but didn’t have the information to get an annulment, you could go to Father Crowley at Holy Angels in a Pittsburgh neighborhood called Hays. “Whatever came to the door, he tried to handle it,” Father Ahlin remembered.
When the parish school got too small to stay open, he bought a school bus to drive children himself to the new school each day.
In the summer of 1992, a mother and her adult twin daughters came forward and said Father Crowley abused them, one of whom was 16 at the time, according to the report. The Pittsburgh diocese told The New York Times the abuse occurred in 1976. Three months later, Father Crowley was sent for a weeklong mental health evaluation at St. Michael’s Community. Evaluators “opined that Crowley was being truthful in his denials” and recommended that he have “outpatient therapeutic support to address insecurities, low self-esteem and obsessive-compulsive tendencies,” the report said.
He returned to his parish.
Still, the night before the grand jury report was to be released, Mr. Billock said he got a funny feeling. “I just said, ‘I bet you Father Crowley will be on the list,’” he said after Mass on Wednesday evening.
At the Holy Angels crochet circle on Thursday morning, women reflected on the awful week, for them and for the broader church. “I feel they shouldn’t have covered it up at the beginning,” said Eleanor Martin of the diocese’s handling of abuse cases as she made a pom-pom for a purple hat. “Had this come out 30 years ago, there’d not be as much of it.”
That same day, Father Ahlin got a call from a woman who identified herself as one of the victims, and who was distraught. “She felt this was putting her through all that pain again,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard from her.”
Sunday’s services weighed heavily on his mind. “I’ve been thinking something has to be said,” Father Ahlin said. “But I can’t even formulate how to even approach it.”
A day earlier, he had questioned the allegations against Father Crowley. After the call, he said he was not sure if he would tell his congregation about his doubts.
“Given the way she expressed herself,” he said, “I’d have to believe what she said.”
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