Ash Wednesday services drew Catholics prepared to mark the beginning of Lent, as well as supporters of sexual abuse victims.
Theresa Coleman and her sister spoke to Catholics entering the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. “Our brother was sexually abused…between 1958 and 1960 at St. Gregory’s Parish in West Philadelphia and we’re here to support our brother and all the victims of sexual abuse,” said Coleman. Coleman said she still believes. “I’ve never given up my faith, neither has anybody in my family, even though we’re very upset about the cover-up,” she said. “No one will take our faith away from us.” During the service, Cardinal Justin Rigali addressed the child abuse allegations and said the protection of children is paramount. Phillip McDonald said he is satisfied with Rigali’s words. “I think he showed great calm and grace trying to show the compassion of the church for the sinner and the people sinned against and that everyone deserves a full hearing, a full investigation before any punishment should be handed down,” said McDonald. The archdiocese brought in a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney to investigate the allegations, to determine if the priests should be returned to ministry or removed. Leaving Mass, Priscilla Higgins-D’Onofrio said she is not satisfied with the church’s response to last month’s grand jury report. She said protecting children should be the priority. “I think there’s been too much lawyering-up,” said. “The point is, what would God tell us to do? He wouldn’t say to check in with the lawyer. You check in with God.” She said this is a major opportunity for the church to set right, things that have been wrong for a long time.
(Photos by Nathaniel Hamilton for NewsWorks)