For many Catholics, this weekend will be the first time they head to Mass since 21 priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese were suspended because of sexual abuse allegations.
Parishioners and pastors are still taking it in.The allegations shocked Monsignor David Benz.”It’s very difficult for us to be here and to hear these things. I’ve been a priest for 35 years and I’m very proud of my priesthood and serving the people of God,” Benz said.Benz is just 15 months into his time as pastor of St. Therese of The Child Jesus Church in Mt. Airy–where one of the suspended priests used to work. “Only thing I know is what I have read in the public press. I have not yet received a notice of the Diocese that these are the priests who were suspended,” Benz said. “You know I think it would be much more appropriate if we had an official notice that these are our brothers who have been accused and put on administrative leave.”WHYY published a confirmed list of the names of the suspended priests online.Benz said the allegations are disgusting. He addressed them during Ash Wednesday services and plans on answering questions from parishioners.The suspensions are also tough for Catholics like Kathleen O’Connell who attend church where one of the priests worked.”I knew Father Navit when he was pastor at St. Francis de Sales in West Philadelphia – that’s my neighborhood church,” O’Connell said. “In fact, he got me involved with reading at Mass and he actually inspired me to start going be to church regularly.” O’Connell said she always thought Father Navit was a really nice, charismatic guy. “It was clear that he was going to go far in the Church. You just kind of knew that Father Navit was going to be Bishop Navit. I teased him once about being Cardinal Navit,” O’Connell said.So O’Connell didn’t expect to see his name on the list of suspended priests,”I was shocked and heartbroken. You just–you don’t want to believe. Frankly, you don’t want to believe that he would be that stupid,” she said. “It just doesn’t sound like him: being so stupid as to do something that you know is so wrong.”