More Americans than ever are leaving the Catholic Church after the sex abuse scandal. Here's why.

By Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY

YORK, Pa. – On Palm Sunday, Barbara Hoover exited Brougher Chapel with a palm frond in her left hand. The 76-year-old retiree sized up the church in front of her and sighed, visibly upset. “I don’t know why I’m still here,” she said, throwing her hands up. “I don’t know why I still go. I guess the ritual.”

In Portland, Oregon, Norma Rodriguez, 51, hustled up the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, eager to get a good seat before the service started.

A lifelong Catholic, Rodriguez attends Mass weekly, praying for everyone she knows. She hasn’t been deterred by the sex abuse crisis that’s engulfed the Catholic Church for the better part of two decades. It’s not her place to pass judgment, Rodriguez said.

“This whole thing, it makes me pray more,” she said. “It just makes me pray for humanity, makes me pray for forgiveness.”

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sara and Nathan Hofflander brought their three young daughters to Palm Sunday Mass, then joined the bustle of people chatting and enjoying a hot meal during St. Lambert’s yearly parish dinner. Plates filled with turkey and potatoes. The parents corralled their girls – ages 5, 3 and 1 – and found a spot near a window.

Sara Hofflander, 32, grew up Catholic and Nathan Hofflander, 40, joined the church in 2011. The fallibility of clergy doesn’t faze him. “We are all broken in some way,” he said. “We’re not all perfect.”

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is at a crossroads. As millions of devout followers filled the pews this Easter season to celebrate the religion’s most important holiday, others hovered at the door, hungry for community and spiritual guidance but furious at the church’s handling of the decades-long sex abuse crisis that’s resulted in young children being raped and abused by priests who were often protected by their superiors.

Seven months after a damning grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that 1,000 children had been abused at the hands of more than 300 priests, and as state attorneys general across the nation invest...

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  • Richard Kensinger, MSW
    commented 2019-05-14 09:34:10 -0500
    I divorced the Church 3 years ago w/o any regret. Given the extent of youth sexual assaults across the world and in the local diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, PA. I recognize that younger folks in my family who were raised Catholic do not attend church at all. They see it as irrelevant to present life. It remains embedded in the distant past, which none of us can relate to!

    I also believe that in no way that Jesus can only be found there. And he must be really “pissed off” by past and current crimes! it is no longer at all a safe haven for souls. Some of the older parishioners will never abandon or reject the Church.
    Rich, MSW
  • Mee Too
    commented 2019-05-14 05:22:20 -0500
    In Washington DC, Donald Wuerl resigned in October 2018 but continues a very public role in addition to “celebrating” mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral…The Church STILL doesn’t get it!
  • Richard Kensinger, MSW
    commented 2019-04-27 08:06:34 -0500
    I live in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, PA. Three years ago I divorced the Church due to its persisting criminality against youth. 47 of the 51 accuses are clergy. Some like me have left the church while others remain faithful? They rationalize reasons for staying such as “they never assaulted my kids”. All children are our responsibility to protect! To me they are hypocrites. I have embraced Jesus even more and realize I can be more effective outside this system than inside.

    I continue my advocacy for victim survivors and continue to hold this Diocese fully accountable for crimes of commission and omission.
    Rich, MSW

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