Churches band together to break silence for victims of clergy sexual abuse

MORGANTOWN — “We will not let this culture of abuse continue to be swept under the rug, silenced, and ignored. We will not stand silent.”

That was the opening proclamation Saturday at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market where members from several Catholic churches in the area came together to break the silence of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. In 2018, many stories hit the media about clergy involved in sexual abuse, including the Pittsburgh area.

Charles DiSalvo, a member of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church said people from St. John’s, St. Marys and his own church were present Saturday morning.

“The idea was we felt as though it’s time for lay people to step up,” he said.

Priests and bishops are considered clergy, a non-ordained member of the church is lay person.

DiSalvo said the group hopes to make priests and bishops more accountable to the laity so that further sexual abuse is prevented in the future. He said the suggestion has been made that there be created lay board to oversee allegations of misconduct by clergy.

“Most people who gathered here this morning would support that approach,” he said.

Betty Evans, also a member of St. Francis de Sales, had the original idea to bring together the churches to break the silence against sexual abuse. She said the situation has proved difficult, and the faithful feel that coming together Saturday was an opportunity to come out and speak out.

“We need to see that there’s more transparency within the church ranks and church hierarchy to make sure that this never happens again,” said Evans.

Praying together for the victims, and hearing stories of victims, Evans said it is sad to know that is what is associated with the leadership of the Catholic Church. She said there are so many wonderful priests within the church that do wonderful things and it proves difficult for them as well.

“Quite frankly, I think we’re still waiting to hear what the plan is from the hierarchy to see what’s in place for resolution to the way these kinds of things are handled,” she said.

She said lay people need to be a part of this process because they can add to the solution. As someone looking from it from the outside of the church, it may be seen as a bad situation, but Evans said within the church it’s a crisis situation.

“That’s why efforts like this are so important. We want people to know that we as the faithful Catholics realize it’s a crisis. We don’t have blind eyes to it,” she said.

Evans said it’s a work in progress with a planning committee and meetings bringing together the like-minded. She said ideas come out of those meetings and new ideas are constantly unfolding. She said there are a lot of faithful people involved that are dedicated to restoring faith within the church. The effort has also seen support from clergy, too.

“Our Monsignor Cincinnati has said that he would pray for us and our efforts and he wished us a good turnout. He wished us well today for this effort. We’ve had nothing but support from our church,” she said.