Just a few days shy of Easter, Catherine Donley refuses to be haunted by the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church and plans to faithfully attend Sunday Mass.
"News of abuse has not changed my view on my church or my God. I love being Catholic and I will always be Catholic," said the 20-year-old from College Park, Md.
Msnbc.com reached out to those in the Catholic Church to share how the scandal has affected their faith and worship. Many readers said they were angry and disgusted at the allegations of sex abuse of children by priests and of a cover-up by the Vatican and Pope Benedict.
Dozens of readers offered prayers to victims, priests and families of both, calling for church-funded counseling and recovery programs. Others said they feared the crisis would alienate Catholics further from the church. Some, disagreed.
"Honestly, it's made me a bit more adept in my faith. I feel that it's times like these that the church becomes closer, because we band together in our faith and pray for priests and victims alike," said Jessie Woolridge of Corpus Christi, Texas.
There was division over how the Vatican and Pope Benedict should respond to the allegations. A few readers rushed to the pontiff's defense, accusing the media of "twisting" facts, while others called for a boycott of the church.
"My heart breaks," said Dorothy Picot of Danvers, Mass., who served as a nun for 27 years. "I cannot support an institution that gets in the way of the Gospel message of Jesus instead of living it. I have a lot of friends who are Catholic. Some have left the church over this, others are still going to Mass. Some are not happy. But, it will be their faith, and not faith placed in an institution, that will keep them going. It will be a struggle."
Many, however, called on the pope to do something — anything.
"I wouldn’t want to see him step down, I would like to see him step up and finish the job," said Daniel Frondorf, leader of the Greater Cincinnati SNAP chapter in Ohio. SNAP is a survivors support group of those abused by priests. "The pope has to take action."
A few readers, such as Ted Reed of Corpus Christi, Texas, have had enough.
His post read: "I just quit the church."
Scores of Catholics weighed in. Continue on the next page for more responses:
In light of what has happened and what has been happening, I cut ties with the church and started attending the Anglican church and the Baptist church. — Ananias Edwards, Wichita Falls, Texas.
The recent developments have actually caused me to strengthen my religion as I believe it is under attack. While the actions of these priests and supervisors are deplorable and should be punished by the law, these priests represent a very small percentage of all Catholic priests throughout the world. ... I, along with most Catholics I'm sure, will not waiver from our faith or religion. — Mike Lopez, Santa Maria, Calif.
I am 65 years old and have decided not to attend mass. I was not sexually abused as a child in Catholic School and it saddens me to learn of the consistent and systemic abuse and cover up. — Jim Thomasson, Stoutland, Mo.
I am a convert to Catholicism. This scandal has made me sad, but empathetic to the victims and abusers. I still love the church. It is the best thing in my life. I fell in love with the church after studying it as a young person, and was baptized into it at age 19. The scandal manifests the sinfulness of all people. That is why I empathize with all involved. — Judy Land, Opelousas, La.
My faith in Christ's church is not dependent on the great sins of its members — Bob Foltan
As a Catholic, this abuse scandal is the final straw for me; enough is enough. This scandal has given me the strength to stop making excuses. I have come to grips with the fact that the Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on Christ and there is really no reason why I should not express my faith in another Christian community. — Pellegrino Liciano, Staten Island, N.Y.
I am praying more for the victims, for the priests who have been involved, for the church overall and for the media to report the truth, not trying to create scandal. — Bill Brewis, Plymouth, Mich.
It is time to call for a worldwide boycott of the Roman Catholic Church. The church will never listen to us; they never have and never will. The only thing that will work is a world wide boycott calling for a new pope and the change we have wanted to see in our church for decades now. — Jon Melaver, Campbell, Calif.
I am a 63-year-old Catholic. I have experienced less-than-perfect priests and nuns. I have experienced deep disagreement with some leaders on local administrative issues. I am convinced that the clergy are human, and are subject to the same sins and temptations that we all are. Overall, the current scandals have not changed my faith in the church. — Michael Sharrett of Lakewood, Colo.
I am ashamed to be a Catholic. ... I am strongly considering changing my religion to either a Quaker or Buddhist. — Peter Tarsi, West Chester, Penn.
This just reinforces my desire to keep my family and friends as far away as possible from organized "religion." The dogma involved leads directly to all kinds of perverted behavior. — J.C. Wyatt
This crisis has done nothing but angered me. I do not lump all priests together. I know many very good and faithful priests who have lived out their vows and lives without betraying the trust of the people they lead. I am very angry at those who have betrayed the trust and who have acted in a sinful manner. I am also angered by those who have overlooked the consequences that should have been faced by the priests and their superiors. — B. Lamb, Chicago, Ill.
I am absolutely more than ever Catholic! I totally resent and deplore the harm these pedophiles have done to the image of our church worldwide. ... Deep sympathies and prayers are with those harmed. This is a tragedy. God bless and heal those harmed. I wish I could change that. Please don't judge us all or the entire Catholic church by this — Crystal James, Seattle, Wash.
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