The public has responded viscerally to allegations of sexual abuse against priests in the Catholic Church in recent years. Last weekend, the issue came closer to home for some when a New Haven priest resigned from the church.
In response, some Catholic Yale students said they think it is time to find a way to make changes before adherents lose their trust in the church’s hierarchy.
The Rev. Andrew Brizzolara of St. Michael’s Church in New Haven resigned Saturday. He faces allegations that he abused a minor while working in the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 1980s, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Brizzolara was stripped of all his ministerial powers by the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Mary Hollis ’06, a Catholic and member of St. Thomas Moore, said she has decided a change in some aspects of the church’s structure may be in order. She said she is distraught by the growing allegations, but she does not want to leave her faith behind her.
“For me, it’s something very upsetting and distressing that people you trust would hurt the innocent, but I’m not ready to abandon the church,” Hollis said.
But Hollis said the allegations have been enough to deter some people from continuing to go to church.
Raymond Ward DIV ’04, former head of the Yale Divinity School Catholic Students’ Group, said it was clear that “a lot of people have been hurt by [these incidents].”
But Ward said the issue has not been discussed much at the Divinity School, largely due to the fact that the school is nondenominational.
“Not a lot of people are talking about it at the Divinity School, and it deserves a lot of attention,” said Ward.
Part of the problem, he said, lies in the fact that many people do not feel close to the problem, and the laity lacks a clear outlet to express their concerns.
“A lot of people haven’t come in contact with it personally and don’t know how to get involved,” Ward said.
Hollis said she thinks a change within the hierarchy to include more lay involvement might be necessary to regain the trust of its adherents.
Hollis said she has spoken with people “coming down on both sides of the issue.”
“[There’s] a lot of sadness but also a lot of hope,” Hollis said.
Yale University Chaplain Frederick Streets said he thinks the Catholic Church faces a tough task but a necessary one. He said people often have a difficult time discerning between trust in their religious figures and their belief in God.
“When religion hurts people, as terrible as it is, it is not reason to stop believing in God or event the institution,” Streets said.
Streets said he thinks the issue of responsibility of religions in general is more important than the response to specific allegations brought against the Catholic Church.
“The larger accountability question is very important for religions to address worldwide,” Streets said.