After Cardinal's Resignation, Parishioner Shares His Struggle With Catholic Church

Oct 13, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington, D.C.'s Cardinal Donald Wuerl over his role in covering up two different church sexual abuse scandals. The first - in Pennsylvania, it was detailed in a 900-page report in August that outlined sexual abuse by priests in six dioceses over which Wuerl presided. He was also accused of covering up allegations against his predecessor, D.C.'s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned from the College of Cardinals earlier this year. These are unsettling times for many U.S. Catholics. Noah Chovanec is a young man who grew up in Pennsylvania in one of Donald Wuerl's dioceses and moved to Washington, D.C., this summer. He joins us from Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for being with us.

NOAH CHOVANEC: Yeah, it's good to be here.

SIMON: Tell us about your faith. What's made you a Roman Catholic?

CHOVANEC: Well, up until this point in my life, it's all I had really known as far as religion goes. I believe in most of what I was taught growing up. It always resonated with me, the messages that they present to the congregation. I think that having a faith has made me a better person, and I think it has that effect on a lot of people.

SIMON: How did you feel when you found out, this summer, about the abuse of children that was going on in Pennsylvania not far from places you knew?

CHOVANEC: Yeah, it hurt reading the report because I was reading about these parishes that I went to growing up. I was born in '96, so growing up, you would hear kids joke about, oh, you know, priests molesting kids and whatnot. But I never knew that there was actually a - anything behind that. I just sort of thought it was people making fun of a religion. And then I didn't learn, honestly, until recently that the abuse scandal is something that was real and something that the world has known about since - what? - I think it was the early 2000s, whenever the Boston Globe or whatever that newspaper is broke the story. I didn't know that that was a thing. It wasn't something I'd ever been exposed to, so I wasn't really aware of the fact that this is a problem that was going on in my church. You know, it's unthinkable.

SIMON: And it's hurt your faith?

CHOVANEC: I think that's a difficult thing to answer. I will say that it has hurt my faith in the Catholic Church. I don't think it has actually hurt my personal, religious faith. I'm just starting to see less of a connection between what I believe and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

SIMON: May I ask - did you grow up with anyone, do you know anyone who has their own story to tell?

CHOVANEC: No, I do not. Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened to me or anybody I was close with.

SIMON: Do you think the church cared more about itself as an institution and less about the people who had been harmed?

CHOVANEC: It certainly seems like that to me. And that's one of the most disheartening things about it. I do not think that the church leadership has done enough to make up for the release of this abuse. Seeing bishops and people whose names are plastered up on church buildings back in my area, hearing that they spent years pushing this stuff away and covering it all up just to save the good name of the church, I suppose, instead of actually trying to make up for the heartbreaking abuse that was actually occurring - to me, it feels like church leadership was more interested in preserving their own good name than actually addressing the evils that were occurring under their care.

SIMON: Do you still believe in God? Are you a faithful person?

CHOVANEC: I am. And that's what I've been struggling with because the Catholic Churches is all I ever was involved in growing up. So recently, over the past few months, since moving to a new area, since starting a new part of my life and since the breaking of these news stories, I've been exploring other options. I do still believe in God. I still have a faith. I just see much less of a connection between my personal faith and the Catholic Church.

SIMON: Noah Chovanec, now of Washington, D.C., thanks for speaking with us in such a personal way.

CHOVANEC: Yeah, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.