Local Deacon, parishioners discuss keeping faith amid Catholic sex abuse scandal

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Shock, sadness and anger. These are just some of the emotions Catholics around the world are feeling following this month's release of a grand jury report, that details sexual abuse by more than 300 Pennsylvania priests over seven decades; and the subsequent cover up by church leaders.

"There's no apology that can make up for the acts that were committed," said St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church Deacon Frank Ashley. "The majority of priests are angry and upset. They're upset about this."

Deacon Frank has served the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish for 12 years. He says the recent accusations leave him crushed.

"The fact that it was hidden, just makes it even worse. You wonder how do people move up? Because one of the people was a Cardinal and you just wonder," said Deacon Frank.

During a time of deep disappointment and confusion, he chooses to turn to his Bible.

"We have to understand, that these are men. These are people. Psalm 147 reads, 'Do not put your trust in men. Trust in the lord.' And thats the thing that keeps me coming to church," explained Deacon Frank.

Young Catholics like Ana Maldonado say the report makes them uncomfortable. She even ignored it the first time she saw an article pop up online.

"It just reminded me of how imperfect this thing is that I deeply love," explained Maldonado. "At the end of the day it's still an institution ran by humans and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable because it truly is where I find the most perfect love."

When she finally did choose to read what all had happened, it hit very close to home. One of her closest friends is studying to become a priest in Pennsylvania.

"He's a Seminarian there. The fact that this could've happened to him and that it did happen to people just like him, that began to pierce my heart very deeply," said Maldonado. "I just don't understand how anyone could've turned a blind eye."

Though painful for the victims and Catholics around the world, Maldonado says she's glad it's all come to light.

"It can't keep being hidden under a blanket or swept under a rug," she said. "Healing can't happen and steps to improve this can't happen unless its brought up."

A recent study put out earlier this year by Saint Mary's Press says more Catholics, especially young Catholics, are leaving the faith than ever before. But Maldonado and Deacon Frank agree that now is the time to lead the church, not leave it.

"This is the perfect time to jump ship," said Deacon Frank. "But I'm not going to let certain people, certain evil people, run me away from Christ. In spite of them, I'm going to be there."

"This is a church that's always been full of corruption. Look at Judas and Peter. But it's also full of redemption," explained Maldonado. "It's so easy to point fingers and say look at how awful this church is. But rather, the invitation should be, 'I want to be the one that will be the window for the Lord's love to come and redeem this'."

Deacon Frank says prayer is simply not enough and that action is required at a time like this.

In the years since the Boston sex abuse scandal, the Catholic Church had implemented Ethics in Ministry training. It's a workshop that all Priests, Deacons and anyone involved in church ministry are required to participate in every three years. The class focuses on how to recognize abuse and how to respond.

Now, in the weeks since this new report was released, the US Council of Catholic Bishops wants to make even more changes. It's now working to create a council of laiman, to oversee their efforts of reform.

The group would ideally include law enforcement officers, lawyers and psychologists who would work to create greater accountability among church leaders. They are currently waiting for approval from Rome to make it a reality.