In Philadelphia, a church at the crossroads

First Person

In the tumult that followed last year’s second grand jury report to allege a staggering history of sex abuse and cover-up in the Philadelphia archdiocese, the most striking response I heard from a reeling faithful came not from any cleric, staffer or abuse survivor, but from my mother.

Over a late-night cup of coffee as the revelations were still sinking in, all Mom could bring herself to say was, “It just feels like there’s been a death in the family.”

What she was implying seemed clear, but I wanted to be sure. “You mean your trust in the wider church, outside the parish?”

“That’s exactly what I meant,” she shot back.

If that was how Mom, a South Philly Italian named for a nun, now a lay minister and caretaker for my ailing grandmother -- in other words, a pillar of the faith -- felt at the start of a year whose turns since have read like a surrealist novel, one could forget about finding credibility anywhere else.