Across the country this week, Catholics reeled from the news that Pennsylvania priests had abused more than 1,000 children over decades, and that bishops largely hid their crimes from the public. In the Pittsburgh diocese, which had almost a third of the state’s accused priests, Catholics in nearly every parish tried to figure out if the pastors they knew had ever been accused, or had known, of allegations they kept secret.

Some of the names on the list were no surprise, as some priests had faced public criminal proceedings and were removed from ministry. Other priests had been the subject of rumors. But many, like Crowley, had died before their actions were publicly revealed.

As national anger has boiled over, and as the Vatican insisted to victims that Pope Francis was on their side and dioceses rolled out crisis communications playbooks, the families of Holy Angels have grappled with what to do.

When asked about Crowley at the church this past week, parishioner after parishioner struggled to respond. A man leaned on the railing of the church steps and cried as he remembered how Crowley had baptized his children. Women confided that they had been tossing and turning every night, unable to sleep. After long silences, many insisted the allegations just had to be false.

‘You always hear rumors’

The Rev. Robert J. Ahlin, the current pastor, sat motionless in his suspenders at the parish house the day after the report was released. When he arrived to take over after Crowley left, he remembered getting some calls from parishioners wary of the official line that he had chosen to retire.

“You always hear rumors,” Ahlin, 74, said. “No one at the time said, ‘Father did so-and-so, he was removed.’ Whether they had suspicions or not, I don’t know.”

A few minutes later, Ahlin decided to read the grand jury’s findings for the first time. He silently pulled up Page 631 of the massive report, where Crowley’s case was recorded: A mother and her twin adult daughters, one of whom was 16 at the time of victimization, brought a complaint against Crowley in 1992 and again in late 2001.

Later, an adult man reported that Crowley had sexually abused him when he was 11 to 12 years old.

After Crowley arrived at Holy Angels in 1969, his charisma drew so many people to Mass that they often had to stand outside on the steps, or even down in the streets, because the aisles inside were already full.

Word got around that if you were an unwed mother and your priest would not let you baptize your baby, or if you wanted to remarry but didn’t have the information to get an annulment, you could go to Crowley at Holy Angels in a Pittsburgh neighborhood called Hays. “Whatever came to the door, he tried to handle it,” Ahlin remembered.

When the parish school got too small to stay open, he bought a school bus to drive children himself to the new school each day.

In the summer of 1992, a mother and her adult twin daughters came forward and said Crowley abused them, one of whom was 16 at the time, according to the report. The Pittsburgh diocese told The New York Times the abuse occurred in 1976. Three months later, Crowley was sent for a weeklong mental health evaluation at St. Michael’s Community. Evaluators “opined that Crowley was being truthful in his denials” and recommended that he have “outpatient therapeutic support to address insecurities, low self-esteem and obsessive-compulsive tendencies,” the report said.

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And even after they have been told about his crimes, they still struggle to believe it. Every allegation was substantiated and yet they still don’t believe that THEIR guy could have done what he’s accused of.

He did it! He basically got away with molesting hundreds of innocent children. Parents came forth, a grown man came forth about what happened to him as a young boy. What does it take for people to believe the victims?

I don’t believe that every person who does despicable things is 100% evil. I believe there is good in everybody. It’s what you choose to feed that will manifest itself to the public. When your behavior becomes a threat to the general population, you are no longer an asset. You’ve become something we can live without.

And when you CHOOSE to continue on hurting people, you are no longer human, you’re a predator. Animals hunt and kill because of hunger. What kind of man would consider himself a human being when he preys on children? This man lost his humanity a long time ago.

Another site worth visiting

Folks don’t understand what sexual abuse does to a child. It sticks with you for LIFE. You were raped, robbed, stripped of innocence, forced to have to carry a dreadful secret, forced to keep on living and try to be normal. These people are sharing their heartache and how they are impacted by this.

The most powerful quote

“It’s very lonely when it’s your word against god ”

That’s profound. Who can compete with god? You can’t. And when that person comes in the name of God, that trumps everything else. All reasoning goes out the window. When that person uses their religion or position in the church against you, you will fail every time. Even though you believe in the SAME GOD. It’s tough to argue with gods people. That should be a sign right there. A sign that something is truly wrong with religion. A sign that this god character can’t be all its cracked up to be. Two people can’t walk together unless they agree. So how are you at odds with your fellow Christian? Fellow Catholic, Muslim etc… And I’m talking about principles. Not What to grab for lunch. You guys read the same book, have the same rules, but can’t agree. Somebody in the group is evil but they keep getting away with shit. You know they are evil, you know they aren’t good people. You have seen their mask fall off. And now you know what you’re dealing with. And if everybody seems to be protecting them and they ALL believe in your God and received the same teachings as you did, but they have no problem trying to destroy you, you have yourself a problem. And you’re gonna say THEY aren’t doing it right, or YOU aren’t doing it right. Somebody is wrong. And you KNOW it’s not you.

It’s THEM. Religion only works when EVERYBODY FOLLOWS THE FUCKING RULES. People who cause harm to others clearly aren’t religious. They are frauds who hide behind a religious facade. This priest put himself in a place where he’d have plenty access to children.