As Catholics continued the celebration of Holy Week Monday, Long Island parishioners said they were saddened by the sex abuse scandal that has stretched from the United States to Europe and landed at the doorstep of the Vatican.
"There is no doubt we're at a historical moment," said Dan Bartley of Hauppauge, president of Voice of the Faithful, a national group formed in response to the clergy abuse crisis. "The challenge for the church right now is: How do you fix it? How do you come out of this?"
The case of a Milwaukee priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, got renewed attention last week after documents obtained by The New York Times showed he was spared a defrocking in the mid-1990s by the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The role of Ratzinger in the case of a German priest convicted of sex abuse has also been called into question.The Vatican defended its decision not to defrock Murphy and denounced what it called a campaign to smear the pope and his aides.
Outside St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church in Westbury, Nina Marino, 79, of Westbury, said: "As Jesus said to forgive the sinner, I feel that what they did was wrong but . . . . it doesn't change my faith in the church or the pope."
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, at Palm Sunday Mass, fiercely defended the pope, saying he was being "crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo."
Sean Dolan, spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said the archbishop's comments echo "what Catholics all over the world are thinking."
"No one has been more vigorous in trying to cleanse the church of sex abuse than Pope Benedict XVI," he said.
Some said neither the archbishop nor the pope has done enough to address the issue.
"This is still no accountability," Bartley said. "Any bishop, including Pope Benedict, who has participated in this conspiracy of silence must do what is best for the church and hold himself accountable."
Timothy Echausse of Mineola, a victim and Long Island director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the archbishop's defense of the pope trivialized the trauma of victims.
"It's never right to attack a victim and I think that's what he was doing by saying these media outlets are attacking the pope," Echausse said.