Catholic leader headed to Hampton amidst priest abuse scandal

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Nearly three months after the news first broke of a massive priest sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania, one of the more controversial and outspoken leaders of the Catholic faith in the U.S. is coming to Hampton.

Members of Immaculate Conception Church say they extended an invitation to Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago about 18 months ago. Little did the congregation know how timely his appearance would be.

Church member Tom Skubic called it an act of the “Holy Spirit.”  Skubic and some other members of Immaculate Conception say they’ve been calling on the Holy Spirit a lot in the past months as their faith has been seriously tested during this priest abuse crisis.  

A Pennsylvania grand jury investigation alleged more than 300 priests in the state abused more than 1,000 children and adults during a 70-year period.

“At first I was really angry,” said I.C. member Michele Woods-Pickens. “As a survivor of child sexual abuse, not within the church, but within my family, I found solace in a place of strength and peace and encouragement in my church.”

Now she, and fellow member Joe Chop, have serious questions about that trust.

“My confidence in the institution of the church is disillusioned and damaged,” said Chop.

“I do feel it’s time to put an end to this (clergy abuse of children) and to not just keep sweeping it under the rug or not talking about it,” said member Pam Berry.

Since the Pennsylvania report and the priest abuse scandal broke wide open in August, members of Immaculate Conception Church have been holding small group discussions every week to air their feelings and opinions. And it may all come to a head this Friday night, when outspoken Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich will be the keynote speaker at Immaculate Conception.

Pastor, Reverend John Grace said he feels frustrated and angry. “We’re having a very rough time, we, as in the church, revealing the gospel, and being on track with the mission, and my anger at people.  Angry at people who’ve undercut that through their sin and crime….I’m very angry about that.” 

Fr. Grace is angry, but confident he can lead his church through this crisis. He hopes and prays that Cardinal Cupich will lay out concrete steps on how catholics may do that, from the top down. 

“Our church needs reform,” said Tom Skubic. 94-year-old Horace Bellamy agrees. “I’m anxious to see what they’re going to do to make corrections.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich is set to keynote a program at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hampton, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 16. Tickets are available at the door.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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