It wasn't a normal Sunday in Catholic pulpits across America, as priests faced flocks touched by sorrow and rage after a sickening grand-jury report packed with X-rated details about decades of sexual abuse by clergy.
At St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur, Ga., Father Mark Horak said he half expected empty pews, but was thankful that the faithful came to Mass. He openly addressed the crisis and urged the laity to speak out.
"We should not be afraid to demand, of our leadership, fundamental reform," he said, wrapping up his homily, which was posted online. "Don't be afraid to demand it. But do it with love. Do it with love. Maybe with some anger mixed in -- but do it with love. Please."
But something extraordinary happened in another Mass that day, according to a wrenching series of Twitter posts by Susan B. Reynolds, a Catholic studies professor at the nearby Candler School of Theology. One of her research topics: Religious rites in the context of suffering.
Something happened down front at St. Thomas More after a similar sermon, with the same appeal for the laity to act.
"A dad stood up. 'HOW?' he pleaded. 'TELL US HOW.' His voice was shaking and determined and terrified. His collared shirt was matted to his back with sweat," wrote Reynolds. "Jaws dropped. My eyes filled with tears. … This is a big, middle of the road parish in a wealthyish Southeast college town. In such contexts it's hard to imagine a more subversive act than doing what that dad just did."
One parishioner muttered, "Sit down." But the priest listened, and this unusual dialogue continued for several minutes.
"I have a son," said the dad. "He's going to make his first communion. What am I supposed to tell him?"