In aftermath of sexual abuse scandal, DC-area churches see slight dip in attendance

In the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, churches in the D.C. area report there has been a decrease in church attendance, but not by much.

“From my perspective, we have not lost a lot of people going to church, we have lost some,” said Monsignor John Enzler, a priest in the Washington Archdiocese and the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Parish donations in the D.C. area are also remaining steady, he said.

“We’ve not lost a lot of income. I think what you might find is that our church income is flat. It’s not going up, it’s not going down, it’s flat,” Enzler said.

Enzler said the church is trying to find a way to work through the clergy sexual abuse scandal, “to let people know that we are deeply sorry, apologetic and let people know that we are trying to do better,” Enzler said.

Enzler oversees homeless shelters, food pantries, immigration counseling and other charitable sites that serve 140,000 people in need in D.C. and the five Maryland counties that comprise the Washington Archdiocese.

“If people come to our doors, we never ask about their religion, about their background, about their orientation. We ask only one thing: ‘How can we help you?'” Enzler said.

While parish giving is flat, Enzler said contributions to Catholic Charities are up.

“People seem to want to give directly to those who are hungry, to those who are homeless and those who are on the streets. And, they want to give to those people because they want to make a difference for those who are most in need,” Enzler said.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a holy period of penance and reflection for many Catholics.

During Lent, many Christians fast, sacrificing some of the things they enjoy during the penitent period. But Enzler also recommended that those who want to participate in the church’s holiest period do so by reaching out to others.

And, it does not have to be something more than simply smiling at people on the streets or being more open to people who ask you for help, Enzler said.

“Even that begins to say it’s a community, it’s a family, we’re all together in this,” Enzler said.

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