How Chicago Catholics are responding to the church sex abuse crisis

In a FOX 32 special report: losing the faith.

After decades of clergy abuse allegations in the catholic church, new revelations are coming to life. But what keeps parishioners coming back week after week?

For John Prezzia, the Catholic church is where he was raised. It's part of his identity and where he continues to find solace.

“There's nowhere else to go for true joy, true peace, and true love,” Prezzia said.

“I grew up on the south side of Chicago. A cradle Catholic, very religious family,” said Therese Albrecht-Key.

But while some found true joy, others found pure hell. Therese Albrecht-Key says her priest began abusing her -- in the church -- when she was only 8 years old.

“The touching started, and then it escalated to rape and sodomy over a desk in the classroom,” Albrecht-Key said.

She said it lasted for years and when she finally got the courage to speak up, she was dismissed.

“What he did to me, killed my spirit, murdered my soul. I'm hanging on, by the skin of my teeth,” Albrecht-Key said.

She's not alone.

Ryan Elliott says he was abused by a priest at age 10.

“It shatters your sense about who you are and you start questioning,” he said.

“Since the PA grand jury report came out, we notice it's been different, and there's a lot more outrage,” said Kate Bochte.

Bochte is a spokesperson for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- or SNAP -- and says she has seen a change.

“We have more and more survivors coming forward,” Bochte said.

“This lawsuit, and the survivors with whom we stand here today, are here to sound an alarm. The alarm. Danger. Danger. Danger,” said attorney Jeff Anderson.

Another change is there has been more probes. Last month, four abuse survivors filed a lawsuit against every Catholic diocese in the state.

“In a conspiracy of silence, a conspiracy of secrecy, a conspiracy of self-protection in scandal avoidance that is causing a hazard and danger in real time today,” Anderson said.

And probes like these are leading to more investigations, including one by the Department of Justice and the Illinois attorney general.

So how is the church responding? On Monday, the Vatican postponed a final vote about child protection until February.

In the meantime, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich pushed for a new code of conduct, but it's not clear whether or not that will happen.

For some, that isn't enough.

“They have to stop empowering these men, and stop enabling them,” Bochte said.

But others are holding out hope for the future of the church.

“I really do believe that things will get straightened out, the right people will step in,” said Catholic Suzette Mahneke.

“It's full of sinners and it's full of saints, and hopefully we'll start moving towards the latter,” Prezzia said.

The Chicago Archdiocese says it has paid out about $200-million-dollars in response to clergy abuse over the years. It says it has one of the oldest and largest victim assistance ministries in the nation.

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