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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Apr 29, 2003

The background is boring. Newark priest Fr. Gene Heyndricks pleaded guilty to the charge that he had solicited a 16-year-old male prostitute in Montreal. The usual boundary exploration problems.

The reaction is stunning. The North Bergen Reporter quotes saddened Catholic parishioners who, shockingly, aren't demanding women priests, aren't calling for an end to celibacy, don't find their faith shaken, and who claim they go to church -- get this -- to worship God.

Parishioners at St. John Nepomucene said that the recent scandals will not keep them away from going to church. "My feeling is that if someone wants to go to church, they're not going because of the priest," said the anonymous parishioner said. "They're going to worship God. I don't think something like this brings the community down. It's a shock to hear, because he was such a community-minded person. It's a shock to the community. But it doesn't hurt the community."

"I think we've all moved on," said Velez. "I think we've turned the page and are trying to forget this happened with Father Gene. We're a strong parish with good people. We'll be fine. It's disappointing, but we'll recover." Another avid parishioner, Luz Perez, agreed.

"It's really sad that this happened, but now Father Gene has admitted he did wrong and will pay the price," Perez said. "We're all saddened by this. We didn't want to believe it was true. But now, he's said he did it, so we have to get on with ourselves. We have a good group of people here who truly care about the parish and their faith. We'll get by."

Now almost all the lay faithful of my acquaintance have the same Catholic conviction: the unworthiness of the minister hindereth not the effect of the sacrament -- or, as they would put it, "Father Bruce isn't the reason we go to Mass." They are distressed to see their pastor or bishop pushed into the back of a police cruiser with a windbreaker over his head, but it doesn't rattle their faith. That said, when was the last time a journalist bumped up against this kind of churchgoer: sensible, charitable, and doctrinally articulate laymen?

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