She thought about not coming.
Disillusioned by the sex abuse scandal once again consuming the Catholic Church, Claartje Bertaut considered skipping Sunday mass for the first time in more than four decades. In fact, she even considered leaving Catholicism.
But the 87-year-old District of Columbia woman sat in the pews Sunday at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament - one of the region's most prominent Catholic churches - as a young, impassioned priest urged more than 200 churchgoers not to lose their faith in God or Catholicism amid a "period of darkness" for the church. Rev. Alec Scott, Blessed Sacrament's parochial vicar, apologized for the misdeeds of the clergy.
"For all the frustration this has caused you, I express my condolences," Scott said. "But without you, reform won't be possible."
The congregation in Northwest Washington - moved by his plea - clapped when he finished.
"I never in that church heard the audience applaud a sermon," said Bertaut, who joined in the ovation. "This was a first."
It has been a painful summer for faithful Catholics. First, an investigation into widespread abuse in Chile and a cardinal on trial in Australia. Then, the first-ever resignation of a U.S. cardinal accused of sexual abuse - Theodore McCarrick, Washington's former archbishop.
And then last week, a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation revealed a systemic coverup by church leaders of child sex abuse. The report, in graphic victim accounts, detailed alleged abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over 70 years.
"This has been the summer from hell for the Catholic Church and our sins are blatantly exposed for the world to see," Vatican adviser Rev. Thomas Rosica wrote on Friday.
Paul Elie, a writer who lectures at Georgetown University's Berkley Center, thought that after the revelation of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002 and subsequent blows in the years after, he had lost the ability to feel even more disappointment in his church. He was wrong.
"It affects me profoundly," he said of the recent scandals. "A lot of Catholics, we have to ask whether we have wasted our lives following this model of leadership. At this point, the leadership in this country is not credible. The repeated scandals make it difficult or even impossible to pass the faith on to our kids ... I think about it every hour."
The Catholic church has lost more members in recent decades than any other major faith. About 27 percent of former Catholics who no longer identify with a religion cited clergy sexual abuse scandals as a reason for leaving the church, according to Pew research in 2015. And among former Catholics who now identify as Protestant, 21 percent say the sexual abuse scandals were a reason for leaving Catholicism, Pew says.
Even greater numbers of former Catholics say that they left over the church's teachings on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, or women.
Surveys have rarely asked about the Catholic Church's response to the crisis since 2013, when a Post-ABC poll found that 78 percent of Catholics disapproved of the way the church had handled the scandal - more than a decade after the Boston Globe investigation prompted the church to overhaul its procedures for rooting out abusive priests.
"It's almost unsalvageable. The church is in pieces. People have completely separated their faith from the organization," said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University.
As head of a Catholic institution, McGuire said she sees this summer sowing new doubts. "The fact that we thought all the worst had come out already - this is what creates cynicism. People were like: 'OK, it's all cleaned up, now we're moving on.' ... Now we know: The church is a fallible human organization."
For Washington Catholics in particular, last week's Pennsylvania grand jury report dealt a second blow of the summer, by casting doubt on McCarrick's successor, the current Washington archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Wuerl, whose conduct as bishop of Pittsburgh was scrutinized in the investigation, has canceled his trip to Ireland for a major Catholic summit and has had his upcoming book's publication postponed. And in the pews of his diocese, some are heartsick to read how the report says he handled the abusive priests he supervised.
Matthew Mangiaracina, 25, went to mass every day on his lunch break at St. Patrick's in downtown Washington, a church where Wuerl often celebrates mass. But this week, as he read the report, Mangiaracina felt he could never go back to St. Patrick's and face the cardinal.
This week, he stepped tentatively into St. Mary Mother of God, the next nearest church to his job at the Family Research Council, to see whether he could find solace in the mass there instead.
"Anything associated with the archbishop makes me uncomfortable. Everything coming out of the Pennsylvania report, it seems pretty damning. I don't trust him anymore," he said. "I'm at a loss."
Facing the latest investigation, Catholics had a range of reactions - from those who can't be shocked anymore to those who were newly grieved, from those who feel Catholics are unfairly singled out to those who maintain their faith in the religion but not its leaders.
"Everybody's always lambasting the Catholic Church," complained Elizabeth Rhodes, a former Fox News producer, as she had lunch with her daughter near the campus of Catholic University of America on Thursday. "They don't look at people in sports, the ones who are training kids in soccer. There are plenty of other religious communities, Jewish and others, where there's sexual exploitation. Any religion, any time, it's a tragedy, but I hate this focus (on Catholics)."
Still, Rhodes said, she's frustrated with the church's leadership. She thinks Pope Francis has been far too slow to respond to the crisis in Chile. She was upset by the revelations about McCarrick. She no longer trusts Wuerl, based on what she's heard about the Pennsylvania report.
But she retains her trust in the priests she knows personally, and in her religion. "For me, church is like a hospital - you go for help. You go in times that are difficult. You need that support, just like you need to work out physically."
Rigo Azanwi, a 26-year-old Capuchin friar who is studying at Catholic University to become a priest, said his first reaction was much the same: sorrow and anger over the children who were hurt, but also suspicion that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office specifically went after Catholics, even though most of the cases are too old to ever be prosecuted.
"Is this supposed to be trying to tarnish the image of the church?" he asked on Thursday.
He said he has learned while wearing his friar habit just how deeply many people view the Catholic church with suspicion after years of scandal. He remembers sitting down on an airplane once, then hearing a stranger sneer at him, "Which child have you abused this morning?"
Fearful of such perceptions, he is careful to never be alone with a child or touch one, even when his nieces and nephews ask him for hugs and piggyback rides. "I love kids but at the same time, I am scared of them," he said.
For young adults like Azanwi, the scandals are simply part of what they know of the church that they have grown up with. Alexandra DeSanctis, a 23-year-old writer who goes to Mass almost daily, said this summer was the first time the issue truly rocked her.
First the allegations against McCarrick, then the immense scale of Pennsylvania report disturbed her deeply - but changed her view of her church's leaders, she said, not her faith. "No one I know will leave the church over this. To me this isn't the Catholic Church, these are people within the church who did evil things," she said.
She's praying all the more fervently at Mass nowadays. "You have to pray and ask for the grace to get through something as difficult as this."
The Washington Post's Scott Clement contributed to this report.
This story first appeared in The Washington Post.