Saturday, August 30, 2003

Men of the cloth can be creeps, she says

'Priests are just priests'

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Stacey Tieman prays as she falls asleep.

Hers is a convenient relationship with God. The 26-year-old says she believes - but she doesn't think she has to be in a church to do so.

"I pray when it hits me, when something is on my mind," says the Covedale resident.

Though Tieman is Catholic from the cradle, she isn't comfortable labeling herself as such.

"I'm more of a devout Christian than a Catholic," she says. "I'm Catholic by how my parents raised me, but I'm not by the book. Everything they say, I don't believe in."

Raised in a Catholic household and taught in Catholic schools, she looked forward to weekly Mass - because it got her out of classes. She dreaded church any other time.

"It was something that was required of me," she says. "I didn't understand it yet."

Her spiritual side blossomed during her senior year of high school when she relied on God to heal her struggles with everything from finals to fading friendships.

"When a lot of bad stuff happens, that's when you tend to rely on your faith. Either you lose it, or it gets stronger," she says. "Mine got stronger."

Even so, she attended Mass sporadically.

"Even as my faith got stronger, I went into that party mode and it just totally left me," she says. "But once I started to get serious about other things in my life, I started leaning back toward it."

Her distrust of priests began when allegations of sexual scandal in the church crept close to home. She recognized one of the accused local priests in the news.

"It was a very freaky feeling," she says. "Just thinking that I sat there and listened to this guy and took Communion from him - and he's a creep."

She once thought men of the cloth were all holy.

"Like, that's why we had confession - they were absolving of your sins. They had a certain extra power," she says.

That feeling has since disappeared.

"Church is God's house, and priests are just priests," she says. "I really disassociate the two."

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