Creating a Just Church ...
Considering the present crisis in the Catholic Church, which has been called the biggest “since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century,” it is no surprise that more than 150 Voice of the Faithful members gathered in the Boston area on October 19 for Voice of the Faithful's 2019 Conference: Creating a Just Church. They were there to listen, learn, discuss, and act.
Attendees heard featured speakers:
- Honorable Anne Burke, chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court;
- Char Rivette, executive director of the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center;
- Fr. Richard Lennan, a theologian from Boston College and co-author of "To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry";
- Grass roots advocates for change in the church from faith communities in three U.S. geographical areas;
- VOTF's Finance Working Group chair on some results from VOTF’s 2019 U.S. diocesan online financial transparency study; and
- VOTF's Protection of Children Working Group chair on a new VOTF child protection initiative.
Justice Burke was a special return guest speaker, who spoke at VOTF's 10th Anniversary Conference in 2012. For more than two years, she served as the interim chair of the USCCB’s National Review Board, directing its efforts to investigate the causes and effects of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and helping to establish guidelines and policies for effectively responding to the scandal.
Justice Burke was joined by Char Rivette. Together, they showed how the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center could be a model for battling clergy child abuse in any U.S. diocese. ChicagoCAC is Chicago's front-line responder to reports of child sexual abuse, physical and other serious abuse, and the only not-for-profit coordinating the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts, and mental health clinicians under one roof.
Fr. Lennan presently directs Boston College's sacred theology licenture program. Hew wrote "To Serve the People of God ..." along wiht Boston College theology professors Thomas Groome and Richard Gaillardetz. Their paper calls for reexamining the formation process for diocesan priests and eradicating the priesthood's embedded clerical culture. The paper resulted from a two-year-long studay at Boston College that began in 2016. Contributors to the study included both the lay and ordained people, women, as well as men, and theologians and ministers working in pastoral and academic settings.
Local grass roots advocates for a just Church, who participated in a panel discussion, included Thomas Beecher from the Buffalo, New York, area; Kathleen Coogan (above, second from left) from the Washington D.C. area; and Jan Seidel (above right) and Susan Vogt (second right) from the Cincinnatti, Ohio, area. Each panel member described actions they are taking at the grass-roots level to help create a just Church in light of scandals particular to their communities.
Discussions of issues arising from the panel presentations continued during lunch. Conference attendees had the chance to ask the panel members about the broad variety of activities in which they are engaged and which have energized both their local faith communities and faith communities they have contacted in other parts of the country.
Use the links below to see videos of each of the speaker presentations at VOTF's 2019 Conference, as well as remarks by Mary Pat Fox, VOTF's president, Q&As from speaker presentations and panel discussion, and an opening prayer by Jayne O'Donnell, former VOTF trustee and Broken Vessel™ Healing Circles co-facilitator.
VOTF 2019 Conference:
Creating a Just Church video presentations
Here's a link to the suggestions developed during the Grassroots Action table discussions at the conference.