In the Vineyard :: September 21, 2012 :: Volume 12, Issue 16

News from National

Voice of the Faithful 10th Year Conference Now History"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do." Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Our 10th Year Conference is history, and we're setting our future course. But, if you were not able to attend the conference and receive your copy of the Conference Program Book, just click here.

Honorable Anne Burke

Fr. Don Cozzens

Jamie Manson

John Morgan

Tom Groome

Photos by Jason Bergman

By James E. Post

More than 500 Catholics gathered on a lovely September evening to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the “shot heard ‘round the Catholic world.”   That “shot” was the formation of Voice of the Faithful, which began as a parish protest in Wellesley, MA and grew to an international movement of laity determined to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis. 

Progress has been made, according to VOTF’s current president, Mark Mullaney, but more needs to be done to assure that the clericalism that nourished sexual abuse is removed and a genuine healing process is nurtured.  Reverend Jim Connell of Milwaukee, WI diocese, one of the most senior priests in the U.S. to speak out on the causes of clergy sexual abuse and the institution’s need to serve survivors, endorsed Mullaney’s analysis and added his own list of “to do’s.”  

Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Ann Burke, who chaired the bishops’ National Review Board for several years, stirred the crowd with a keynote address calling on members to “think prophetically” and organize an international gathering of laity to set the right course for the Catholic Church in the 21st century. 

Burke’s view was buttressed by medieval historian, Joseph O’Callaghan of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who portrayed the Church’s many problems in the U.S., Ireland, and globally as the crumbling of an ancient façade that has exposed a structure in desperate need of renovation.  The metaphorical imagery appealed to the assembled group. 

Complementary perspectives were offered by other speakers.  They included John Morgan, chair of Ireland’s oversight body for sexual abuse who compared the American and Irish responses and current mechanisms for ensuring child protection.  Rev. Donald Cozzens, who has long championed VOTF as a “prophetic voice” of the laity, congratulated the group for staying the course despite opposition from church officials. 

David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, the leading survivor’s organization, thanked VOTF for its persistence and determination to make a difference to thousands of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. And Professor Tom Groome of Boston College integrated humor, history, and spiritual clarity into a provocative call for a renewed sense of purpose, while Jamie Manson, who regularly writes for National Catholic Reporter, spoke of the needs of young people to find meaningful purpose in their lives.  

All agreed with Justice Burke’s premise that an international conversation about the church of the future is both necessary and possible.    

Voice of the Faithful grew out of the listening sessions of a small group of parishioners at St. John the Evangelist church in Wellesley MA in early 2002 when The Boston Globe published details of clergy sexual abuse and systematic cover-up by church leaders, including Cardinal Bernard Law. The public outrage grew into a full-fledged movement to force Law’s resignation and institute a system to protect children and young adults and hold church officials accountable. VOTF’s membership soared in the past decade and stands at more than 30,000 today.   

Cardinal Law resigned in December 2002, but the sexual abuse crisis escalated across the nation as allegations were filed against thousands of priests.  More than $3 billion has been spent to settle civil lawsuits against dioceses in the past decade and many more cases remain unsettled. A number of dioceses --including Spokane, WA; Tucson, AZ; Portland, OR; Davenport, IA; and Milwaukee, WI -- have declared bankruptcy as a way to address the acute financial pressure; numerous closings and consolidations have also taken place in Boston and elsewhere.

The sexual abuse crisis was a “moral meltdown” that challenged every Catholic to ask, “Who am I?”  “What do I believe?” “Is this my church?” This line of questioning has led to a new awareness of the laity’s legitimate role in the governance and guidance of the church as envisioned by the Vatican II Council that took place fifty years ago. We trusted bishops to be the “good shepherd” and they betrayed that trust. VOTF exists to ensure that people will not be fooled again.

None of the speakers predicted an end to the Catholic Church.  After all, it has more than 60 million members in the U.S. and more than one billion members across the globe. But dinosaurs once ruled the world too; their world collapsed and they were fossilized in short order.

As Christianity is challenged around the world, only an engaged and committed Catholic community will survive.  That cannot happen without a thorough rethinking of how to utilize the talents of every man, women, and child in the church.  As it now stands, the leadership of the Catholic Church --in the U.S. and in the Vatican-- stands woefully in need of reform.  To the 500 VOTF members who gathered in Boston, the mantra still holds: “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”

James E. Post is a co-founder of VOTF and served several terms as president and as a member of the board of trustees. 

Missed the conference? That doesn’t mean you can’t still support Voice of the Faithful! Please consider showing your support by donating
. Thank you.

Conference Kudos
Here are just a couple of notes received by the front office this week:

“This is a brief note to thank you for intensive efforts to bring it all off so successfully. I was very impressed with the brochures and newsletters in the packet. Knowing the writing, editing and design work involved, I certainly admired the results. What a treasure Don Cozzens, Jim Connell and Jamie Manson were.”

“Just a short note to thank all of you for the excellent and well-run 10th Annual Meeting I just attended. You had a very informed, interesting and balanced group of speakers who complemented each other wonderfully. The facility and overall process was terrific and made it a very enjoyable, as well as informative and inspiring, experience.”

“I had a great time at the convention. I think everything was great. From the beginning to the end I had a good time. I will be processing it for a long time to come. I hope you and your co-workers are proud of yourselves. I definitely made the correct decision to attend.”

… And There’s More
The VOTF Retrospective movie that launched Friday evening’s event is ON SALE NOW. We are accepting pre-orders and will begin shipping the DVD “Voice of the Faithful: A Retrospective,” filmed by noted director Vincent Rocchio by the end of the month. If you were at the conference, you know how effectively Vincent captured the words and influences that helped build VOTF.

Use the online order form to place your order. Cost is $20 per DVD.

ALSO AVAILABLE soon is the book Voices: Telling Our Stories, which gathers your words, your thoughts, your hopes for our Church. Gathered from the more than 700 responses you sent during these past months to our five questions, the book truly is Our Story in Our Voices. Order your copy using the online order form on our web site. Note that the book will be available beginning in October.

VOTF Chicago Focuses on Lay Catholic Input into Successor to Cardinal Francis George of the Faithful in Chicago is encouraging all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago to make suggestions regarding the selection of the next archbishop of Chicago. As reported in the Chicago Tribune recently, VOTF Chicago has set up two websites to facilitate this process, basically two surveys. One website is called Bishop Selection Input and offers additional background on the process; all suggestions on this site will be forwarded verbatim to the Vatican's U.S. Apostolic Nuncio, who will make recommendations to the pope. The other is called Archbishop Selection Survey: Chicago and consists of 15 agree-disagree questions, and only summary response patterns will be sent to the nuncio.

Chicago Catholics Asked to Speak Up on Next Archbishop
As the Chicago Tribune story [directly] below explains, VOTF put forth great efforts to gain the approval of the process by George and the papal ambassador. The story also indicates that while these church leaders did not bar the project, they were less than wholehearted in giving a stamp of approval. For example, the archdiocese barred pastors from advertising the initiative in their parish bulletins.

-- Group Aims to Influence Chicago Archbishop Appointment

 -- Catholic Laity Seek Voice in Choice of Bishop

Coming Soon: Priesthood Sunday Oct. 28

Recommendations of a Survivor to the Irish National Board Responsible for Auditing Dioceses and Religious Congregations
An Irish religious congregation formerly known as The Holy Ghost Fathers, now the Spiritans, C.S.Sp., became the first Roman Catholic religious institution to request an independent public audit of clergy sexual abuse of children by its members. The Spiritans are the largest male religious congregation in Ireland and they have a missionary presence in 53 countries on 5 continents. 

In an announcement on its website on March 30, 2012, the Spiritans said that, “until a complete picture is known of past and present abuse within the church, there can be no possibility of authentic accountability or renewal for the future.”  They added “that only a public audit of the reality of abuse committed by Spiritans can free the Congregation to carry out its mission of service among God’s people in Ireland and overseas.”

The NBSCCCI (National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland), which has completed numerous audits of Irish dioceses, audited the Spiritans in May, and the report is expected to be issued in September.  You can access it and audit reports on other Irish dioceses at

In preparing to draft its audit report, the NBSCCCI asked Mark Vincent Healy, a survivor of sexual abuse by a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers, and a strong advocate for others like him, for comments and recommendations on reaching out to victims and their families, and how to provide for them.  Attached is Mark’s response, including recommendations for nationally-sponsored “rescue services” and “safe space provisioning services” across a number of disciplines on a national and international basis.

On April 2, 2012, VOTF issued a press release in support of the independent audit. If anyone wants to contact the author, you can reach him at

Voice of the Faithful FOCUS,
September 21, 2012

Highlighting issues we face working together
                        to Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Seeks to Expand Its Challenges to Sex Abuse, Church Structures
At a two-day conference in Boston, Voice of the Faithful celebrated 10 years of battling sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and working to change the church structures that permitted and at times facilitated it. But the 450 conference participants spent most of Friday and Saturday exploring how to continue and expand that struggle over the next decade and beyond. "When others lost their nerve and their voice, you didn't lose your nerve or your voice," [Fr. Donald Cozzens] said. "I salute your courage to come together 10 years ago, to speak your truth to power then, throughout the last decade, now, and into the future. Speaking the truth to power is never easy."
 -- Voice of the Faithful Marks 10th Year with New Calls for Church Reform

Kansas City Bishop's Guilty Verdict Raises National Questions
The conviction last week of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn for failing to report suspected child abuse indicates that "clearly there is a problem" with how the procedures adopted by the U.S. church to protect children are being used, a key adviser to the U.S. bishops on the issue said Monday. Central to that problem, said Al Notzon III, chairman of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board for clergy sex abuse, is the question of accountability for bishops who do not comply with the norms and conditions the body of bishops agreed to 10 years ago. The procedures are spelled out in the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
 -- Defying Canon and Civil Laws, Diocese Failed to Stop a Priest
-- Advocates Hope Guilty Verdict against Bishop Moves Adults to Report Abuse
 -- The Star’s Editorial/Church Left Hurting from Finn’s Failure

Editorial: Kansas City's Bishop Finn Must Resign or Be Removed
If Bishop Robert W. Finn wanted today to volunteer at a parish in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese to teach a religious education class or chaperone a parish youth group to World Youth Day, he couldn't do it. Convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, Finn wouldn't pass the background check necessary to work with young people in the Catholic Church. That is, he could not serve in those positions if he were just a layman, deacon or priest. But he is a bishop, and that makes all the difference. And he can, apparently, do anything he wants under church law.

Justice Ventures Up the Church Hierarchy
The conviction (of Bishop Finn in Kansas City) was evidence of the growing resolve of secular authorities, however belated, to venture up the hierarchical ladder in their search for accountability. The scandal has led to the dismissal and criminal investigation of more than 700 priests, even as their superiors have been spared — despite years of diocesan scheming to buy off victims and rotate rogue priests to new parishes. Bishop Finn’s conviction was hardly encouraging for the cause of reform, however, since it involved very recent misdeeds — years after church leaders promised tough new policies aimed at preventing cover-ups.

Was Cardinal Carlo Martini the Last Liberal Catholic Bishop?
With the recent death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Catholics who call for church reform on issues such as homosexuality and priestly celibacy have lost one of their last leading lights in the top echelons of the church's hierarchy. Martini, who died Aug. 31, was a Jesuit and an archbishop of Milan from 1980-2002. More importantly, he was considered for decades the informal leader of "liberals" inside the church. But he has no clear successor in the current crop of cardinals.
-- Twenty Years Later, Martini Remained the Same Man

Read the rest of this issue of Focus here …

Women Deacons in the Catholic Church
St Nicholas Parish in Evanston, Illinois has been looking at the issue of women entering the diaconate. Cardinal Francis George has agreed to take the issue to Pope Benedict.  To read more


The Northern New Jersey VOTF Affiliate invites all to “A Retreat with Jan Novotka – All is Holy; All is One” on Saturday, October 20 at 9 am at The Shrine of St. Joseph 1050 Long Hill Road, Sterling, NJ  07980 For more information:

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.

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