Voice of the Faithful

Voice of the Faithful

Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is an organization of lay Catholics, formed in early 2002 in response to the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases.

Founding, growth and mission

VOTF began when a small group of parishioners met in the basement of St. John the Evangelist church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States, to pray over allegations that a priest has abused local youngsters. Its meetings soon became well attended, as well as attracting significant media attention. A conference it held in July 2002 attracted over 4,000 lay Catholics, victims of clergy sexual abuse, theologians, priests and religious from around the U.S. and the world. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E0DB1638F932A15754C0A9649C8B63 "Catholics Hoping to Shift Bit Of Power From Pulpit to Pew"] , "The New York Times, July 21, 2002. Accessed April 4, 2008.] Less than a year after its founding, VOTF was able to claim 30,000 members worldwide. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A04E3D71E3AF937A25751C1A9649C8B63 "Law, Citing Abuse Scandal, Quits As Boston Archbishop And Asks For Forgiveness"] , December 14, 2002. Accessed April 4, 2008.] VOTF currently has members in all 50 states and in 21 nations, with over 150 Parish Voice affiliates. [cite web | url=http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/Parish_Voice/pvwelcome.html | title=Welcome to Parish Voice | accessdate=2007-10-05 | publisher=Voice of the Faithful | date=2007-01-11]

Jim Muller, one of VOTF's co-founders and its first president , has written a book about the group's founding called "Keep the Faith, Change the Church."

VOTF's mission statement is: "To provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church." It has articulated three goals: 1. To support victims of clergy sexual abuse; 2. To support priests of integrity; and 3. To shape structural change within Church. [cite web | url=http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/Who_We_Are/mission.html | title=Our Mission Statement | accessdate=2007-10-05 | publisher=Voice of the Faithful | date=2007-05-09]


Voice of the Faithful works to support victims of clergy sexual abuse and advocates for bishops' fuller accountability for their handling of complaints of abuse by clergy. The group is partially credited with forcing the resignation of Boston's Archbishop, Bernard Cardinal Law, in December 2002.

Members of the organization have worked to extend the Statute of Limitations for allegations of abuse against minors. One of its more visible accomplishments was its involvement in the effort to extend the SOL in Massachusetts. The group leading this effort, called the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, included many VOTF members.

VOTF advocates for structural change in the Church—in general, for lay members to have a greater administrative voice, especially regarding financial oversight, in their parishes and dioceses.

VOTF has recently taken a controversial stand in calling for the Vatican to review the requirement that priests be celibate. Jim Post, a former president of VOTF, stated, "We’ve repeatedly rejected that argument, saying that those are not our issues. Even I, from time to time, wonder whether we shouldn’t just declare victory and say a lot’s been done in five years." [cite web | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506E0D6113FF937A15755C0A9619C8B63 | title=Catholic Lay Group Tests a Strategy Change | accessdate=2007-10-05 | date=2007-06-24 | publisher=New York Times]


A two year study conducted by Catholic University of America found that VOTF members "share a deep and highly involved commitment to their Church." [cite web | url=http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/DAntonio/Dantonio_summary.pdf | accessdate=2007-10-05 | title=2004 Survey of VOTF Members | publisher=Voice of the Faithful | date=2007-01-11] and the group has been endorsed by a number of American Catholic theologians. [cite web | url=http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/Who_We_Are/theologian.html | title=THEOLOGIAN PETITION: Voice of the Faithful Has the Right to Exist | accessdate=2007-10-05 | publisher=Voice of the Faithful | date=2007-01-11] An article in Commonweal called the group "one of the most interesting and hopeful developments to come out of the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse crisis." [cite web | url=http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=748 | title=Are The Bishops Listening? An Interview with VOTF’s James E. Post | accessdate=2007-10-05 | date=2003-06-06 | publisher=Commonweal]

Since its inception, many have questioned whether VOTF is, as it claims, operating within the law, doctrine and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. [cite web | url=http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2003d/102403/102403t.htm | title=Conversion is the change the church needs | accessdate=2007-10-05 | date=2003-10-24 | publisher=National Catholic Reporter] The group has hosted many speakers not in favor with the hierarchy, such as Eugene Kennedy, a long-time observer of the Roman Catholic Church, professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of the book "The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality"; and Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D., an advocate for obtaining justice for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, who has been reprimanded for failing to implement liturgical guidelines. [cite web | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05E4DE163DF93AA15757C0A9629C8B63 | title=Catholic Priest Who Aids Church Sexual Abuse Victims Loses Job | date=2004-04-29 | accessdate=2007-10-05 | publisher=New York Times ] [cite web | url=http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week643/interview2.html | publisher=Religion & Ethics Newsweekly | date=2003-06-27 | accessdate=2007-10-05 | title=Interview with Rev. Thomas Doyle]

Some feel that ongoing publicity, prosecution and high profile legal settlements related to sexual abuse by priests, such as the July 2007 Diocese of Los Angeles settlement, point to the group's continued influence. [cite web | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980CE0DD1631F935A25754C0A9619C8B63 | title=After Abuse Settlement, An Apology to Victims | accessdate=2007-10-05 | date=2007-07-16 | publisher=New York Times] Other reports, however, say that the group is broke and facing an identity crisis. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/11/AR2007071101698.html]

In his 2008 book "Here Comes Everybody", author Clay Shirky studied VOTF as an example of an activist group for which the communication possibilities of the Internet were essential; contrasting its success with an "almost identical" 1992 case of a pedophile priest in the same diocese, also under Bishop Law and reported by the Boston Globe, but before widespread adoption of the Internet. [ [http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2008/02/29/04 People Power] On the Media, February 29, 2008]

ee also

*Call to Action


External links

* [http://www.votf.org/ Official site]
* [http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/ Archive of Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight Investigation on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Church]
*cite web | url=http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/03/06/give_laity_a_key_role_in_fixing_church/ | title=Give laity a key role in fixing church (op-ed) | publisher=Boston Globe | date=2004-03-06
* [http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/extras/voice_archive.htm The rise of Voice of the Faithful, from Boston Globe archive]
* [http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/law_laity/ Cardinal Law and the Laity, from Boston Globe Archive]
* [http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/hudson/voiceofthefaithful.html Article critical of Voice of the Faithful on Catholicity.com]
* [http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/hudson/voiceofthefaithful3.html "VOTF Shows its Stripes," Catholicity.com]
* [http://www.nd.edu/~ndmag/w2002-03/muller.html An interview with VOTF's first president, Jim Muller, in Notre Dame Magazine, Winter 02-03]
* [http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0213/p14s01-lire.html "A window on reform," Christian Science Monitor, 2/13/03]
* [http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0719/p03s01-ussc.html "Catholic reformers hold historic meeting," Christian Science Monitor,7/19/02]
* [http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2003c/082903/082903v.php "Viewpoint: Voice of the Faithful misleads the laity," NCR, 8/29/03]
* [http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2003a/013103/013103m.htm Joan Chittister column: "Voice of Faithful goes after biggest issue of all: authority," NCR 1/31/03]
* [http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2002c/080202/080202a.htm, "Cover story: Church in Crisis: 4,000 meet to give laity a voice," NCR 8/2/02]
* [http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005c/082605/082605a.php, "Cover story -- Boston: Digging in to stay and pray," NCR 8/26/05]
* [http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2003b/062003/062003d.php, "Church in Crisis: Meltdown in Boston," NCR 6/20/03]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E1D6123FF932A35752C1A9609C8B63 "Saints That Weren't", Op-ed article from the New York Times]
* [http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/05/27/a_lifeline_for_the_church/ A lifeline for the Church Boston Globe, May 27, 2005]
* [http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/01/07/unanswered_questions_linger/ Boston Globe op ed on Five Year Anniversary: Unaswered Questions Linger, January 6, 2007]

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