Contact: Suzanne Morse 617-680-2131, email@example.com
For Immediate Release
Voice of the Faithful Hosts Major Regional Conference on Renewal In
the Catholic Church
Fr. James Scahill receives Priest of Integrity Award; Individuals in
Closing Parishes Tell Story of Ongoing Vigils
Saturday, November 13, 2004 - Worcester, Mass. - Fr. James J. Scahill,
of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, received the Priest of Integrity award
at a conference hosted by the New England affiliates of Voice of the
Faithful today. The award, given by the organization of lay Catholics
formed in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, honors priests
who exemplify the meaning of honorable pastoral service. Fr. Thomas J.
Doyle, who received the first Priest of Integrity award in 2002, and
David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those
Abused by Priests (SNAP), presented the award to Fr. Scahill on November
13th in Worcester, Massachusetts at a Voice of the Faithful conference
entitled "It's Not History - It's Time for Renewal."
"It's Not History - It's Time for Renewal" brought members
of Voice of the Faithful and other area Catholics together to consider
the current condition of the Church and ways that Catholics might help
to restore trust and faith in the Catholic Church in the United States.
Speakers included Sue Archibald, Jason Berry, Fr. Tom Doyle, David France,
David Gibson, Paul Lakeland, David O'Brien, Tom O'Neill III, Gerald Renner,
and Fr. Robert Silva.
Members of parishes holding ongoing vigils around the archdiocese of
Boston also discussed their experiences during the parish closing process
and their decision to hold ongoing parish vigils to keep their faith
communities alive. Additionally, the diocesan child safety directors
for Boston, Worcester, Fall River and Springfield hosted a panel on keeping
parishes safe for children. "This was a tremendously rewarding day
for Voice of the Faithful and for Catholics across the region," said
Robert Morris, conference organizer. "The crisis within the Church
has taken a toll on all of us who care about the future of the Catholic
Church, but it is much easier to be optimistic about renewal after hearing
the many loving and inspired voices we heard today."
Fr. James J. Scahill Outspoken Supporter of Survivors
Fr. Scahill, the pastor of St. Michael's parish, is an outspoken supporter
of the community of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. In 2002, Fr. Scahill
announced that the parish would withhold its weekly contribution to the
Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, because the Diocese had not removed
a notorious priest and convicted abuser, Richard Lavigne, from its payroll.
The monies withheld were delivered to the Diocese only after all payments
to Lavigne were terminated.
Fr. Scahill also was instrumental in bringing the allegations against
former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre to public attention. Fr. Scahill
counseled the mother of one of the survivors. He then brought the claims
of abuse to the attention of Archbishop O'Malley of the Boston Archdiocese
and to law enforcement officials in Massachusetts. Dupre resigned his
position as bishop when the allegations against him became public.
Fr. Scahill has begun to work with the Diocese toward community healing
despite some initial tension with the new Bishop in Springfield, Bishop
Timothy A. McDonnell. In September, Fr. Scahill and Bishop McDonnell
held a healing Mass for survivors at St. Michael's parish. Bishop McDonnell
apologized to Fr. Scahill for remarks he had made about him and to survivors
for the abuse that they had suffered.
In 2002, Fr. Doyle said about Fr. Scahill, "Scahill has not only
listened to his parishioners' concerns, he has realized that they are
his concerns as well and he has taken action! This action has galvanized
not only his parish, but also the Greater Springfield community behind
him and his parish's just cause."
"Fr. Scahill demonstrated exemplary courage and principled Christian
leadership by speaking up for victims of abuse and insisting that the
Church do the right thing in responding to them," said James E.
Post, president of Voice of the Faithful. "When he spoke out, he
could not have contemplated the hardship he would face or the criticism
he would bear. But he did not flinch or forsake those survivors of clergy
sexual abuse. And, looking back today, we can see the power of his actions
- they are a beacon of integrity for all to see."
About Voice of the Faithful: Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is a worldwide
movement of concerned mainstream Catholics formed in response to the
clergy sexual abuse crisis. The group's mission 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. Its
goals are to support victim/survivors of abuse, support priests of integrity,
and shape structural change within the Catholic Church in full accordance
and harmony with Church teaching. VOTF's supporting membership exceeds
30,000 registered persons from 50 U.S. states, 39 countries and 207 Parish
Voice affiliates throughout the world.