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Mary Pat Fox
President, Voice of the Faithful

Dear Friends,

On Sunday June 24, Voice of the Faithful was featured in a New York Times article . The article talked about some challenges we face as a 5-year old organization and also talked about an initiative we are rolling out this summer. Let me clarify what we are doing and not doing. The proposal developed by the Working Group for Goal 2 and approved by the NRC and Officers was announced in In the Vineyard April 19, 2007.

The proposal has two clear parts: one is a call for the Vatican to conduct an ecclesiastic review of celibacy in light of its suspected linkage to clericalism and the culture of secrecy which allowed the bishops to handle the clergy sex abuse crisis by moving abusive priests from parish to parish. The other part of the proposal, which each of you will be more involved in, is the discussion around and research into the challenges of the priesthood today in the 21st Century. Here we will hopefully gain a better understanding of how our gifts can best be used.

The relationship of mandated celibacy and the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis is complicated. We must be clear that we are NOT saying that the practice of celibacy causes men to abuse. Rather, we are clearly stating that mandated celibacy is believed to have been a significant contributor to the culture of secrecy that allowed bishops to knowingly protect abusive priests. Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea articulates this very well in her new book Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. She states: “What became evident is that some number of priests and prelates – some of them sexually active as well – turn a blind eye to the chasm between celibacy as mandated and celibacy as lived. It is the secrecy and hypocrisy about celibacy that supported other sexual secrets like the abuse of minors by priests.”

Since our early days VOTF has stressed the importance of ensuring that a crisis such as the clergy sex abuse crisis never happens again. That is not new. However, we have learned a great deal about what contributed to the abuse crisis. We now know it was not that the Catholic Church was plagued with more child abusers than any other organization. Rather what made our situation worse was how the bishops handled the crisis. That culture of secrecy is still alive and well. We encounter this culture of secrecy as we work for financial accountability and are refused data; when we work for changes in the laws and we run up against the “Catholic Conference”; when dioceses declare bankruptcy and are later found moving money around behind the scenes. This culture of secrecy is a fundamental issue in how the bishops handle many issues including the sex abuse crisis. We must get to the heart of what creates this culture and we must change it.

The process to get to this point where we have taken on this initiative has spanned nine- months and included many discussions. The NRC went out to their constituencies and solicited input prior to taking a vote. With each revision there was extensive conversation among the Working Group, the Officers and members of the NRC. All these groups made sure that the proposal was clearly defined, within our mission statement and goals, before agreement was reached. This initiative will be rolled out by the Working Group for Goal 2 with an official press release on July 2.

We must understand the underlying system that made it possible for bishops to put children’s lives at risk in order to protect the institution if we are ever going to effect real change. We must continue to seek that truth. As we do we will engage in discussion and debate and hopefully come up with more ways to build a healthier Church. Cosmetic changes might make people feel better but without removing the roots of the current crisis, those roots will remain able to strike again.

Keep the Faith, Change the Church,

Mary Pat




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Voice of the Faithful is recognized as one of the most promising lay organizations to evolve in the Catholic Church. Your support is absolutely necessary for us to continue. The online donation form and the mail in donation form are both quick and easy ways for you to participate, and we are most grateful. (VOTF is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. )

Mission Statement

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.


Our Goals

1. To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

2. To support priests of integrity

3.To shape structural change within the Catholic Church.

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Jesus, Lord and Brother, help us with our faithfulness. Please hear our voice, and let our voice be heard. Amen. More



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