[Last year around this time, the Vineyard published
the story of this affiliate’s experience when
passing out a leaflet at their parish church one Sunday.
They returned to do so again a few Sundays ago. Ken
Riley of VOTF Union County NJ provides some background
to this year’s letter. The letter appears below.]
We in VOTF Union County, New Jersey, attend a different
parish in our diocese (Newark) the first Saturday of
each month to say a public prayer for priests of integrity
before Mass. We pass out prayer cards and ask congregants
to join us. The backs of the prayer cards identify
us as Voice of the Faithful with a web site for further
On one occasion last year the pastor of a parish
actually acknowledged our presence before the congregation
and welcomed us. Apparently someone in the congregation
contacted Archbishop John Myers’ office, as
during the following week the Archdiocese sent an
email to all parishes that we were not to be welcomed.
When we entered Sacred Heart Cathedral the first
Saturday of June 2006, we were met by two policemen
from the Sheriff’s office who told us we were
not to hand anything out.
On Saturday, May 5, 2007, we attended Mass at Our
Lady of Peace in New Providence, New Jersey. A representative
of our group went into the sacristy on the Saturday
before Mass to introduce himself to the assigned
When our representative did this on May 5, the pastor
(who was to be the celebrant) told him we were not
to say the prayer because he was opposed to Voice
of the Faithful. This caught us by surprise and we
did not say the prayer, but we had already distributed
the prayer cards and then sat in the first pew with
our Voice of the Faithful buttons on. After Mass
we reflected on what happened and decided we should
have gone ahead and said the prayer for priests publicly
and, therefore, I sent the following letter to the
Dear Father Cunneen,
I was part of the small Voice of the Faithful group
that participated in the 8:30 AM Mass at Our Lady of
Peace this past Saturday. I was shocked when Cy Massar
informed us that you refused to allow us to publicly
pray for our priests of integrity because you object
to Voice of the Faithful. I would like to know why
you object to Voice of the Faithful.
The Archbishop has stated his objection is based on
his belief that some in Voice of the Faithful are affiliated
with other organizations that dissent from the teaching
of the Church. This appears to me to be guilt by association.
As an organization, Voice of the Faithful takes no
positions on any teachings of the Church.
Our intention on Saturday was not to ask for your
permission to pray publicly in Church, but to extend
a courtesy to you, as the appointed leader of Our Lady
of Peace, of what we planned to do. In retrospect,
we feel we should have gone ahead with what we planned,
and ought to do so in the future.
We hold deep in our hearts that the Church belongs
to the people of God and the laity are not to be consigned
to pay, pray, and obey, but are to be treated as equal
brothers and sisters in Baptism. History seems to show
that somewhere along the way the institutional Church
adopted the models of Roman Empire imperialism and
Middle Ages feudalism. I ask myself the familiar question, “What
would Jesus think?”
In your homily, you referenced how Mother Theresa
joyfully served the outcasts of the world. In some
respects we feel like outcasts of this diocese because
of the refusal to enter into dialogue with us. It’s
a shame that a simple welcome cannot be extended.
I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit works directly
through the baptized and guides us along the path of
truth. Consequently, we should not be afraid. The Holy
Spirit leads the Church and we should not suppress
discussion and dialogue.
I appreciate your attention to this letter and the
opportunity it allows me to communicate with you.