The Nature of Authority in Local Faith Communities

Moderator Michael Marnik provided a brief introduction on objectives of the panel and an introduction of each of the participants. Fr. Bill Clark of the College of the Holy Cross started off with an ecclesiological discussion of the origin and nature of authority in local faith communities and its relationship to the universal church. Fr. Clark spoke about the local church as the “event” of the universal church (Rahner), and the idea of authority as a relationship that maintains communities. He also discussed how authority in a local faith community flows from authenticity, that is, the state of being in touch with the underlying principles upon which the community is based.

Sharon Harrington, Margaret Roylance and Ronnie Mitchell then told their stories about what happened in each of their local faith communities in Massachusetts (St. Albert the Great in South Weymouth, Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton and Bridgewater State Catholic Community in Bridgewater, respectively) when they came into conflict with their diocesan leadership and what the outcome in each of the communities was. As part of questions/discussion at the end of the panel, common themes or lessons learned were addressed. The group discussed elements that tie the three stories together and those that distinguish them. The spiritual foundation of the actions of the communities was an important element, as were the forces which act to tear a community apart when conflict with hierarchical authority occurs.

DISCIPLESHIP for Women in the Church of the 21st Century

A large crowd gathered to hear presenter Professor Mary Doyle Roche of Holy Cross College (Worcester MA) address the subject of women’s discipleship in a global climate of devastating assault on women and children. Doyle’s message reminded attendees of the profound effects of injustice toward women anywhere.

Rich Moriarty (VA), NRC representative from Region 4, and Peggie Thorp (MA and Vineyard editor) spoke about the resolution they are co-sponsoring with former NRC representative Mary Collingwood (OH) on the subject of women’s roles in the Church. Attendees responded favorably to the presentation and many forwarded a request to their NRC representatives to consider the proposal. Questions from the audience noted concerns about the reception of the Church among children and young adults of the Church both in its faith and in its practice.

The resolution (worded below) was considered the following day by the NRC, which approved its distribution to membership and officers for their consideration. The vote was 16-8.

Whereas, our Church is the entire People of God; and

Whereas, the future of the Faith we are called to sustain is dependent upon a supporting structure inclusive of the voices and talents of all the People of God; and

Whereas, we affirm the VOTF 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) and third goal (to support structural change within the Catholic Church); and

Whereas Voice of the Faithful at our founding identified several factors that may have contributed to the sexual abuse of children and an attendant cover-up, including the absence of women across the spectrum of leadership in our Church; and

Whereas, the deterrence of future abuses by the hierarchy is dependent on addressing those contributing factors identified by Voice of the Faithful at its founding; and

Whereas Voice of the Faithful’s pursuit of justice for survivors invites the pursuit of justice throughout our Church; and

Whereas there is within our Church a structural fault line in the marginalization of the lay voice in general and women’s voices and gifts in particular;


Voice of the Faithful calls for Church-wide re-examination and reform of the role of women in Church ministry and in the governance of the Church.


Candlelight Walk of remembrance in support of survivors followed the Saturday evening liturgy at the Convention. Winding from the 5th floor of the Rhode Island Convention Center down to the river, attendees braved strong winds to keep their candles lit, and then paused for songs and prayers in support of the survivors before returning for a final forum about ways to support legislation to protect children. includes in “New and Noteworthy” a “publicly filed petition by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence” that “provides a new and shocking admission regarding the diocese’s total number of accused priests.” The documentation indicates a number twice the total noted by the Providence diocese in 2004. Read more.

In the Vineyard
October 29, 2007
Volume 6, Issue 120 Printer Friendly Version (PDF)

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Goal 2 - Priest Support



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