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At the Indianapolis Convocation in July, 2005, leaders of each of the working groups were invited to give a short presentation of the genesis of their goals. In the following speech, Svea Fraser provides a succinct overview of the origin, vision, development, successes and challenges of building collaborative relationships between priests and laity. Click here to read Svea's presentation. (PDF format)

June 2006

Genesis Summary of the past year
Future Plans Challenges and Rewards
Budget Possibilities
Website Information

We never speak of Goal 2 without first acknowledging its connection to Goals 1 and 3, for without the revelations of abuse and cover up and the courage of the victim/survivors who shared their stories, we would never have been catapulted from our pews, and moved to action. To help prevent future abuse, and to promote healing and renewal in our church, collaboration between and among laity and the ordained is imperative. In seeking justice for victims we must also insist on due process and justice for those accused. And ultimately, the structural changes necessary for transparency and accountability include a cultural change in the way laity and clergy relate to one another.

Charter In promoting Goal 2, we are committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent collaboration and healing. We believe that the crisis that gave birth to the VOTF movement is in part due to a pervasive culture that prevents speaking the truth to power. Collaborative relationships between priests and laity are essential to healing and to rebuilding trust. Ultimately, change in the structure of the church is inseparable from change in the culture. To enhance the possibility of change, we are charged with the following tasks:

  1. To promote opportunities for priests, survivors and laity to speak the truth;
  2. To encourage collaboration and mutual support between priests and laity;
  3. To affirm the universal priesthood of all the faithful by virtue of our baptism;
  4. To model the Church as defined by the documents of Vatican II;
  5. To insist on due process and justice for all;
  6. To coordinate, communicate and encourage efforts by individual parishes and affiliates on behalf of Goal 2;
  7. To honor those priests who, in word and action, exhibit courage and compassion along with principled leadership.

See Presentation made at Indianapolis Convocation for the history of this goal (go to the VOTF homepage at www.votf.org, click on Convocation Notes in the right column, then Speeches and Talks; scroll down to Working Group Presentations, Svea Fraser). Goal 2 has been supported by a number of different people over the past four years. Most recently, Pat McNulty and Jim Morrissey have co-chaired the “National Priest Support Working Group”, with technical support from Clare Keane. Various efforts--including prayers and prayer opportunities, surveys, “sounding boards”, panels (including several which were enriched by the presence of survivors--see the homepage at www.votf.net and click on Clergy Support, Summary Notes in the left column), educational opportunities, social functions, and the selection of the Priest of Integrity award--have been facilitated and the results have been posted on the website. Over the past year, the work of the National working group has been increasingly one of communication, responding to specific questions and directing people to resources and “best practice” initiatives. We hope that disseminating this information becomes more effective in the coming year through an updated website and more efficient communication.

Future Plans
In past years efforts on behalf of priests have been predominately local, but with the election of a new slate of officers, and a National Representative Council, the time is ripe for shifting the national leadership of this goal to someone/s outside the Boston geographical area. A description of the role and possible directions for the next leader has been circulated. New leadership will be responsible for insuring that all information pertinent to Goal 2 is updated and accessible. In addition to website material and news for In the Vineyard, the leader/s will be in contact with the officers and NRC when appropriate, and will contribute to the strategic planning of VOTF through representation on the Working Group Advisory Board. It is hoped that in the future, anyone seeking information will have contact information readily available, and that no one will need to “reinvent the wheel” when new events are proposed. There are a lot of successful initiatives summarized on the website, and useful material already available.

In addition to numerous ongoing programs, there are some of projects which have not yet seen the light of day: Research on existent Pension Plans for priests (Dan Bartley): a “retired priest” initiative—connecting senior priests of like mind, and providing a forum for them to speak or write through various VOTF forums (Ed Greenan): the Winchester Area (MA) Affiliate recently sponsored an evening with round table discussions following the showing of the provocative film “The Art of Possibility” (a report to be published in The Vineyard): a short mail-in survey of priests has been developed. Another as yet unexplored aspect of the roots of the crisis and our hopes for better understanding of the priesthood is to examine the selection and formation of men for the priesthood. Following ordination, let us delve further into the role of the laity in the selection of their pastors. There is untapped grant money to be had for study in any of these areas The possibilities are endless. When we share the stories of our efforts (both successful and not) we can help one another to continue to keep the fire burning for this goal.

Challenges and Rewards
The dilemma of Goal 2 is that although it is priests who abused children, and bishops who covered it up, it is priests who played an integral part in the genesis of VOTF. None of us would be here today if it weren’t for priests who have made a difference in our lives. Our church is a body with different parts. Although a hierarchy is inherent in the structure, when power is exercised “from the top down” it ignores the model of church defined in Vatican II documents. The active participation of all the faithful requires recognition of the rights and responsibilities of every member. Without dialogue, collaboration, mutual support, respect for specific roles and shared responsibility for the governance and guidance of the church renewal is impossible. The many priests who have thanked and encouraged us have helped offset those who, either because of fear, tiredness, or ignorance, have refused to listen. Ultimately, bridges of understanding will be built one person, one heart, at a time.

The best way we can support priests is to eradicate the mindset that they are inordinately different, separate or privileged. This is not to deny due respect for their specific role, but it is to claim our specific lay role, conferred in baptism, as members of the universal priesthood. We must resist the temptation to draw lines between the ordained and the non-ordained, between priests and laity. The church is not “us and them”: It is all of us, living stones, an edifice of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ, a community of love. Better understanding and new ways of working together begin in our parishes and in our relationships with individual priests. Ultimately, bridges of understanding will be built one person, one heart, at a time.

One of the leaders for Goal 2 has this to say about her experience over the past four years: ”In the beginning we were naive, hopeful, and compassionate towards the priests and the position they found themselves in due to the crisis. We were cautious and optimistic at the outset, but we had a rude awakening. In setting up Sounding Boards we never knew w hat would be on the other end of the phone--acceptance, rejection, rudeness, or a verbal harangue. We learned that if you need ten priests to show up, invite twenty. Some would say yes and not show, phone or e-mail. In one case a priest volunteered to set it up and had to scramble at the last minute.

Clericalism is deeply inbred in us as well as them. Constant awareness to deprogram and educate laity on this facet of laity-priest relationships is at the top of the list for Goal 2. On the positive side, supporting priests of integrity is fascinating: We are inspired by those priests who speak their conscience, knowing the odds, what's at stake and how uncertain this will make their future, yet plunge ahead. THIS IS FAITH! They grow spiritually right before our eyes. We need them and they need us. But even as the number of courageous priests is small, the number of men entering the priesthood is diminishing. As laity we must take more responsibility for our spirituality and maturing faith. One of the things we learned was that the chasm between priests and laity is not as great as that between the hierarchy and the priests. There were priests who thanked us for listening to them, and for caring about the position they have been put in as a result of these revelations. Any possibility of bridging that greater gap will depend on collaboration between priests and laity first.

Working on Goal 2 has been a unique time of forming close friendships, meeting authors, reporters, priest theologians, and building new relationships where none existed before. Our horizons have been expanded, and we are stronger for it.” (Pat McNulty)

There has never been a budget request for Goal 2. This year is no exception. However, with some money to do so, there are many potential initiatives that could come to fruition. To name a few possibilities:

  • Postage for mailed surveys
  • Rental of films for discussion purposes (Winchester Affiliate model)
  • Speaker fees
  • Retreat possibilities (combined lay and clergy, with shared leadership)
  • Educational materials
  • Donations to like-minded organizations (Justice for Priests, etc.)
  • Financial support for special programs for priests (such as the “Well Being” program offered at reduced cost at the Mind/Body Institute in Boston)
  • Money for grant-writing
  • And always, food….

Website Information
The website is being updated. It is hoped that it will be more “user-friendly” and a resource for anyone with questions about Goal 2




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