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Voice of the Faithful in the Future

Jim Post, President, Voice of the Faithful

In the wake of the worst catastrophe to befall the Catholic Church in 400 years, Catholics all over America and the world are hurting. We need a healing process. We need solutions. We need dialogue with our hierarchy. We need prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

For example, how can we overcome the "dilemma of conscience" that many of us feel — giving expression to our justifiable anger, but also fulfilling our responsibility to neighbors in need? One solution is that Voice of the Faithful is developing new tools for a new era of Catholicism. In Boston, we have sponsored the creation of a tax-deductible fund called "Voice of Compassion" to be administered by the National Catholic Community Foundation. This fund will enable donors to support Catholic ministries and programs but without the risk of donations being misappropriated for secret settlements, legal fees, and public relations.

This new giving model has a critical feature: it is funded by the laity, managed by the laity, and accountable to the laity. This model can be adapted for use in any American diocese and for parishes, as well.

Another part of our agenda involves communication and dialogue. I believe we have a responsibility to engage in dialogue with many people and groups, including the bishops of our dioceses. We want our bishops to talk with us on the following terms:

  • We will not negotiate our right to exist.
  • We will not negotiate our right to be heard.
  • We will not negotiate our right to free speech as American Catholics.

And, we will not give the bishops a free ride on telling the truth. We want to trust our bishops again. But our operating motto must be "Trust but verify."

The performance of bishops and dioceses must be reviewed by survivors and by the laity. The commitments made in Dallas invite us to create "scorecards" that rate how well each diocese is doing in meeting those publicly stated commitments. Voice of the Faithful members - locally and nationally - will assess the bishops' implementation of the charter and report in November 2002. And Voice of the Faithful will continue to work with SNAP and Linkup on survivor needs and issues. Scorecards can be created for parishes and extended to other areas of diocesan performance, including financial management, pastoral achievements, and engagement with the laity.

Legal loopholes must be closed. We will monitor how earnestly the bishops engage in vigorous enforcement of their publicly stated commitments, including appropriate cooperation with civil authorities to create a system that really does protect the public.

We Catholics are a hope-filled people. Jesus taught us never to give up on another person. We will not give up on the bishops. We invite them to walk with us. We invite them to talk with us. We invite them to be one with us. We must live together — our faith requires it. Meanwhile, we must keep pushing the rock up the hill. It is a steep hill. It is a long hill. And, it is a heavy rock!

To move forward we must build an effective Voice of the Faithful chapter in every parish in every diocese of this nation and the world. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We must develop the muscles to run the long race.

We know how to do this. We have already created vibrant models of local action through Parish Voice. We are succeeding. Communication that never happened before is now possible among many people and groups:

  • People within parishes
  • People in different parishes
  • People in different states and countries
  • Survivors
  • Priests and priests' groups
  • Theologians and academics

What else are we doing?

  • We are developing training programs to share lessons learned.
  • We are building a national Voice of the Faithful office to coordinate and support these efforts.
  • We are creating, as many have requested, a Speaker's Bureau of members ready to share their experiences with neighbors. In the great apostolic tradition of our Church, we are sending forth our emissaries. In fact, one of our members will head off to Japan, with our blessing, to start a Voice of the Faithful initiative in that country.

VOTF must move from a "virtual" organization to a more permanent, effective organization. We need faithful Catholics' gifts of time, talent, and financial support.

Another requirement is self-education. We must have a deeper understanding of our faith and the way the institutional Church operates. We must study canon law. We must read and discuss Vatican II. We must understand our history in order to chart our future. We have to understand the administrative structures of the Church in order to change them. The many knowledgeable people who are speaking with us today testify to the extraordinary resources available to us in this effort.

We are organizing study groups in local Voice chapters, as well as nationally, to examine the adequacy of enforcement procedures; to study issues, such as the meaning of "structural"; and to design various forms of lay involvement. Throughout history, the Catholic laity has helped their Church in times of crisis. The thoughtful, well-informed laity of the 21st century will help to save our Church in this crisis, as well.

This is a very exciting time to be a Catholic. We have a lot of work to do. But there is only one road for us to follow. Let us embrace the survivors of abuse and personally commit to righting wrongs and ensuring that justice is done. Let us walk with one another and join hands in fellowship. Let us reject all labels, save the one that matters most —"Catholic." Let us resolve to make a difference. If we do these things, our actions will answer the question, Who are we? And if we "walk this talk," we will truly be the Voice of the Faithful.

 

 

 

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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. )

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.

 

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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Pray Each Day
at Noon

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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