As the smoke clears from the top of the Sistine Chapel, the immense apparatus that is the Roman Catholic Church lurches forward under new leadership. Voice of the Faithful®, as a movement of progressive Catholics, is most interested in where it’s going.
“We hope Pope Francis will listen to the lay men and women in the 21st century,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president.
VOTF calls for the demise of clericalism, the attitude that clergy and hierarchy are set apart and above everyone else. Its most grievous manifestation in our time has been the decades-old clergy sexual abuse scandal and cover-up by bishops, chancery officials and the Vatican. It is interesting that Pope Francis reportedly abandoned many of the displays of clericalism when he was archbishop.
But added to the failures stemming from clericalism must be other failings: financial malfeasance that has implicated the Vatican Bank in money laundering, second-class status for women, silencing of legitimate theological expression and indifference to the rights of lay people. It remains to be seen how Pope Francis will act in these cases, if indeed he chooses to address these ills at all.
VOTF also prays that Pope Francis will seek accountability, first to provide justice for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and next with disciplinary action for bishops who have covered up abuse and for chancery officials who reported crimes to their supervisors instead of police.
Accountability also must extend to pastors and bishops who will not tell the faithful where their money goes. Financial malfeasance has been unearthed from parish rectory to Vatican Bank vaults—scandals that could be averted with proper transparency and monitoring.
VOTF calls for married priests. Celibacy, not even required of the Apostles, is another major component of clericalism, contributing to the mindset that clerics deserve special powers and privileges.
VOTF calls for local selection of bishops and has developed—and is practicing—methods that permit every lay person (and cleric) in a diocese to provide direct input into the selection of the next bishop appointed in that diocese.
VOTF and like-minded groups know reforming the Church is a difficult, lonely struggle requiring persistence. The growth of the Church reform movement, however, shows commitment to that struggle. More and more Catholics see the need to lend our voices to the Church that really is all the faithful.
“We persist because we must,” says Donna B. Doucette, VOTF executive director. “If we care about our Church, and we do, we have no choice but to seek improvements. We are always encouraged by our ultimate example, Jesus. He donned no red shoes or gold cloak and carried no jeweled staff. He welcomed all except those who sought profit and power. We are following His path when we raise our voices as lay people within the Roman Catholic Church. After all, Jesus was a layman, not a pope, or bishop or priest—a layman from Galilee.”
Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of concerned Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.