Posts Tagged lay Catholics

Our Faithful Revolution

churchfacadewebshadowIn this first week of a new year, Voice of the Faithful reflects.

Voice of the Faithful, a community of Roman Catholics committed to service and reform, has always sought to “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.” We are faithful Catholics seeking to change those Church structures and processes that impede lay voices and change Church cultures that exhibit a clericalism that separates the clerical from the lay rather than binding them pastorally and collegially.

Such clericalism often stifles the people of God. Pope Francis has said as much and condemned clericalism repeatedly, recently saying that “the spirit of clericalism is an evil that is present in the Church today, and the victim of this spirit is the people, who feel discarded and abused.”

The story of Voice of the Faithful’s founding is well documented. The movement exploded onto the scene in 2002 along with the burgeoning visibility of Church scandal, specifically clergy sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston, chronicled most effectively by The Boston Globe in 2002 and 2003.

The movement spawned a frenzy of activity at the beginning, fueled by anger at and frustration with a Church that had, euphemistically, let us down. If you were to review the Globe stories, other media coverage of the crisis from that era, and books about Voice of the Faithful written since, you would discover that Voice of the Faithful could be credited with much of the rhetoric calling the Church to task.

By 2017 Voice of the Faithful, with commitment and tenacity, has settled into a long struggle in which we use our voices to help change Church structure and culture so that scandal has no fertile ground in which to grow. Progress has been slow, but steady.

We offer Catholics a community within the community of the Church where, as the people of God, we find a way to remain faithfully Catholic without giving up our baptismal right and responsibility to offer opinions and foster dialogue on issues important to the Church.

This is a post-Vatican II point of view well expressed recently by Fr. Louis Cameli, author of more than a dozen books and the Chicago archbishop’s Delegate for Formation and Mission. In an interview about post-Vatican II pontiffs in National Catholic Reporter Cameli said he “sees underlying, foundational points of continuity in the post-conciliar era.” Two of the points he made are especially pertinent to Voice of the Faithful:

  • “Communion: The Church is a set of interlocking and dynamic relationships among people and with the Triune God (in contrast to a primarily organizational-institutional-structural model of the Church).
  • “Dialogue: The Church is the place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world. (This is the ecclesia discens et docens (Church teaching and learning) and, therefore, is a dynamic community instead of a static “container of truth.”)”

Communion and dialogue could be Voice of the Faithful watchwords. We are a community concerned with providing a voice for the voiceless and have introduced the language of clericalism, accountability, and transparency into the language of Church reform, language that is being reiterated by no less than the present occupant of St. Peter’s chair. While we have always supported victims/survivors and promoted programs that better protect children, we have focused most directly on finding, naming, and publicizing the underlying causes of scandal which must be addressed to stop and prevent scandal.

Kathleen McPhillips, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle, has succinctly framed the challenge Voice of the Faithful seeks to meet. In an article in the Newcastle Herald called “The royal commission has exposed a Catholic Church in desperate need of change,” she said:

“It is imperative [that] current religious groups undertake research into why this happened, as well as resourcing for the healing of survivors … Understanding how this happened is essential to the health of our community, and to the creation of new Church structures which are transparent, inclusive, accountable and respectful of women and children. The Church needs to show it is serious about cultural change – this is yet to be effectively demonstrated.”


More information about Voice of the Faithful is at www.votf.org.

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From bishops’ synods to bishops’ appointments, how much does Catholic lay input count?

As the extraordinary synod on the family plays out in Rome, and even before the synod through the Vatican questionnaire distributed worldwide at Pope Francis’ urging, lay input into Catholic Church issues has become increasingly visible.

Pope Francis has said that he expects bishops to pay increasing attention to lay voices and “real life experiences” to become effective pastors. But bishops typically are accustomed to speaking to other clerics and to specially selected lay voices. The “ordinary person” has few opportunities for direct input into Church matters.

Voice of the Faithful®, long an advocate for greater lay input into the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church, provides opportunities to generate direct access, especially in the realm of bishop selection itself. VOTF’s bishop selection project has made it possible for the ordinary Catholic to communicate directly with the U.S. apostolic nuncio, who forwards bishop candidates to the Vatican.

Voice of the Faithful® developed an Internet portal at www.votf.org/bishop to allow Catholics to provide input to the apostolic nuncio. Their input goes directly to the nuncio’s email box when they click Submit on the questionnaire. Current U.S. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo M. Viganò has assured VOTF that all input reaching him from individual Catholics will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

The VOTF web portal allows Catholics to record their concerns and recommendations in three key areas: 1.) outstanding needs and opportunities in the diocese; 2.) candidates’ ideal qualities and qualifications; and 3.) priests who would be excellent candidates for their bishop.

Over the past two years, nearly 500 Catholics in nearly a dozen dioceses from New England to Alaska have submitted their comments through this portal or, in the case of Chicago, a related second survey. This process is one way to restore widespread lay input into the central question of who serves the faithful in a diocese as their bishop and to restore in the twenty-first century a lay-consultative process nearly as old as the Church itself.

Click here for additional information on the bishop selection process and its history.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful 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 www.votf.org.

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Catholic diocese upends custom on homilies / Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

For the better part of 40 years in churches across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, clergy ceded the floor to laypeople for the delivery of the homily — the sermon that follows the reading of the Gospel at Mass.

“The practice, which dated to the mid-1970s and was simultaneously derided by the faithful for running afoul of church law and praised for its inclusiveness, has come to an end.”

By David Andreatta, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Reason to Celebrate?

By Nancy K. Janoch, Nancy Rivet, Susan Dusseau and Harry Grether
Mid-Michigan Voice of the Faithful
®

This year, the local Catholic organization, Mid-Michigan Voice of the Faithful® (MM VOTF), will be 10 years old. Formed in the tri-city area in 2004, this group is an affiliate of the organization that began in 2002 in Massachusetts as a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Since then, it has grown to more than 30,000 members in the United States and 21 countries. If many have never even heard of this group in the past years, some may ask how this is relevant to Catholics here in the tri-city area?

When the first people joined together for VOTF, they were shocked, hurt and upset. They saw the great injustice of the sexual abuse by clergy and the following cover-up, and they demanded that changes begin in our Church. VOTF became committed to a mission to provide a prayerful, Spirit-filled way for all Catholics to actively participate in the guidance and governance of the present-day Church. This follows Canon Law, which states that the laity “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” (Canon 212 §3)

The local Mid-Michigan Voice of the Faithful® continues to work to fulfill their mission statement. They offer an opportunity for all Catholics to enrich their faith and to become more involved in a meaningful way, within the framework of the Church. This is the reason MM VOTF is relevant to those in the tri-city area. Regardless of views on specific issues, this is an open and safe forum where Catholics may freely, respectfully and prayerfully discuss and learn about challenges that face our Church today. Through understanding of the important issues and by working together, good changes can take place for the future of our Church. This is a great reason to celebrate!

In this context, people believe they can embrace the VOTF goals to support the survivors of clergy sexual abuse, as well as to support priests of integrity. They also feel they can follow the goal that encourages work to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. This group finds that there is a lot to learn about their religion and what has been unfolding in this country and around the world. During monthly meetings, they began to learn more about the Church. By being grounded in prayer and through talks, readings, presentations and sharing information, they developed new understandings. Stories of individuals, clergy, educators and others, all showed a “bigger picture” of events, history and viewpoints.

The Catholic Church is a diverse group. Most individuals seek to understand their place in the Church, even if they are not aware of it. At a deeper level, they want to know God and the value of having a relationship with God. However, this also means that such a relationship requires some responsibility on their part. We, the Church, the people of God, are called to find out what duty we have and how we can open our eyes and continue to grow to remain full members of the Church. Mid-Michigan Voice of the Faithful strives to do that.

The recent closings of many area parishes are causing pain for many people here. Are their stories being heard? Who has listened to them? Is there help for them in their grief and loss, and shaken foundations?

In The New Yorker article, “Who Am I to Judge?” by James Carroll (2013, Dec. 23 &30), Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, asks what the exploitation of children by priests has done to Catholic families? What of the broken trust between the people and the clergy? How can people work together to “heal the wounds” and to build stronger faith?

The “Religious Landscape Survey” of the “Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project” (http://religions.pewforum.org) states that “while nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration.” This is a trend that many would like to see reversed. It will take the commitment of lay Catholics to make such a change and to restore the belief in Catholic Church.

Over the years, the idea of one’s “rights” in the Catholic Church has evolved. The sexual abuse scandal showed that people have a voice when they choose to use it. However, there is much work to be done to establish justice, inclusiveness, accountability and transparency in the leadership of the Church. It is no longer safe to assume that this will occur without the care and participation of the laity.

Father Joseph Daoust of Rome said, in another quote from James Carroll’s The New Yorker article, “Who Am I to Judge?”—“The way we practice our faith affects how we believe. How we believe affects how we practice. There’s a back and forth …”

The local Mid-Michigan Voice of the Faithful® continues to work to fulfill their mission statement. They offer an opportunity for all Catholics to enrich their faith and to become more involved in a meaningful way, within the framework of the Church. This is the reason MM VOTF is relevant to those in the tri-city area. Regardless of views on specific issues, this is an open and safe forum where Catholics may freely, respectfully and prayerfully discuss and learn about challenges that face our Church today. Through understanding of the important issues and by working together, good changes can take place for the future of our Church. This is a great reason to celebrate!

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Additional Vatican Synod Survey Reports Tell Similar Stories / National Catholic Reporter

In the month since NCR published a story about the efforts of some Catholic dioceses to ascertain the thoughts of lay Catholics on a variety of issues related to the family, readers and diocesan officials have reached out to say that they, too, took part in the historic consultation with laity.” By Michael O’Loughlin, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story

National Catholic Reporter also has posted charts showing how individual U.S. dioceses have responded to the Vatican’s questionnaire for the Synod on the Family. Click here to see these charts.

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Lay Catholics in Just Over A Third of U.S. Dioceses Were Given Opportunity to Answer Family Synod Questionnaire / National Catholic Reporter

Lay Catholics who were given the chance to respond to a Vatican questionnaire on family-related issues greeted the opportunity with relish, but it may be that laypeople in just over a third of the nearly 200 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. were given that opportunity …

NCR (National Catholic Reporter) found 78 dioceses with clear, easily accessible information about what the survey was and how Catholics could participate, either through online surveys, direct consultations (a bishop in Alaska hosted a town hall meeting) or parish input. Some bishops announced they would be consulting priest councils or other diocesan structures to gather responses to the questionnaire.”

By Michael O’Loughlin, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Lay Groups Launch Surveys to Answer Vatican Questionnaire / National Catholic Reporter

While U.S. bishops consider how best and how broad to collect information ahead of a 2014 global bishops’ meeting on family issues, several lay Catholic groups took the task into their own hands. In mid-November, a coalition of 15 church reform groups (including Voice of the Faithful) — primarily members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal — created an online survey for U.S. Catholics to offer their thoughts on the preparatory document to the 2014 Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme of ‘pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.’” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

Read the rest of Roewe’s report by clicking here.

Additional information on gathering input from the faithful in preparation for past synods can be found in NCR’s Joshua McElwee’s article “Experts: Wide-Range Listening for Synods a Massive Undertaking.” Click here to read the article.

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