A fledgling reform movement emerging from the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has gained national attention but observers are questioning if it can keep its centrist thrust and appeal to a wide range of Catholics.
The six-month-old Voice of the Faithful movement was founded to galvanize Catholics on the sex abuse issue in the Boston area but has increasingly expanded nationwide to cover issues of lay participation and governance, according to Commonweal magazine (August 16). A recent VOTF meeting upheld its three-pronged approach of supporting those abused, supporting “priests of integrity” and, lastly, shaping structural change within the church. The effort to support the abused may be stymied since many protesters (made up of the abused) consider VOTF too moderate.
There is an effort to put a chapter of VOTF in every parish, as well as a concern to attract minorities, youth and more conservative Catholics. On the last group, VOTF may have some problems. The participants of the conference were overwhelmingly liberal, sympathetic to such causes as married and women clergy. If it wants to avoid the marginalized fate of other liberal reform groups in the church, VOTF will also have to maintain relations with the bishops. Some bishops have restricted VOTF from meeting on church property.
Already, conservatives have expressed strong reservations over the reform goals of VOTF. In the conservative newsletter Catholic Eye (July 31), Catholic writer Michael Novak criticizes VOTF as veering toward either an Anglican — tradition and bishops but no pope — or Congregationalist — parish-centered and parish-led — structure.
Novak adds, “The one thing clear is that this new group does not want to be Catholic, as Catholic has been understood by…the Councils of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II.”
(Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, NY 10115; Catholic Eye, 215 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016)