****Bishop stonewall s Voice of the Faithful CURT BROWN,
of the Faithful s letters go unanswered
3rd goal ³support cultural change within the church."
Voice of the Faithful protests bishop's ban The Standard Times 14 Oct
Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River has clamped down on VOTF on Cape Cod and
the rest of Southeastern Massachusetts.
meets at Sandwich High Sunday
Edward F. Maroney
we feel kind of like outcasts. We can't have our own Mass Sunday in one of our
churches. We have to rent Sandwich High.' Joan Kelly, Marstons Mills
Voice of the Faithful is heard in the churches of the Boston Archdiocese, but the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Fall River has clamped down on the group on Cape Cod and the rest of
response, VOTF ran an ad in Sunday's Standard Times of New Bedford and the Cape
Cod Times challenging Bishop George W. Coleman to withdraw a May 22 order to ban the group's
news from church bulletins, not permit members to meet in church buildings, and
cut off any conversations with local priests.
"We are very angry because Voice of the Faithful has been banned from meeting in our own churches for no apparent reason," said Patricia Casavant of Osterville, whose husband Arthur was one of more than 100 signatories to the open letter. "We supported the church. We paid for these buildings with our own donations over the years."
Kearns, assistant director of communications for the Diocese, was away at a
conference this week. A message
left Wednesday with the office's director, the Rev. Msgr. John F. Moore, was
not returned by press time.
Oct. 14, the Standard Times reported that Coleman told a staff writer inquiring
about the Diocese's relations with VOTF that he would have "no comment
about that matter whatsoever."
The silence is particularly frustrating for Cape members who see a different treatment of their organization in the Boston area.
the Voice of the Faithful chapters (there) that were started prior to
Archbishop (Sean) O'Malley's (appointment) are allowed to meet," Patricia
of the Faithful formed in the wake of the clergy abuse scandals that rocked the
Roman Catholic Church in America and led to the reassignment of Boston's
Cardinal Bernard Law and his replacement by O'Malley, Coleman's predecessor in
Fall River. Jim Post, a professor of management at Boston University and a
co-founder of VOTF, will speak on "The Emerging Role of the Catholic
Laity" Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Sandwich High School; the VOTF meeting will
be followed by a Mass. All are welcome to attend.
we feel kind of like outcasts," said Joan Kelly of Marstons Mills, who
signed the letter with husband Ed. "We can't have our own Mass Sunday in
one of our churches. We have to rent Sandwich High."
a press statement announcing Sunday's meeting, VOTF is described as "a centrist Catholic lay
organization that has grown to over 30,000 registered members from over 40
states and 20 foreign countries. Although VOTF originated in response to the
crisis in the church, its goals are now threefold: to support survivors of
sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to support cultural
change within the church."
personal goals are in tune with VOTF," Patricia Casavant said. "To
have a church that is operating under the rules of Vatican II. That seems to be
ignored sometimes. Laity participation is a big incentive for us. We want a
church acceptable for our children and grandchildren, a church free of scandal
Joan Kelly, who attends Christ the King in Mashpee, said that "so many of the people involved (in VOTF) are the daily communicants. They are eucharistic ministers, they teach CCD, which we have done. They're really involved in their church."
said she perceives "an attitude" among some Cape congregations
"that there are no problems in this diocese, when really, in fact, it all
started with Father
in Fall River. In view of recent developments, there are obviously continuing
of the Faithful -Fall River Diocese can be contacted at PO Box 1036, Centerville
MA 02632 or by e-mail at FallRiver@votf.org. The group's Web site is
information copyright Cornerstone Communications, Inc., 2003
Barnstable Road - P.O. Box 1208 Hyannis, MA 02601 - (508) 771-1427 - FAX: (508)
Bishop stonewall s Voice of the Faithful CURT BROWN,
of the Faithful s letters go unanswered
River Bishop George W. Coleman stands outside St. Mary's Cathedral in Fall
prior to last night's candlelight procession and Mass for Peace at St. Anne's
months after Bishop George W. Coleman stressed inclusion at his
the Voice of the Faithful in the Fall River diocese is accusing him of
from the church's healing.
In newspaper ads and a letter to the
editor in the Sunday Standard-Times, Voice
the Faithful asks Bishop Coleman for an open dialogue as part of its effort to
"in restoring the integrity of our Church damaged by the sexual abuse of
and employees of the Church and the mishandling of the issue by our
The half-page newspaper ad was signed by
88 members of the Fall River diocese's
of the Faithful. Luise Dittrich, a spokeswoman for Voice of the Faithful,
a letter on May 22 from Bishop Coleman directed parish priests not to
members, discontinue their announcements in parish bulletins and ban them from
their meetings on church property.
She said they want to speak with the
bishop about the dysfunction within the
the need for reform and the wall of secrecy that exists.
Voice of the Faithful members are the
heart and soul of the church, she said,
added they are mainstream Catholics who are among the church's most active
"This is a divisive act to start his
tenure rather than inclusive,"
said. "The bishop is not supposed to exclude members of his flock.
Inclusion is the name of the game.
the only way the church will heal."
She said the bishop should reach out to
everyone. "The truth hurts, but
truth also heals," she said. "Bishop Coleman would do well to listen
to the Voice
the Faithful." Bishop
Coleman, standing outside St. Mary's Cathedral in Fall River prior to
night's candlelight procession and Mass for Peace at St. Anne's Church, would
any of the issues raised by the Voice of the Faithful.
"I will have no comment about that
whatsoever," he said.
At his consecration as the seventh
bishop of the Fall River diocese in July,
Coleman stressed inclusiveness and paid respects to the contributions
countries have made to the diocese.
He also commended parish priests and
reached out to victims of priestly sexual
and acknowledged the presence of Jewish leaders and municipal officials at the
Ms. Dittrich said several letters
requesting a meeting with Bishop Coleman were
between June and September and he has never responded.
"We received absolutely no
reply," she said.
She said Voice of the Faithful took what
they consider to be the unusual step
taking their case to the local media after the bishop would not meet with them.
"He didn't acknowledge he received
the letters," said Carol Markey of
a member of the diocese's Voice of the Faithful. "They didn't know where
so they wrote this open letter to him."
Ms. Dittrich said the decision to take
out the newspaper ads was difficult, but
"What a sad commentary to get your bishop's attention -- to go to the
media," she said.
Robert Gormley of Westport, the
spokesman for the diocese's chapter of the
of the Faithful, stressed they only want to assist the church with its healing.
"This is a positive thing. We're
not trying to undermine. We want a real
are active Catholics who want to have a say in what will happen.
"We waited patiently before
releasing this open letter to see if he would
with us openly," he continued. "But we didn't even get an
He said they are now giving the bishop a
month to respond and then they will
what else they should do. Mr.
Gormley said there are 200 members of the
of the Faithful in the FallRiver diocese and between 50 and 60 members from
Ms. Dittrich said Bishop Coleman is one
of "a handful" of maybe eight
in the United States, most of whom are on the East Coast, who refuse to work
of the Faithful.
She said Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of
the Boston Archdiocese speaks with the
and many bishops in other parts of the country also welcome their
DURAND , Herald News Staff Reporter 11/02/2003
of Voice of the Faithful in the Fall River Diocese said they are still hoping
Bishop George W. Coleman will agree to meet with them for an open dialogue.
May 22, when he was still bishop-elect, Coleman sent a letter to diocesan
priests asking them not to advertise Voice of the Faithful programs, not to
appoint contact people to communicate with the group and not to provide the
group with meeting space.
who became bishop in July, said in the letter that he would take time to study
the implications of Voice of the Faithful and its affiliates, given that there
are a number of consultative bodies already in the diocese.
still his position," said diocesan spokesman John Kearns. "Heıs still
thinking about it. He said he needed time and heıs taking time."
of the Faithful is an international organization founded in Boston in 2002 as a
response to the widespread scandal of sexual abuse by priests in the
archdiocese and the way the archdiocese covered it up.
spread to the Fall River Diocese in the spring and there are now a few hundred
members, most of them Cape Cod residents. Marie Collamore, a summer resident of
the Cape, is regional coordinator for VOTF in the diocese.
said the group is still waiting for Coleman to respond to an open letter it sent
to him on Oct. 12, asking him to meet with its members. The letter, published
as an advertisement in The Herald News and other local newspapers, asked the
bishop to respond on or before Nov. 15.
struggling because the bishop has banned us from meeting in the parishes and
wonıt let us publish our meeting notices in parish bulletins," Collamore
said. "Our members built and maintain the church. This just doesnıt make
sense. Why are they banning us?"
said VOTF members were allowed to meet in parish facilities on the Cape until
the bishop sent out his letter. Now, she said, they have to pay to rent
buildings for their meetings. Collamore, who is a Eucharistic minister, said
there are now five VOTF groups in the diocese. Four of them meet on the Cape,
in Orleans, Hyannis, Yarmouth and Falmouth, and the fifth has been meeting in
Mattapoisett. Fall River area residents have been attending the Mattapoisett
said VOTF wants to give victims of sexual abuse by clergy a safe place and
offer them help in healing.
believe in supporting our bishop," said VOTF member George E. Lee of
Somerset. "As he studies and gets to know what Voice of the Faithful is,
he may accept us. Itıs easy for us to become discouraged, but I think we are hopeful."
stated goals of VOTF are the following:
To support those who have been abused
To shape cultural changes in the church so that it
will be more reflective of the Gospels and more open and accountable
And to educate the laity by providing information about the Second Vatican
Council, clarifying misconceptions about VOTFıs mission and building community
a member of St. Patrickıs Parish in Somerset, said VOTF wants to address more
than the issue of abusive priests. He said members want the conditions that
allowed the cover-up and the lack of openness by the church hierarchy to be
have to get to the basic administrative practices," he said. "We need
said VOTF is not trying to change the teaching of the church, just its
administrative practices. "It wonıt be easy at all. We just have to do it.
We need to work with the bishop," he said.
said he thinks in time VOTF will be able to work with Coleman. In Brooklyn,
N.Y., he said, Bishop Thomas Daley was against VOTF for a long time, and now he
lets the group use church property.
"We constantly stress we are not trying to change the
doctrines of the church. Thatıs not our agenda," Lee said.
Roach of Fall River said she and other VOTF members were disappointed when
Coleman did not acknowledge several letters they sent to him, starting in June,
asking to meet with him.
said if Coleman met with them, sheıs sure he would realize that 75 percent of
them are active in the church.
are not disgruntled people," she said.
said they are lectors, Eucharistic ministers and other people who are active in
new and being cautious," she said, Coleman is taking time to decide if he
will meet with VOTF, but VOTF is still hopeful a meeting will take place.
we really want is to sit down with him," said Robert Gormley of Westport.
added that Boston Archbishop Sean P. OıMalley, former bishop of Fall River,
allows VOTF to hold meetings in church buildings.
spokesman for VOTF in the Fall River Diocese, said 60 percent of its parishes
do not have parish councils. If the laity had more input at St. Josephıs Church
in Woods Hole, Gormley said heıs sure the pastor, the Rev. Bernard R. Kelly,
would not have been allowed to hire murder suspect Paul R. Nolin Jr. as a
handyman. Nolin, who served 10 years in jail for raping a 10-year-old boy in
1982, is suspected of murdering Jonathan Wessner, 20, whose body was found on
Oct. 4. Kelly was suspended by Coleman, who met with parishioners on Oct. 9.
But Gormley said thereıs a big concern that the bishop has not made a public
statement about the case.
said the bishop could calm a lot of the dissatisfaction down if he met with
VOTF. "He said in his homily (during his ordination Mass) he wanted to be
inclusive. Heıs not being inclusive with us," he said.
said VOTF members are regular churchgoers, not radicals, and many bishops
besides OıMalley allow them to hold meetings in their churches. Gormley said
members in the Fall River area would like to start a group here so they
wouldnıt have to drive to Mattapoisett for meetings.
their open letter to Coleman, signed by about 120 people, VOTF members said
they wish to assist him in restoring the integrity of a church that has been
damaged by the sexual abuse of children by priests and employees of the church
and the mishandling of the issue by bishops.
with us. Work with us," they stated. "Open the parish doors to all of
your members. Permit us to communicate with each other in the parish bulletins.
Assist laymen and -women to communicate within and across parish borders through
Voice of the Faithful. Push aside the destructive secrecy. These issues will
not go away if they are ignored. We are saddened and horrified by these recent
events and the decisions which enabled them, as you yourself must be. Together,
let our diocese be a leader in the restoration of trust in our church."
1993, James R. Porter, a former priest in the Fall River Diocese, pleaded
guilty to 41 counts of sexual assault on 28 children in the 1960s and 1970s. In
September 2002, Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh released the names
of 21 priests who were accused of abuse. Among them were the late Rev. Jose
Avila, who allegedly abused numerous children from the early 1930s to the 1980s
when he was serving in Taunton, Fall River, East Falmouth and New Bedford.
Durand may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Herald News 2003