Church group wants Bridgeport  By AMRITA DHINDSA

… a schism within the church where people would refuse to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome.




About 80 people gathered at the First Congregational Church on the Green in Norwalk on Thursday to attend a meeting held by the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) in the Diocese of Bridgeport.


At the meeting, held on the first Thursday of every month, the audience was encouraged by officers and directors of the VOTF to sign a letter addressed to Bishop William E. Lori asking him to rescind his ban on allowing the VOTF to meet in Bridgeport parishes. Currently, the group meets at the First

Congregational Church in Norwalk because Lori banned them from using church properties in Bridgeport for their meetings, said John F. O' Callaghan, the Bridgeport Diocese's VOTF chairman O'Callaghan said he has asked Lori a number of times to let them meet in the diocese's own parishes but received no response. In fact, Lori through his representatives on at an Aug. 12 meeting of the VOTF prohibited them from meeting on church property, he said. Stratford resident Virginia Doyles says she has been coming to VOTF meetings for almost a year now because she is concerned about the crisis in the church. "I wanted to find a way to help the church from within the church," Doyles said. But Doyle says that she is distressed that she is not able to meet on church property. "I have been active in the church my whole life," Doyle said. "I've done everything I could. This is my home." Joanne Gray, who is a member of the Bridgeport Diocese's VOTF, says the opposition to them stems from a superficial understanding about the group's intentions and reflects a rigidity on the part of the institution. "They feel threatened and are trying to hold on to structure and control in ways that don't take into consideration the presence of spirit in the larger community," Gray said. Seymour interjected that people can be open-minded and yet orthodox among the Catholic community and needed to talk about what had gone wrong in the church and address it's problems. While people were signing their names and parishes on a sheet of paper to go with O'Callaghan's letter, Mary Jane Range, the treasurer of the VOTF in the Diocese of Bridgeport, informed the audience that three charities had been chosen as recipients of $2500 each for the good work there were doing.


The three charities are Queen of the Clergy in Stamford, Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and the Family Stages Program in Bridgeport.


Range told the audience that the directors of the two charities had thanked the diocese for the money but said they would be unable to receive them in person. She said the administrator at the Queen of Clergy had not responded to her numerous attempts at getting in touch after their initial conversation. One person in the group said he found the behavior of the charities' directors puzzling while another said that regardless of how they acted, the charities should be recognized for the good work they were doing. A person close to the matter said it appeared that the charities wanted the money on their terms without any pictures or special presentation. The meeting also featured Paul Dinter, author of "The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood," who spoke to the audience about his theological reflections on the corruption and scandal surrounding the Catholic church. Dinter said his intention was to broaden the people's sense of how the church mishandled the sexual scandals.


Inspired by the Second Vatican Council, Dinter, a former priest of the Archdiocese of new York, served for many years as the Catholic chaplain at Columbia University. After leaving the priesthood in 1994, Dinter says he remains a Catholic and directs an outreach program for the homeless in Manhattan. In his book, Dinter describes the everyday life of the priest and his own struggle to observe his wow of celibacy. He says in time he became increasingly distressed by a clerical subculture that tolerated priestly sexual abuse and prompted the Bishops to cover it up. Dinter concludes that the church must seek a deeper understanding of human sexuality and priestly celibacy.


On being asked by a member of the audience about the future of the Catholic church, Dinter said he predicted that the church would lose a lot of people especially younger people. He also predicted a schism within the church where people would refuse to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome.


Dinter explained that would happen because "the model the Church hierarchy was forcing on the people was anti-democratic and not coming to grips with the greatest changes in human perception.


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