VOTO is not simply "standing around, waiting for the Holy Spirit to straighten things out.
The structure of VOTO is still being worked out among the three dioceses of Rockville Centre. At the present time, there are 194 members of VOTO: 131 active priests, 63 resigned priests, most of whom are married.
Another voice I would like to join the conversation begun by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels (December 20, 2002) and continued by David O'Brien (February 14, 2003) and others on what is to be done regarding the crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church. O'Brien says members of the church need to organize, but he does not hold out much hope. Priests in particular are "badly organized" and for the most part "stick to their parishes, speak well of the laity, and hope for the best."
I would like to draw attention to one group of priests in the New York City area called Voice of the Ordained (VOTO). Formed a year ago, VOTO describes itself as a "free association of men ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in any of the dioceses of the New York metropolitan area. Membership is open to those ordained men whether they be in active ministry, have retired, have married, or continue as single men." At the present time, there are 194 members of VOTO: 131 active priests, 63 resigned priests, most of whom are married.
The structure of VOTO is still being worked out among the three dioceses of Rockville Centre, New York, and Brooklyn. Some celibate priests want the married priests to be part of the organization because the latter bring a certain energy and diversity to VOTO; others would rather meet alone, with the married priests as "associate members." Some priests want membership to be spread over the three dioceses because, as Steinfels notes, this is an "ecclesiological crisis," that is, not limited to one diocese. Other priests want three distinct diocesan chapters of VOTO, since that would allow for more decisions to be made at the local level. VOTO's structure will be worked out over time. The important thing is that these priests are beginning to organize. The primary goal of VOTO is straightforward: "To give its members a voice on issues that in any way affect the life of the ordained or the church in general." Concerns have been voiced that some groups in the church want to use the priest crisis "to push their own agendas," as, for example, an agenda against homosexual priests or an agenda for married priests. VOTO has no specific agenda on such issues. It simply wants to have a voice in all matters affecting the church.
Steinfels is correct when she says the present crisis has come about in part because the Vatican has consistently appointed bishops who "have spent too much time in Rome, too little time in parishes, and too much time lobbying for higher office." Priests and laity are almost never consulted. So late last year, VOTO's steering committee decided to ask priests in Brooklyn whom they would like to see chosen as their next bishop, and what qualities he should possess. Brooklyn was chosen because the current bishop, Thomas V. Daily, has reached the retirement age of seventy-five and has already submitted his mandatory letter of resignation.
Of the fifty-one priests and bishops who were nominated at least once by those who responded, forty-seven (92 percent) were men from the Brooklyn diocese, indicating a very strong sense that the next bishop should be someone with firsthand experience of the diocese and its personnel. The following received the most votes (along with another who requested that his name not be given to the press): Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan; and Monsignors Martin T. Geraghty, Raymond F. Chappetto, and Peter V. Kain. The qualities respondents were looking for included: "One who is committed to collaboration"; "humble but not intimidated by the Vatican"; "one who listens well"; and "one who has special concern for the poor and undocumented."
VOTO sent these names and the list of qualities to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., asking that he forward them to the Holy See. Archbishop Montalvo wrote back to VOTO's steering committee that, "as a matter of course, the nunciature takes into judicious account all the information it receives from any quarter in the matter of the provision of a diocese." (We think that means yes.) He also noted that he had done his own consultation among the priests of Brooklyn. When pressed for names, he replied that he could not disclose them because they are covered by the "Pontifical Secret."
The important thing here is that an attempt is being made by an association of priests to offer their voice in the selection of their next bishop. We have a long way to go, but we offer VOTO, no matter how its final structure develops, as an organization that is not, in David O'Brien's words, simply "standing around, wa ing for the Holy Spirit to straighten things out by sending new leaders for offices in the hierarchy." VOTO is, instead, an organization that is seeking to be heard and to make a difference.
Thomas A. McCabe, a former priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, lives in Garrenville, New York. He and his wife Eileen have four children. He is a member of VOTO's steering committee.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Commonweal Foundation
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
Here's some basic information about VOTO
The Voice of the Ordained (VOTO) is the free association of men ordained in
the Roman Catholic Church in any of the dioceses of the New York
metropolitan area, or ordained elsewhere and currently working or living in
any of these dioceses.
Membership is open to these ordained men whether they
be in active ministry, have retired, have married or continue as single men.
The mission of VOTO is to call all the ordained to the vision of Jesus, the
vision of a Servant Church, according to the words of Jesus, "the Son of
Man has not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for
many" (Mk. 10:43).
The goals of VOTO include:
(1) to give its members a voice on issues that in any way affect the life of
the ordained or the Church in general;
(2) to seek maximum openness and transparency in the Church through free and
open dialogue and communication among bishops, priests, deacons and laity;
(3) to encourage mutual respect for the dignity, intelligence and commitment
in Christ of bishops, priests, deacons and laity;
(4) to work for changes in structures of Church governance and the
development of a Christ-centered spirituality that will enhance this
respect, communication, collegiality and collaboration so that all can be
better servants of the Lord, servants of the Church, servants to one another
and servants to the society in which we live.
The Rockville Centre Diocese chapter meets monthly at Our Lady of the
Miraculous Medal Church, Wyandanch. If you need more information, please
let me know.
Minutes of the April 11, 2003, Meeting of
Voice of the Faithful‹Long Island
North Babylon High School, North Babylon, N.Y.
The meeting was opened by Sheila Peiffer.
The opening prayer was led by Pat Zirkel
Kevin Connors, Finance Committee. The Voice of the Faithful financial report was given. The Voice of the Faithful operating fund reported a balance of $9,229, and Voice of Compassion balance was $4,215.
It was also reported that distributions from the Voice of Compassion fund were begun with disbursements to the 13 previously announced charities totaling $3,250.
Phil Megna, Planning Committee informed the membership that the survey would be distributed at the May meeting. It was announced that the Faith Festival was scheduled for September 22, 2003 at the Huntington Hilton. One of the speakers will be Fr. Richard McBrien and the hours will be from 9a.m. to 4 p.m.
Eileen Weidig, Events Committee, reported that the voice of the Faithful is planning a mass for May 31, 2003 at 1p.m. The location will be announced at the next meeting.
Ann Hilbert, Membership Committee, announced that there are now available decals, buttons and other promotional material. These can be obtained through the local Parish Voice affiliates. Items can also be ordered directly through LIVOTF by using an order form.
An offer of help with any Parish Voice groups was reiterated and all members were encouraged to participate in writing letters to the Bishop to express their dismay at the ban from the parish facilities.
Membership sign up sheets were circulated.
Barbara Ashley, Priest Support, invited the membership to attend the Chrism Mass in support of priests. Everyone was reminded that the mass will begin at 11a.m. Parking is limited so the LIRR is recommended. An early arrival is also encouraged with available seating in mind.
Dan Bartley and Sheila Peiffer reported on their meeting with Bishop William Murphy. It was explained that the appointment was arranged by Pat and Don Aurriema from St Hugh of Lincoln. The full description of the meeting is on the website.
A brief list of topics was outlined. On the subject of Pastoral Councils the Bishop was in favor, but not specific.
Regarding a Diocesan Council, Bishop Murphy was also positive but gave no specifics.
On the subject of the Virtus Program, Sheila Peiffer voiced concern that the diocese does not have a plan to effectively train all involved.
Dan Bartley raised the issue of the ban from church property. When confronted with having been proven wrong about his previously stated reason for the ban, namely that the VOTF does not follow church doctrine, Bishop Murphy now states that the reason for the ban is that he does not trust VOTF. His central complaint was that attendees of general meetings are critical of the Bishop. Dan Bartley states that he believes the criticism is justified.
The ban remains in place.
The discrepancies in statements from the Bishop are also discussed. Messages left on the answering machines of both co-directors state that the Bishop is interested in meeting with representatives of LIVOTF. To the contrary, Joanne Navarro stated to Newsday that the Bishop did not meet with LIVOTF, but only with several Catholics.
The membership broke into discussion groups to discuss possible actions that could be taken by LIVOTF. These suggestions are put in the ³Voice box² and will be reported on at the next meeting.
Sheila Peiffer invites the membership to step up to the microphone and share some thoughts.
Comments are as follows:
· Does the bishop also not trust all the priests and deacons that belong to LIVOTF?
· We need to have more prayer and liturgy. This is not something we need the Bishops permission for.
· Sad that the Bishop treated our leadership so poorly. Time for civil disobedience.
· Bishop Lennon turned down the VOTF Boston Voice of Compassion donations but Catholic Charities overrides his decision and accepts the donation.
· We must remember we are a centrist organization. We should not do anything divisive.
· LIVOTF needs representative for 2007 Synod.
· Call to picket the bishop¹s residence.
· Our strength lies in our finances and the media. Operate from position of strength.
· We have to be activists.
The following letter was read to the Membership.
> To God Squad,
> I have just finished reading your column from 3/8/03 and your
> observations regarding Voice of the Faithful on Long Island. I must admit
> that I find your observations quite astounding. As a member of VOTF and a
> parishioner of Good Shepherd in Holbrook, I want to voice my objections to
> just about everything you said. In case I missed you at our VOTF meetings
> the north Babylon high school during the last few months, it is difficult
> understand how you came to your conclusions. Those who are regular members
> know that we begin our meetings with the Creed and everyone is given the
> opportunity to affirm the truths of our faith. During the meetings I have
> attended, I have never heard anyone ask for a change in the church's stand
> against abortion or birth control. As for the celibacy and women in the
> priesthood issues, I believe I have the right to at least discuss the
> issues. As I learned in the Pastoral Formation Institute, in a dialogue
> where one side has all the answers, there is no room for mutual
> Apparently you have all the answers. It still begs the question as to who
> feeding you your information on VOTF. Please come to one of our meetings
> pray with us and see we want to be part of our renewed church.
> As a member of Good Shepherd parish for twenty five years, and one who
> has given time, talent and treasure throughout these years, I am insulted
> and angry by a bishop's decree that we cannot use our buildings to gather
> and discuss how to make our church more responsive to our needs. What are
> you all afraid of? We at Good Shepherd have a dark history of the scandal
> which has so darkened the doors of our church, for we have had a predator
> our midst. We have been betrayed by Brian McKeon, by the diocese of
> Rockville Centre and, if my information is correct, by the pastor in
> Northport who sent the predator to us without a word of warning.
> The church may not be a democracy but since we live in a democratic
> society, we have the right and obligation to be free to discuss our
> concerns. It is an insult that a bishop has taken our churches away. The
> church hierarchy has not shown that it is capable of cleaning its own
> house. You have lost the trust and confidence of many people and it will
> a long time before it is restored. Taking away our ability to meet in our
> church and making incorrect statements about our "agenda" is not the way
> repair the loss of trust.
> It is my hope that someday we can be together as we work to renew our
> wonderful church.
> Thank you,
> Ed Hartmann
Paper is handed out to the membership and time is set aside to write letters to the Bishop.
Fr. Bill Brisotti spoke on Voice of the Ordained. It is explained that VOTO was organized last fall and that they are also not allowed to meet on church property. VOTO feels the support that VOTF is giving to the priests but reminds us that the priests must really support each other.
The priests also have no voice in Rockville Centre and we are all in this together.
The Hippocratic Oath states ³First do no harm² and it is suggested that should also apply to the church.
The church should make it easier to be faithful, not more difficult.
Fr. Brisotti gave his email address
Sheila Peiffer thanks everyone for attending. All of us here serving wish you a blessed Holy Week and Easter.
The next regional meeting will be May 8, 2003
The meeting is closed with the Our Father.it
US Catholic Priests' Group Urges Reform
23 Sep 2003, 15:47 UTC
It's been nearly two years since the sexual abuse scandal in the American Catholic Church first began, and one month since Father John Geoghan - the man whose conviction started it all - was murdered by a fellow inmate at a Massachusetts prison. By this point, calls for reform and accountability within the Church hierarchy have become commonplace. But until now, these calls have been coming primarily from the laity. That's changing, as VOA's Maura Farrelly reports.
They call themselves "Voice of the Ordained." They're a small but vocal group of 150 priests and 52 former priests from three dioceses in and around New York City.
"Really the organization came together so that there would be a voice for priests in looking at the whole situation with the Church at this time," explained founding member Monsignor John Powis, who has been working with low-income Catholics in New York's borough of Brooklyn since he became a priest in the early 1960s. "How a pope is named, how bishops are selected, how priests are selected, should there be a married clergy? All the questions that are going to come up and have to come up."
Father Powis said the Catholic laity aren't the only ones who've been feeling alienated from the Church hierarchy. He said many of the men who became parish priests in the 1960s, when the Catholic Church was undergoing some radical reforms known as Vatican II, are disappointed in the bishops and cardinals who are their supervisors. He said parish priests like himself feel the hierarchy has abandoned some of the key elements of Vatican Two by distancing itself and its parish priests from the laity.
"There were a lot of things going on after Vatican II which were exciting, said Father Powis. "For instance, I was part of something in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, and we were doing things that were unheard of, say, 15 or 20 years before Vatican II. We had groups of priests who were living in apartments, working very closely with the communities, particularly with very poor people. We had a bishop who many times said to me, "I don't understand what you're doing, but I'll always support you." Now that's not the type of bishop that's been named since this present pope is pope."
Monsignor Powis said the sexual abuse scandal and the cover-up that went on for years are symptomatic of a greater problem in the Catholic Church - namely, the refusal of bishops and cardinals to recognize that the world today is far more complex than it used to be.
"We're getting documents now coming from Rome that reallyŠ aren't that pertinent to the days in which we live," he said.
John Powis says the fact that 52 members of Voice of the Ordained are former priests is a classic example of how out of touch with the world the Church hierarchy has become. These men left the priesthood because they wanted to get married, and the Catholic Church requires its priests to be celibate.
Church officials say celibacy isn't about being "out of touch". It's about ensuring that priests have the freedom to devote themselves full-time to their parishes. Celibate clergymen, after all, won't be distracted by their own families. But if recent statistics are any indication, more than half the American men ordained as priests this year will end up leaving the priesthood before the 25th anniversary of their ordination, and many will do so because they want to have families. This has created a tremendous priest shortage in the United States and around the world. And so Voice of the Ordained is calling on bishops everywhere to consider opening the priesthood up to married men.
"When I became a priest" recalls Father Powis, "it was a different world. In our class, we ordained 41 people. Last year in Brooklyn and Queens, with 217 parishes, we ordained two men. I've tried all my years to interest young men, and many of them have said they'd like to be priests, except that they would finally get to be 17 or 18 [years old] and say that they want to form a family. And that's part of the culture and the way that we live these days. It's a part of television, it's a part of the media, it's a part of everything."
Voice of the Ordained isn't the only group of Catholic clergymen calling for a re-evaluation of celibacy. Last month, 160 priests in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sent a letter to their bishop, blaming celibacy for the priest shortage afflicting their diocese. That letter was quickly condemned by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a group of more than 600 conservative priests in the United States and Canada. Nevertheless, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a group of priests is working to gather 5,000 signatures, calling upon the Church to make clerical celibacy optional. And according to the National Federation of Priests Councils, Catholic clergy in Boston, Chicago, and Charleston, South Carolina, may soon be doing the same.