Greetings, fellow Catholics;
When in circa 1990 I first undertook the formidable task of confronting the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America regarding their apparent failure to provide an adequate level of protection for the Church’s primary source of income, the now infamous clergy sexual abuse scandal had yet to gain the nation’s attention. Due in large measure to the excellent reporting of then New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Jason Berry, that abomination was brought to light in southern Louisiana in the mid 1980s. The full scope of the problem, however, did not register nationally until 2002 when a team of investigative reporters from The Boston Globe uncovered a conspiracy to cover-up sexual abuse crimes committed by a number of priests in the Archdiocese of Boston over the course of several decades. Sadly, and as is now widely known, the phenomenon of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy was not confined to the Catholic Church and was soon determined to be not only a nationwide malady but an international scourge as well, affecting tens of thousands of innocent victims worldwide.
Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a non-profit organization of lay Catholics, was formed in the aftermath of the media storm that ensued. Originating and headquartered in New England, VOTF was formed for the express purpose of supporting survivors of clergy sexual abuse, supporting priests of integrity, and shaping structural change within the Catholic Church. Those objectives remain in place to this day and are best illustrated by two programs:
1.) VOTF’s ongoing efforts to convince the U.S., Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and its member bishops of the need for greater financial accountability and transparency, and
2.) VOTF’s unique program for delivering Restorative Justice to those who have been scarred by sexual abuse.
At the heart of the Restorative Justice program are what are called “Healing Circles” in which a professional facilitator invites participants to share their personal stories of suffering, broken trust, or struggles, as well as the ripple effects on their lives and faith communities. The group conversation draws participants into a shared search to address their healing needs. These Healing Circles have been praised for their effectiveness in the several U.S. cities where they have been held, and commitments have already been made to conduct them in other countries affected by the abuse scandal. To learn more about the Healing Circles, I invite you to visit http://votf.org/content/healing-circles.
The program for promoting greater financial accountability and transparency is centered around the development and maintenance of a web portal providing interested visitors access to an active database containing financial profiles of all 195 dioceses/archdioceses comprising the USCCB. To learn more about VOTF’s financial accountability efforts, I invite you to visit http://votf.org/node/1587. The web portal itself can be accessed at https://n316.fmphost.com/fmi/webd/# and entry may be gained by selecting “Guest Account” and then clicking on “OK.” In the next window, click on “DIOCESE INFO” and (in the pop-up window that appears) again select “Guest Account” and then click on “OK.”
In addition to the two principal areas outlined above, VOTF has been and remains supportive of other Catholic organizations seeking reform in other areas including married priests—we already have some in the form of protestant ministers who converted to Catholicism—and the admission of women to the Diaconate. VOTF does what it can to help move the ball forward by collaborating with those organizations that have focused their resources on these and other ancillary issues.
From my perspective as a member of VOTF’s Board of Trustees, I can assure you without fear of contradiction that VOTF’s staff is lean and mean . . . . . in a good way. If you’ll allow me to (very loosely) paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so few done so much with so little! I never cease to marvel at the accomplishments of VOTF’s numerically minimal staff.
My better half and I give regularly to a few dozen 501(c)(3) non-profits of various stripes. Voice of the Faithful is included in that number because, like each of the non-profits we give to, we’re confident:
1.) it provides a very important service, and
2.) the great preponderance of what we give goes towards program costs as opposed to administrative expenses.
If you would like to lend your financial support to this most worthy lay Catholic organization, you may do so by CLICKING HERE and following the prompts. While you’re at it, please consider becoming a member of VOTF and perhaps even signing on to be a monthly donor.
I assure you it’s money well spent . . . . right down to the last penny!
Finally, VOTF chapters are located in major cities throughout the U.S. To identify a VOTF chapter in your area, or to inquire about membership, CLICK HERE.
Michael W. Ryan
Milton, Massachusetts USA
Author of NONFEASANCE—The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income
Voice of the Faithful, VOTF, Catholic Church, Catholic Church reform, Catholic laity, lay Catholic, financial accountability, financial transparency, Healing Circles, Restorative Justice, clergy sexual abuse, Keep the faith, change the church