The following questionnaire was included as a bulletin insert for the 4 masses during the weekend of March 8 & 9. Out of 700 bulletins inserts, we received 40 completed questionnaires. Our goal was to determine how VOTF is perceived in the parish and to get feedback. The detailed responses to questions 5, 6, and 7 are shown following the questionnaire below.
VOICE OF THE FAITHFUL QUESTIONNAIRE
Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is a group of Catholic laity formed early in 2002 as a result of the priest sexual abuse scandal in the Church. The Winchester Area VOTF has been meeting at St. Eulaliaís since May, 2002, with the encouragement of Fr. LaVoie and subsequently supported by Fr. Bertelli and Fr. Nestor. We have attracted and welcomed all our neighbors who share our goals to support those who have been abused, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Church. At this time we would like your opinion about VOTF. Please take a few minutes to answer this questionnaire, and return it to an OSR box, or mail it to VOTF, c/o St. Eulaliaís, 50 Ridge St. Winchester, MA 01890.
1. Are you aware of the existence of VOTF? Yes____ No_____
2. If yes, how did you hear about VOTF?
_____ a) through the media
_____ b) parish bulletin
______ c) from a VOTF member
______ d) other (please specify)______________________________________
3. Have you ever attended a VOTF meeting? Yes_____ No______
4. If yes, where?
_______a) St. Eulaliaís
_______c) elsewhere (please specify)___________________________
5. What is your opinion of VOTF?
6. Are you a member of VOTF? Yes_______ No________
7. What suggestions do you have for VOTF?
Please use the reverse side of paper if additional space is needed for any question or to make any additional comments. We thank you for your participation. For further information about VOTF, please visit our national website at www.votf.org and our local site at www.votfwinchester.org
What is your Opinion of Voice of the Faithful
Responses to Question #5:
- Necessary ongoing action for the future of the Church.
- Leadership of VOTF is using clergy sexual abuse as a wedge issue to promote secular agenda in the Church.
- It is and continues to be the Voice of the Faithful.
- A good way for people to come together and voice their opinions and listen to good objective speakers.
- They seem to be a thoughtful group, hopefully helping to bring the Church back together and helping to address serious issues and needs for change.
- It serves an important role. I am concerned that not enough emphasis is put on challenging the authority of the Church. Support for the survivors has been effective, but now action needs to be taken toward addressing the overbearing authority
- Although I have never attended a meeting, nor am I a member, I believe VOTF is an important and necessary movement within the Catholic Church. The Church is on the precipice of change not seen since the Reformation. VOTF could be the spark that ignites this change. Catholics have been let down since the promise of openness and lay participation that emanated from Vatican II. The conservative backlash by the Church hierarchy to the promise of the Council has dashed the hopes of Catholics who look forward to change and who hope to define their faith by challenging themselves and our human interpretations of Godís teachings. Since Vatican II, the Church hierarchy has retreated to the protections of the office entrapments, and removed itself from contact with the laityóthe real Church. The arrogance of the hierarchy in the way they are dealing with the sex abuse scandals is just the latest evidence of how removed the hierarchy is. They have adopted an attitude that they are the Church and the people have no right to question their authority. I liken them to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus railed against because they were too focused on the laws and lost sight of what the Church, religion and faith are really aboutóloving God and loving our fellow man. VOTF is moving into the breach created by the scandals and opening the door for fresh air and new meanings of Catholicism.
- Catholic Church is in dire need of reform, if VOTF can help accomplish thisóall the power to them!
- It is absolutely necessary for lay Catholics to be more involved in the running of the Church as an institution. This may be one way of achieving that goal.
- The group at St. Eís is doing good things-having good speakers, etc. I hear from many people outside St. Eís who are negative and suspicious. I donít agree, but it makes me cautious to join.
- I am thrilled that the movement for reform of the Catholic Church has started at last! It is sad that such a terrible scandal had to provoke this movement, but we have needed revolution in the Church for many, many years. In the 60ís I had hope, but we are terribly behind and we have lost so much because of the institutional stagnation and worse, what we are beginning to see that has been festering below the surface. I have stayed in the Church because of the sacramental communities I have found - because of inspiring individuals - priests, religious, and lay who were struggling like me to nurture the truth and our vision of church in spite of the institution. I would like to be involved more, but I am more radical and less pious than what I see so far in VOTF.
- Only hope for change in my lifetime.
- Voice of the Faithless.
- I feel it is a gift from God in the Church.
- It is the best thing to happen to the Church in 100 years.
- Excellent organization with admirable goals.
- So far, I am very impressed with the manner in which this group has conducted itself. A lot of people are devoting a great deal of time trying to ease the pain we as the laity find ourselves.
- Very favorable.
- I think it is a worthwhile group; I am in support of it.
- I went to the first meeting when Fr. Vic was there and no formal VOTF had been established. I think it was an excellent forum for people to become aware of sexual abuse problems. Be able to express their outrage at the betrayal of trust and to look for solutions to problems that didnít seem to be addressed by the hierarchy.
- I found people in our chapter dedicated people - sincere in wanting to help victims, priests and Church reformation. Some people may have had their own agenda and were more extreme and liberal.
- I know they are trying their best, but feel the group needs more structure and more defined goals before the Church will recognize it as a credible organization.
- I wish they had a stronger position in the Church. I very definitely want the Church and the laity to work together. The Church protects its privacy - to its own detriment - the Church would be a healthier, stronger, more viable institution were this to be accomplished.
- Necessary if the Catholic Church is to continue as a viable, responsible institution in the U. S.
- I think it is great! Itís about time. A step in the right direction.
- A needed voice within the Church - a sincere and thoughtful group.
- I think that it is an exercise in frustration, I donít like to work on things that cannot win.
- The people who lead the VOTF on a national and local level are dedicated, knowledgeable people. I envy their energy and enthusiasm.
- I think it is a very good thing. I support what they are trying to do.
- Bad. Its stated agenda is not its real agenda. They took over our parish without our consent.
- Iíve held off from answering this questionnaire because I have not been a member long enough to form a fair assessment
- VOTF is dividing the Church. Always remember we are one holy catholic apostolic church under God. We should not all be going in different directions.
- I think itís an important contribution to the ongoing life of the Church. Its existence is a way for hurt grieving Catholics to continue in their faith.
- Most necessary for laity to have a voice-hopefully an effective voice - to bring about change in policies. Without some kind of organization, how else can change happen? VOTF is bringing about pressure for change. Our Church seems only to respond to great pressure.
Are You a Member of VOTF? Yes / No
Responses to Question #6:
- Just havenít had the time to officially sign up.
- Who elected you as "Voice of the Faithful"? There are many faithful voices in our Church, not just VOTF.
- It is needed in the Church.
- We were active in a family/teen Mass at St. Brigidís after Vatican II. It got killed by the pastor after about 5 years. We had a marvelous sense of community in that group and nourished the young peoplesí association with Church. We need to bring those programs back.
- I donít know.
- Difficulty accepting the current Popeís leadership and leadership of Cardinal Law and his predecessors.
- I joined partly because I canít say that lay people should get involved and then not be involved myself, and partly because I learn a great deal at the meetings.
- It is our hope for reform in the Church, and its leadership is composed of awesome, intelligent, humble people who are motivated by their faith, not their egos.
- Change wonít happen if we look the other way.
- None of the behavior and comments Iíve seen and heard for VOTF members on TV or in print are "Christlike". Militancy, attacking and intimidating priests, etc. are not the answer for healing for the victims of abuse, or the Church.
- It is a source of life and hope and light to me in a very dark period of the Churchís history. Meetings are truly enriching because of the community of faith and the learning experiences we share.
- Hopefully, VOTF will be able to help to make the necessary changes in the Church. Iím afraid that if these changes arenít made, there will be many members that will be forever lost.
- Support goal
- Because I felt like I was doing something in the face of the Church crisis-something tangible.
- Debating value of joining
- Donít have the time to attend meetings; donít get home from work until7 and am caring for an lederly mother.
- I have a heart condition and found such discussions to be too stressful.
- Someone had to do something. It filled a need. I believe in its stated objectives and wanted to help our beloved Church get back to its mission. I believe we must insure that such events never be tolerated again.
- I feel a sense of responsibility to take actions that, I believe, will initiate movement toward change.
- Canít get to meetings
- I feel frustration and anger at the Church hierarchy. Being a member is a way to listen to others and express my own thoughts and opinions.
- The problem is with the Church hierarchy and I donít think that they have any real interest in listening to the members. Letter from Bishop Lennon does not even mention the real problem.
- I am unable to attend all the meetings. I do find the speakers worthwhile and can usually learn something to improve my own outlook on this horrendous situation we find ourselves in.
- I would like to see good priests supported and changes made in the hierarchy-possible celibacy laws relaxed.
- They are a bunch of raging so-called Catholics.
- I wanted to learn more about the group!
- I am a member, although inactive. My job requires me to work Monday evenings, so I canít attend the meetings. Yet, I am grateful for its existence and I am kept informed by e-mail.
- I feel committed to being a participant in the effort to change the Church for the better. Thank you for your continued hard work and perseverance without which we who are loving members would have no vehicle through which to express or sadness, anger, confusion, hopes during this crisis.
What Suggestions Do You Have For VOTF?
Responses to Question #7:
- Continue the work of working with all facets of the Catholic Church to make the Church stronger than ever. VOTF is a necessary component of the Catholic Church to come.
- Cease your activities. Not conducive to improvement of problems-an embarrassment
- Rename yourself "Center for Political Correctness", a much more accurate name for your group.
- Persevere and witness
- Push for married priests. Punish the guilty. Pray for all.
- Continue to help support people and rebuild stability in the parish, i. e. helping return Fr. Lavoie-help expedite the process
- Coming form St. Brigidís in Lexington, where the pastor has usurped (and been allowed to) the total running of the parish, I am concerned for those similar parishes. Tne Parish Council meets, but is totally ineffective as the pastor is a master at blocking i. e. there is no finance council. A year or two ago a friend who is on the finance council when queried said, "Oh, we havenít met in 18 months." A year or more after that I called the church secretary to inquire for the names of those on the finance council. She replied,"Oh, youíd have to ask the pastor for that." St. Brigidís is a good example of why VOTF at large needs to emphasize the challenging of the authority by the hierarchy. Expecting individual chapters to work just locally does not help some who are in real need and not allowed to have a chapter.
- Push for more involvement of women within the Church. Also think priest should be allowed to marry.
- It is of paramount importance that VOTF continue to be the voice of the reasonable middle, and that it not be co-opted by either end of the curve of Catholic thinking.
- Clear up the rumors and negative opinions if possible. Explain the term "structural changes"
- Continue inviting thoughtful, provocative speakers. Strengthen groups on Mon. nights-I stopped going to break-out sessions evenings because we seemed to be going nowhere and the group facilitator was a talker, not a facilitator of discussion or a plan. Devise more action strategies.
- Go after Boston College business alumni for donations-lots of successful graduates who are still loyal Catholics.
- Submit the agenda to God through prayer and fasting and ask for His wisdom and light on the problems you think you need a separate organization (i. e. VOTF) to resolve. If healing for the abused and reform in the Church are the true motives, pray for these things-you donít need VOTF to do this. Donít you believe that all things are possible through humble prayer? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
- That every VOTF member be asked to bring one non-member to several meetings so that the membership may be enriched and grow.
- Thank you.
- I particularly enjoy having guest speakers. Even if I donít always agree with what they espouse, I find it enlightening.
- Perhaps make minutes/notes from meetings available (able to pick up at St. Eís entrance?)
- Carry on! We need push for reform of our Church and its structure.
- I think such a group can be helpful and contribute much - a watch dog organization of sorts to see that we never forget the children and support the priests that are men of God.
- Weekly meetings get tedious and repetitious. Leaders of VOTF seemed to hesitate too long and appeared overly deferential to our Cardinal. The problem of sexually active gays in our seminaries was never addressed at any meetings I attended. Many Catholic publications have revealed a sub-culture of such men both with seminarians and faculty (and even bishops). There is an obvious need to have a revival of respect for persons, purity and the Holy Eucharist.
- Keep trying to fight an uphill battle against all odds. Why the Church doesnít welcome this and bring Christianity to an open, happy, spiritual entity, I donít understand. Many of the meetings I have attended were chaired by good speakers, however, they are geared to making one a stronger Catholic. They should keep the focus on the first priority-being part of the Church-having a voice. The Church fell into its own trap-donít embarrass us, obey the rules- no divorce, no contraception- or else go to hell. The leaders were afraid to rock a boat that should have been shaken a long time ago. Where was the backbone? We want to be a beautiful institution-open the doors and let fresh ideas in. We will all breathe freer.
- Be patient - be persistent.
- To be more patient with Bishop Lennon. He has many more obligations than any of us are aware of and I feel he is doing his best under very overwhelming responsibilities to a large diocese.
- More participation by the parishioners. (maybe more of these questionnaires) Something we can do at Mass, or after, a short time for those of us who depend on drivers not interested in staying. Send some to parishioners who do not get out to Mass also.
- Weekly meetings were needed at the beginning. Now they should be on a bi-weekly schedule. Attendance may improve.
- The VOTF is a voice crying out in the wilderness. If the members feel better of not having any effect, then they should continue. I donít want to waste my time.
- Keep doing what has made you a success so far.
- I have not been to enough meetings to know exactly what has been done - so I do not feel qualified enough to make suggestions.
- Go home to Wellesley.
- None at this time.
- My suggestion is to cease trying to be a splinter group of Catholics. There is enough unrest now in the Church.
- Keep up the great work! And, thank you.
- Please hang in there for all of us who appreciate your energy, your intelligence and your organizational abilities. Thank you, too, for your membership card. Wish I could join you in this effort-more than by merely applauding or donating. Many priests and many theologians believe in VOTF. We are in good company, even if other Catholics do not believe in dissent of any kind-no rocking the boat! In his book "The Catholic Church", Hans Kung says: "ÖMany people are more depressed than confident when they think of the future of the Catholic Church. But those who, like me, have experienced the historic change form Pius XII to John XXIIIÖ..can say almost with confidence that a change, indeed a radical revolution, has to come, given the present accumulation of problems. In fact, it is only a matter of time." Please continue your courageous path for all of us who love the Church. On 3/12/03 at B. C. Fr. Donald Cozzens said of VOTF: "It is right and good and inspired by the Spirit."