|This excerpt attempts to clarify the focus of "VOTF Goal #3 --
to shape structural change within the Church"
"...Voice of the Faithful's members -- including Religious Education teachers, Parish
Council members, lay ministers, women religious, parents, daily communicants, and
faithful sisters and brothers in Christ -- have a clear mission: 'To provide a prayerful
voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the
governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.'
Our three goals address the effects and root causes of the sexual abuse crisis:
* Goal 1 is to support those who have been abused (victim/survivors);
* Goal 2 is to support priests of integrity (who are faithfully living their vows); and
* Goal 3 is to shape structural change within the Church (to ensure that such a crisis
never again befalls our Church).
We believe that the role of the laity is central to correcting the causes of the current
crisis. Without substantial and meaningful laity involvement, there is no prospect for
effectively ending the crisis and healing a Church that has suffered the deep wounds of
betrayed trust. Outreach efforts to victim/surivors of sexual abuse emphasize the
importance of listening to those who have been abused and respecting these victims of
injustice. We also grieve for the thousands of clergy who are demoralized as the loss
of trust and confidence in one another. The commitment to healing these wounds must
emanate from each of us and we must do it together...
The structural change we seek (Goal 3) is designed to support our efforts in
pursuit of Goals 1 & 2. ...human behavior is shaped by the systems and structures
of the organization in which one lives and works. The record clearly reveals that
institutional mismanagement of personnel, information and money contributed to the
sexual abuse crisis. We have asked, what structures must be changed to help ensure
such a crisis never again befalls our Church.
Voice of the Faithful has been working since July, 2002 to articulate what we mean by
shaping structural change within the teachings of the Church. We have prepared an
initial Working Paper and have included it with this letter and invite your thoughtful and
comments and suggestions.
Our recommendations... prepared by a group of parishioners from Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania... arise from a deep love of the Church,
and a desire to strengthen it by using the gifts God has given us... the changes we
propose focus on improved implementation of existing provisions for lay involvement
in parish and diocesan councils. They are meant to build up the Church through
healthy collaboration, and are firmly within the vision of the Church that you and your
brother Bishops have provided to us.
We seek a dialogue on how bishops, priests and laity can implement these
recommendations together, and on how we can work effectively and collaboratively
with our pastors to bring about a more active and meaningful participation of the laity
on the praish level. We realize that sound education in the teachings of the Church is
urgently needed to support the changes that we seek. We solicit your guidance as to
how to make this education available to clergy and laity alike.
Our work on defining Goal 3 is just beginning, and we invite your assitance in moving
it in the right direction. The question to ask is, 'how can we ensure that such a crisis
does not occur again?'... We pray that we can work together for an end to conflict
and a new beginning through our heartfelt efforts to build up the Body of Christ. Our
Church has undergone a year of terrible pain and aniguish. All Catholics -- clergy and
laity alike -- are hurting from the loss of trust and confidence in one another. The
commitment to healing these wounds must emanate from each of us and we must
The Structural Change group has been working hard to clarify and define their beliefs as
to the focus on VOTF's stated Goal #3. The opinions and beliefs expressed during
these weekly sessions have been amassed and brought to the larger nationally
represented committee for discussion. This work is continuing and in the spirit of
openness and inclusion, the following excerpt is from Jim Post's letter to Bishop Lennon
upon his assignment as interim administrator for the Archdiocese of Boston.