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What Is VOTF's Real Agenda for Attacking the Pope?

Voice of the Faithful's Jayne O'Donnell is attacking Pope Benedict XVI. Read the article below to find out why.


What Is VOTF's Real Agenda?

By Fred Martinez

Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is the news media's favorite "Catholic"
lay organization to cure the Catholic Church of its sex-abuse scandal.

The New York Times and Boston Globe wrote glowing articles about this new "mainstream" Catholic organization. Even in Ireland and on the European landmass, newspapers were covering this "grassroots" group that started from a humble church basement.

VOTF claims it wants to democratize and subordinate the bishops to "lay participation." It also claims to be mainstream and conservative.

I received this e-mail from one of my readers asking me about VOTF's claims:

"Could you please direct me to a reliable assessment of the group Voice of the Faithful? A local 'chapter' is meeting this afternoon in Nashville, and it has been characterized by a local priest as 'just conservative Catholics who want some changes."

The only information I had about this "conservative Catholics" group was that a member of VOTF's steering committee was working closely with the homosexual spin group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

On June 15 at the Dallas bishops meeting, homosexual activist Cathy Renna, writing for GLAAD's Web site, said that during a victory get-together, she met with "a number of familiar media faces" and Anne Barrett Doyle of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics, who is a member of the steering committee for the lay reform movement Voice of the Faithful.

According to Renna, "Anne was one of the first people I spoke with back in March when we were cultivating resources and contacts to offer media outlets. ... Seeing Anne at the cathedral brought to mind how far we've come in the past months."

During those months, the media outlets, under the sway of gay activists like Renna and her friend Doyle, had censored George Will, Pope John Paul II's spokesman Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, and the almost-all-conservative spokespersons in Dallas who attempted to report the "link between homosexuality and sexual abuse by priests," which U.S. News & World Report detailed before the media cover-up.

Earlier in the year of Sex abuse acandal, before the recent cover-up was solidified, U.S. News & World Report columnist John Leo wrote that studies have shown that 5 percent of priests or fewer fit the pedophile description. He said: "Most sexual victims of priests are teenage boys [abused in homosexual acts], according to one estimate. A study of Chicago's 2,200 priests identified 40 sexual abusers, only one of whom was a pedophile."

Now, just because one of the VOTF steering committee members was working closely with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance spin group to censor George Will, Pope John Paul II's spokesman and the Catholic conservative spokespersons at the Dallas bishops meeting doesn't necessarily mean that the VOTF isn't a "mainstream" and "conservative Catholic" group.

One must examine the "mainstream" and "conservative Catholic" priests that are supporting VOTF before making any judgments about that group. Unfortunately, not one single mainstream and conservative orthodox Catholic priest supports the group.

However, Father Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, put his support for the organization into an article in the Tiding on July 19 called "Listening to the 'Voice of the Faithful.' " As all mainstream and conservative Catholics know, McBrien is one of the most liberal Catholic theologians in the U.S.

McBrien has shown that he is 100 percent opposed to the official teachings of the Catholic Church when it counters the gay and lesbian movement's agenda.

The official Catechism of the Catholic Church states in section 2357 that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered ... under no circumstances can they be approved."

Also, the Sacred Congregation for Religious in Rome in 1961 stated: "Those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination." Roman Catholic Faithful President Stephen Brady said, "The Church directive has never been rescinded and is still officially in force."

But McBrien, on a April 5 Tiding piece, disagreed with those who hold the official teachings of the Church, calling them "homophobes who look upon gays as disreputable souls held in the grip of the worst sort of moral perversion."

He then went on to attack Pope John Paul II's spokesman Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls for wanting to get "rid of gay priests."

The Vatican spokesman said homosexual ordination might be invalid in the same way a marriage can be annulled on the grounds that it was invalid from the start. For example, a woman who marries a homosexual can get her marriage annulled on those grounds.

McBrien, in his anger at Pope John Paul II's spokesman, revealed how widespread the homosexual problem is in the U.S.

He wrote: "A few priests have privately observed that, if this [homosexual ordination annulment] were actually to happen, the Roman Catholic Church might lose two-thirds of its priests under the age of 45 and some bishops as well. At the same time, many of its seminaries could be emptied of all but a handful of students."

Some orthodox Catholics have observed that the Vatican and some Latin American bishops are naïve as to how big a percentage of the liberal U.S. bishops and U.S. priests are homosexual.
The statement by one of the most respected liberal U.S. Catholic theologians that "two-thirds of its priests under the age of 45 and some bishops as well" are homosexual will hopefully open the eyes of those who are naïve about the "gay movement's" influence over liberal priests and certain VOTF lay Catholic theologians.

Lay Catholic theologian Thomas Groome, Senior Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College who has been a featured speaker at VOTF meetings in the Boston Diocese, is – like McBrien – in favor of homosexual ordination.

On March 21, according to the Miami Herald, Groome said homosexuality is rampant in the nation's seminaries. The Herald quoted the lay theologian as saying, ''A well-balanced gay person can make a fine priest. ''Having been 'inside,' I knew lots of gays and philanderers. I've known hundreds of priests and never known a pedophile. They hide themselves well,'' said Groome.
According to the Boston Diocese Sacred Heart Bulletin, in June Groome gave his lay participation talk on "Doing Theology Ourselves" at St. Eulalia's Parish (Manion Hall) on Ridge Street, Winchester, which is a major chapter of VOTF in the diocese.

The Boston Globe said St. Eulalia parishioners praised pastor Rev. Victor LaVoie as "a strong supporter of the Voice of the Faithful."

One must consider the Rev. LaVoie to be unfaithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality if he has ex-priest (and McBrien clone) Groome – now turned lay spokesman – speaking at his parish.

On July 26, LaVoie became "the17th priest the archdiocese [of Boston] has removed over allegations of sexual abuse since January," according to the Globe.

The parishioners who supported VOTF also support their pastor. The Globe said, "Hundreds of parishioners attended a prayer meeting at St. Eulalia's last night to discuss LaVoie's suspension and to pray for him."

This is still the U.S. and LaVoie is innocent until proven guilty. So to be fair, the archdiocese's review board is still investigating all the priests suspended on credible allegations.

It has not yet announced any decisions on any of the cases, including the pastor of St. Eulalia. It is good that LaVoie has been suspended and it will be good that he and others spend time in jail if the allegations are true.

VOTF and other liberals, however, were not so fair with other priests alleged to have committed sex abuse who they have been using as a political football to forward their lay participation and homosexual agenda.

Nor have VOTF or the liberals been so fair with the Vatican when it brought forward the real reason for the vast majority of the sex-abuse scandal.

It is safe to say that one cannot find one liberal Catholic who will support the whole statement of the 1961 Sacred Congregation for Religious, which stated: "Those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination."
In fact, the pro-gay National Catholic Reporter (NCR), which is "the newspaper" of U.S. liberal Catholics – and a strong supporter of McBrien – has been pushing Voice of the Faithful as a mainstream organization for months.

On May 24, in an article called "Church in Crisis: Scandal Diminishes Churches' Clout," NRC said, "Not only are pastors running weekly notices about Voice of the Faithful's meetings – explaining the group's mission and goals – but some are assisting laywomen and men in establishing parish voice chapters in their respective churches."

In the very same article NCR said, "While these legislative developments indicate a waning of the [Boston]archdiocese's influence on relatively mainstream social policy matters, perhaps an even stronger measure of the cardinal's diminishing political clout came last month at a joint state House and Senate committee hearing. Two priests publicly opposed the church's position. The topic was same-sex marriage. ...

"While many of the gay community's longstanding political, legal and religious allies gathered in the statehouse to oppose the gay civil-rights setback, they were joined – for the first time in state history – by two Roman Catholic priests."

These statements on VOTF and homosexuality by the most respected liberal U.S. Catholic newspaper and the Rev. McBrien, the respected liberal theologian, show that VOTF is not mainstream, as James Likoudis says.

"Richard P. McBrien oozes with admiration for this group [Voice of the Faithful] seeking to restructure the Church, democratize it, gain financial control of it, and subordinate our Bishops to this new lay class of secular feudal lords and professionals," Catholics United for the Faith's Likoudis said.

"It's a power grab under the guise of more 'lay participation' and is made up of those dissenting liberals and radicals who do not like Catholic moral teaching but do like Dignity and GLAAD [radical homosexual organizations]."

Catholics React To Pope's Comments On Scandal


Courant Staff Writer

April 18, 2008

When Jayne O'Donnell sat down to listen to Pope Benedict XVI discuss the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church Wednesday evening, she flashed back to a moment last May, standing in line while waiting to enter the Sistine Chapel.

Through the windows, she and her husband, Edward, could see the ancient, majestic stone buildings of Vatican City spread out around them. They stood there in a kind of awed silence until Edward nudged her.

"See what you're up against?" he said, referring to O'Donnell's attempts to make church leaders in the Hartford archdiocese accountable for the abuse of children by priests.

The truth of that statement is certainly not lost on O'Donnell this week as she and other Connecticut Catholics closely follow Benedict's first visit to the United States as pope, waiting with varying degrees of anxiety and interest to hear how the 81-year-old pontiff would respond to the scandal that has produced thousands of victims and cost the church more than $2 billion in settlements.

If anyone feared that the pope would ignore the scandal, they were wrong. Benedict has raised the issue early and often, speaking of it on the plane trip from Rome, while addressing his American bishops Wednesday evening and again Thursday during a Mass attended by 46,000 people at the Washington Nationals stadium. He also held an impromptu meeting with survivors of sexual abuse Thursday.

But as O'Donnell and others have observed, Benedict's statements about the scandal have not left them with much confidence that the pope — while expressing profound shame and sorrow about the abuse — is willing to take the steps they believe are necessary for the church and its people to heal.

At the top of that list are the creation of a worldwide Catholic policy on child sex abuse and the censure of American prelates who ignored or sought to hide the actions of abusive priests.

"He can't ask for all of their resignations, but he can censure them and he should," said O'Donnell, who attends St. Timothy's Church in West Hartford and sits on the national board of trustees of *_Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) — an organization of mainstream Catholics seeking to change church culture from within._*

The closest the pope came to a public scolding of the 300 American bishops and nine cardinals sitting before him Wednesday night, however, was the observation that the scandal was "sometimes very badly handled."

Depending on where they sit — on the altar, in a pew every Sunday, or outside the parish doors — the pope's comments this week rang differently for different Catholics. Also different are their beliefs about where the American church resides on the continuum of healing from the scandal, and how much impact this or any pope can have on that process.

For those who were abused by clergy, the pope's statements about the abuse scandal haven't gone nearly far enough to promote true healing.

"To pay this kind of lip-service to the problem just isn't sincere when we know the church's history has been one of secrecy," said Helen McGonigle, a Brookfield resident who was abused by the Rev. Brendan Smyth when he was posted at Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, R.I., in the 1960s and '70s.

McGonigle can't even really contemplate the church's overall healing — she stopped attending Mass in college and is still focused on her own recovery.

David Clohessy, national director of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was equally critical.

"The message from the church is clear. Molest a kid and you may be suspended, but cover it up and nothing happens," said Clohessy. "No bishop has ever been disciplined, and if the pope were just to do it once, we think it would have a tremendous impact. It would send shock waves through the church."

Clohessy said the church is still mid-point on the healing spectrum — if that.

"I was stunned by the results of an ABC- Washington Post poll that said from February '04 to today, the number of Catholics distraught by the church's handling of the crisis jumped by 20 percent," Clohessy said. "That would strongly suggest that even among mainstream Catholics, nevermind lapsed Catholics, the church still has a long way to go."

But for the Rev. Michael Dolan, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Hartford and the priest assigned to Trinity College in Hartford, the church is further along.

"We've grown in awareness and we've grown in compassion," Dolan said. "I always say that suffering is a great teacher."

Dolan said the church has radically changed the way it screens candidates for the priesthood.

"It used to be that you filled out an index card and there were so many in the seminary they couldn't keep track of them all," Dolan said. "Now we look at everything — and I mean everything — in their lives."

Since 2002, when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, each American diocese has been required to provide abuse prevention training for not only its clergy, but anyone who works with children, even in a volunteer capacity.

Each diocese is audited annually to ensure that it is complying with the requirements, and although critics of the church say the church often complies with the letter — and not the spirit — of the charter, Dolan and others said the church now genuinely tries to prevent abuse.

"If you want to sell cookies in the Catholic church, you have to go through training," Dolan said. "They even show you how to hug. You hug from the side. It's this really awkward thing and as they were demonstrating it to us, we were like, 'You've got to be kidding.'"

Bridgeport Bishop William Lori, whose diocese has paid out roughly $34 million so far to abuse victims, said in an interview before the pope arrived Tuesday that he expected Benedict to "recognize the immense steps the church in the United States has taken to deal with this."

"The church has rounded the corner on this issue," Lori said, adding that parishioners don't want to see the church "spinning its wheels" over the clergy abuse scandal.

Christopher Haddad, a 39-year-old father of three, local attorney, and the youth minister at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in West Hartford, would agree — with some reservations.

"At coffee hour on Sunday morning, the conversation is not dominated by discussions about sexual abuse," Haddad said. "But I think if you ask Catholics how the church has handled this, there's still some frustration and unhappiness."

Haddad, a lifelong Catholic, expressed distress that his church would be so strongly associated with clergy abuse.

"I think people are looking at the church with too narrow a prism when all that they see is the sexual abuse crisis," Haddad said. "I know that the work the church does, and the vast majority of priests, are so much better than this."

The Rev. Ted Tumicki, who has led the Norwich Diocese's Safe Environment office since 2003, said the church's continuing challenge is to "reach out to those who feel disenfranchised by all of this."

Will Pope Benedict be able to move the church forward in that challenge, though?

Tumicki is hopeful, and cites Benedict's quick action, after being appointed pope in 2005, to grant Norwich Bishop Michael Cote's request that the Vatican defrock two accused priests — Richard T. Buongirno and Bernard W. Bissonnette.

"When the cases came to Rome, he handled them," Tumicki said. "He didn't just sweep them under the rug."

Benedict might be more willing to remove priests, but that doesn't mean Catholics should expect some profound change in message, or behavior from the Vatican, cautioned Andrew Walsh.

Walsh, associate director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and an expert on American Catholicism, said there is nothing to suggest that Benedict will take a markedly different route than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

"Under John Paul there was a willingness to express great sorrow, but there's also a reluctance to open the disciplinary process to anyone outside the hierarchy," Walsh said. "The notion [on the part of the Vatican] is that you have a sacred institution that is floating in a hostile world, a world dominated by sin, and it must be protected by people with not only the right training, but the right authority, to keep the vessel pure."

Walsh said most Catholics understand that, as laity, they have no control over what the Vatican says and does. But that doesn't mean it's always easy to swallow.

"What's difficult for Americans to accept about this is that in the Catholic tradition, there's no real sense that anybody's opinion about anything matters much," Walsh said. "The notion that you're going to establish legitimacy by consulting the laity, that's just not in the cards."

Tell that to O'Donnell, who said she continues to work for more accountability from church leaders and has repeatedly urged Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell to hold a diocesewide Mass of reconciliation and healing.

So far, she said, she hasn't been successful, but that doesn't stop her from going back.

"It's like being at the Vatican. It's a little intimidating, but if you think that way you're going to give up," O'Donnell said. "If you don't try, nothing is going to get done."

Contact Elizabeth Hamilton at .

/Visit for more about Benedict's visit.


Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant


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