Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), as a movement of faithful Catholics, arose in 2002 in response to shocking revelations in the life of the Catholic Church: widespread clerical abuse of children; silence of clergy in the face of known or suspected abuse; and the moral, governance, and pastoral failures of Catholic bishops in response to abusers and abuse survivors alike. In the face of such breaches of trust, VOTF emerged from the determination of Catholic laity to find our voice and to claim our proper role in the governance of the Church. Drawing on members' baptismal responsibility for the life and work of the Church and nourished by their deep love for the Body of Christ, VOTF members seek full transparency and accountability in Church governance and full incorporation of lay Catholics in the life and work of the Church at every level.
Founding, growth and mission
VOTF began when a small group of parishioners met in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, to pray over allegations that priests in the Archdiocese of Boston had abused local youngsters. Its meetings soon became well attended, as well as attracting significant media attention. At its first conference in July 2002, VOTF attracted more than 4,000 lay Catholics, victims of clergy sexual abuse, theologians, priests, and religious from around the United States and the world. Less than a year after its founding, VOTF had grown to 30,000 members worldwide, and it continues to be a voice for its thousands of members.
VOTF's mission is 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. Affirming their responsibilities for the good of the Church, VOTF members offer their experiences of faith and their competencies in the Church. They commit themselves to supporting clergy abuse survivors; supporting priests who are helping to heal survivors and correct institutional flaws in the Church; and working to reform governing structures in the Church so that abuse of authority could not happen again. The patterns that led to clergy abuse of minors and its cover-up, and to increasing instances of clerical financial misconduct, still prevail. In VOTF's view, trusting exclusively in clerical governance or expecting meaningful reform from the hierarchy acting alone on these issues is simply unreasonable.
- Survivor Support
- Priest Support
- Structural Change
- Bishop Selection
- Child Protection
- Financial Accountability
- Healing Circles
- Lay Education
- Mandatory Celibacy
- Ordain Married Men
- Prayerful Voice
- Women's Roles
With a membership of faithful Catholics, VOTF has always been committed to working within the Church. In 2004, two years after its founding, a study conducted by Catholic University of America found that VOTF members "share a deep and highly involved commitment to their Church," and, early on, the group was endorsed by a number of American Catholic theologians.
In her 2011 book Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church, Tricia Colleen Bruce, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee, offers an in-depth look at the development of Voice of the Faithful and its struggle to challenge church leaders and advocate for internal change while being accepted as legitimately Catholic. Drawing on three years of field observation and interviews with VOTF founders, leaders, and participants, Dr. Bruce's book explores the contested nature of a religious movement operating within the confines of a larger institution, an example of what the author calls an intrainstitutional social movement. In the concluding section of her book, she writes, "VOTF gave Catholics a space to express outrage at the scandal along with frustration and hope for the contemporary, post-Vatican II Catholic Church."
- "Catholics Hoping to Shift Bit Of Power From Pulpit to Pew", The New York Times, July 21, 2002. Accessed April 4, 2008.
- "2004 Survey of VOTF Members" (PDF). Voice of the Faithful. 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "THEOLOGIAN PETITION: Voice of the Faithful Has the Right to Exist". Voice of the Faithful. 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "Are The Bishops Listening? An Interview with VOTF's James E. Post". Commonweal. 2003-06-06. Archived from the original on 2007-11-08. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church Oxford University Press, February 2011. Accessed March 8, 2011
- official site
- The Boston Globe: Spotlight Investigation: Abuse in the Catholic Church
- The Boston Globe: IN-DEPTH: The rise of Voice of the Faithful
- Richard Sipe: VOTF: LEARNING FROM HISTORY – HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST ABUSERS (lecture by Sipe)
- ‘‘The Christian Science Monitor’’: Catholic reformers hold historic meeting
- National Catholic Reporter: Cover story: Church in Crisis: 4,000 meet to give laity a voice
- Notre Dame Magazine: Keep the Faith, Change the Church (interview with first VOTF president Jim Muller)
- National Catholic Reporter: Joan Chittister: Voice of Faithful goes after biggest issue of all: authority
- The Christian Science Monitor: A window on reform
- National Catholic Reporter: Church in Crisis: Meltdown in Boston
- ‘’National Catholic Reporter’’: Voice of the Faithful misleads the laity: Group’s challenge to bishops’ authority is challenge to doctrine
- The Friends of ST. FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI: Digging in to stay and pray - At some 'suppressed' churches, they defy O'Malley's plan (reprinted from National Catholic Reporter)