The worldwide Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful, which started in 2002 in outrage and dismay that the Church’s power structure had kept clergy sexual abuse of children secret, is marking its tenth year with a conference in Boston this September. The event is expected to draw supporters from across the United States and Europe.
VOTF was started here in Boston, but is international now with some 30,000 members and a strong presence in Ireland. Many of the US members are also Irish or Irish-American.
The outrage in Boston that sparked the founding of VOTF back in 2002 has morphed into something different today (yet no less significant) as more and more Catholics embrace ideas previously seen as radical (women priests, optional celibacy). The importance of changing the church for future generations is also now a theme that rings true for many, as we have seen here in the US, as in Ireland and elsewhere, a lost generation moving away from religion. Amid these changes, Voice of the Faithful trudges onwards making steady progress towards its goals to support survivors of abuse, and work towards structural change in the church with greater input from laypeople, greater roles for women, and financial accountability within the Catholic Church.
“At the close of our first decade, we’re assessing where we’ve been and considering what we have left to do to bring healing and renewal to clergy abuse survivors, to conscientious priests trapped in such turmoil for so long a time and to our whole Church,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president.
Under the rubric of “celebrating its mission, rejuvenating its commitment and accelerating its work,” VOTF is bringing together speakers whose work has given them in-depth knowledge and keen awareness not only of the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal and the devastation wreaked upon victims and their families, but also of the clericalism in the Church’s hierarchy, theological and doctrinal underpinnings of Church teaching and the effects the reform movement has had on Catholics and the Church.
These speakers will include John Morgan, Chair of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, Honorable Anne Burke, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, children’s advocate and former United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board chair, Rev. Donald Cozzens, author, international commentator and lecturer on religious and cultural issues, especially on the Church’s sexual and financial crises, and writer in residence at John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio, Prof. Thomas Groome, theologian, author and Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry chairman, Boston College, Rev. James Connell, canon lawyer, pastor in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors, Jamie Manson, award-winning columnist for National Catholic Reporter, lay minister to the poor and frequent speaker and retreat leader and David Clohessy, executive director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation’s largest and oldest self-help group for clergy sexual abuse survivors.
The Voice of the Faithful® 10th Year Conference takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston, MA. For more information about the conference and to register, go to www.votf.org.