Shared Burden

A Manifesto for the Laity

Recently, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) marked its fifth anniversary. News stories reported the organization’s accomplishments, its current challenges, and reflections by friends and critics about its record and its future. The question is: Does Voice of the Faithful still matter? Since VOTF’s goal is to increase the role of the laity in the life of the church, that question should have special interest for readers of Commonweal.

In our judgment, and we hope yours, shared responsibility for the life and work of the church is a fact, not an option. Unfortunately, few opportunities are provided for laypeople to exercise their responsibilities. Until there are church reforms that extend serious consultation and shared responsibility to the laity, VOTF provides one indispensable means by which ordinary American Catholics can meet their responsibilities for the life of the church.

VOTF, it is our conviction, provides this opportunity at a particularly critical moment in U.S. Catholic history. Since the sexual-abuse crisis exploded in 2002, the bishops have taken some significant steps to prevent future abuse, but they have failed to address what we think are the underlying causes of the worst scandal in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. Bishops are unlikely to open up the decision-making process unless there are strong, independent Catholic organizations working to...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

David O'Brien is University Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of Dayton.