Voices of the Faithful

Some louder than others

Twenty dollars got you in the door for a day-long conference on reforming a Catholic Church hobbled by its sex-abuse crisis. Five months ago, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) met for the first time in a church basement in a Boston suburb. On July 20, forty-two hundred Catholics showed up at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center for VOTF’s first convention. After months of shocking news of clergy sex abuse, this crowd of mostly white, late-middle-aged suburban lay Catholics was visibly excited to be doing something positive. By day’s end, that excitement would be tempered by a strenuous challenge to VOTF’s agenda issued by victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Four thousand-plus people gathered to talk about what they could do to help govern the church. The professionalism of the video presentations, lighting, and sound was impressive. Vigorous applause punctuated many of the addresses from a distinguished roster of speakers. The auditorium took on the air of a national political convention when VOTF steering committee member Paul Baier read off the most-represented parishes and states. (Of the forty-two hundred participants, 623 hailed from outside Massachusetts. Thirty-five states were represented, along with seven countries.) This wasn’t just a meeting; it was a movement.

But movements must be defined, and VOTF has a number of hurdles to jump if it is to succeed in its mission: "to provide a prayerful...

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About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.