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  Twin Cities Catholics Form Group to Support Abuse Victims, Seek Church Change

By Warren Wolfe
Star Tribune [Minnesota]
August 1, 2003

Calling for greater lay involvement in directing affairs of the Catholic Church, about 150 Twin Cities parishioners began Minnesota's second chapter of Voice of the Faithful on Thursday night.

"The life of the church is too important for us to just sit back and be quiet," said Francis Moriarity, 77, a member of Mary Mother of the Church in Eagan. "Things are not right with the church, and they won't be until we take responsibility for it."

The national organization was born 18 months ago in a Boston suburb, a reaction by Catholics to revelations that children had been sexually abused by priests and that some bishops allowed abusive priests to continue in ministry.

More than 30,000 Catholics have joined the group in 41 states, forming 181 chapters. The group that formed Thursday will be the 182nd. About 35 members formed a chapter last year in Winona, Minn.

"This saga of sexual abuse has been very difficult for Catholics," said Jan Kranz, one of the organizers of the gathering Thursday and a council member at Pax Christi Church in Eden Prairie, where the meeting was held. "But we're responsible, too. We can't just blame others."

The group will meet again at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at Pax Christi to begin organizing.

Nationally and locally, the group's goals are to support victims of sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and to shape structural change within the church.

That last point has been a cause for concern among some bishops, who worry that the group might seek to weaken church hierarchy or change its teachings.

Indeed, some chapters of the group have called for the resignation of several bishops.

After months of withholding judgment, chapters in Boston joined a chorus of those asking Cardinal Bernard Law to resign, which he did in December. Some also have asked that some of Law's former aides resign, including Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay.

"This is not a group of rabble-rousers," the Rev. Tim Power, pastor of Pax Christi, said before the meeting. "These are responsible, committed, caring Catholics who love the church and want to work with parishes and the chancery to make the church even more relevant to everyday life."

Belinda Martinez, a founder of the Twin Cities chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told the group how she was sexually abused by two priests in the Twin Cities, and of her years of psychological treatment. Both priests eventually were removed from ministry.

She urged the new Voice of the Faithful group to "make a place in your churches for those of us still willing to participate. Invite us to the pulpit. Listen to our stories. When we are able to speak, we are able to begin healing."

During the past year, disclosures of abuse at St. John's Abbey and the removal of at least three Twin Cities priests for past sexual abuse of children has been difficult for Catholic parishioners as well as for priests, Powers said.

At a three-day retreat in June with Archbishop Harry Flynn, who leads the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, priests talked for two hours with Flynn about their anguish -- sometimes "guilt by association because we were wearing the collar, and certainly a sense of betrayal by some bishops who allowed these things to happen," he told the crowd in his church.

In a recent interview, Flynn said he had no opinion about Voice of the Faithful because he knows little about it.

"This is an opportunity for us," Kranz said. "We take no position on ordination of women, marriage of priests, homosexuality or other current hot-button issues. But we do want to talk about structure and accountability -- accountability of all of us, parishioners, priests and bishops."

ONLINE:

For information about Voice of the Faithful, go to http://www.votf.org.

 
 

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