Reformer: Give Catholic Laity Input

By Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
September 17, 2003

Catholics should have more input on choosing their religious leaders in the wake of sex scandals that have shaken the church, a leading Catholic reformer says.

"Faith is not the issue," said Jim Post, co-founder and president of the Boston-based Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful. "The issue is the human administration of the church. We need to look at that as clear-eyed as we looked at Enron, WorldCom, any of those."

Lay people have plenty of management expertise to share, Post said.

The Boston University management professor will speak this evening at the Newman Center at Arizona State University in Tempe. He will discuss the evolving role of the laity in the Catholic Church. About 100 people are expected, said Sandy Simonson, leader of the local Voice chapter.

Part of the added scrutiny should include a formal role in choosing new bishops, Post says. With new bishops due to be appointed in Phoenix and several other locations, the time is right for the public to speak up, Post said, especially in light of the poor decisions bishops have made in dealing with the priest sex-abuse scandal.

Church members, currently locked out of the process, have a right to see personnel records of those chosen to lead them, he said.

"Can you imagine if a grandparent or a parent had been on (Cardinal Bernard Law's) personnel committee?" Post asks. "Not one of these offending priests would have been transferred."

Even on groups in which lay people participate, meaningful opinion is limited, Post said.

"We found out that in the (Boston) diocesan finance council, there was not one negative vote in 18 years opposing the cardinal," he said. "The system was just riddled with problems."

Post and a church friend started Voice of the Faithful in 2000 in suburban Boston, reacting to the news that Law frequently transferred priests who had been accused of sexual abuse. With the sex-abuse issue spreading worldwide, Voice has grown to almost 40,000 members.

The local chapter, which first got together early this year, is meeting for the first time in a church facility after meeting for months in a local library. Last week, the chapter won approval from the diocese to post information and meet at church facilities.

"I hope Post will motivate many Catholics to become an active part of the solution to fixing our Church," Simonson said. "Blind faith, unquestioned following of our leaders and lay apathy have led us to this crisis."

Reach the reporter at or at (602) 444-8550.


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