Voice of the Faithful Protests Bishop's Ban
Group Meets at Sandwich High Sunday

By Edward F. Maroney
Barnstable Patriot [Cape Cod MA]
Downloaded October 18, 2003

'"Now we feel kind of like outcasts. We can't have our own Mass Sunday in one of our churches. We have to rent Sandwich High.' Joan Kelly, Marstons Mills

The Voice of the Faithful is heard in the churches of the Boston Archdiocese, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River has clamped down on the group on Cape Cod and the rest of Southeastern Massachusetts.

In response, VOTF ran an ad in Sunday's Standard Times of New Bedford and the Cape Cod Times challenging Bishop George W. Coleman to withdraw a May 22 order to ban the group's news from church bulletins, not permit members to meet in church buildings, and cut off any conversations with local priests.

"We are very angry because Voice of the Faithful has been banned from meeting in our own churches for no apparent reason," said Patricia Casavant of Osterville, whose husband Arthur was one of more than 100 signatories to the open letter. "We supported the church. We paid for these buildings with our own donations over the years."

John Kearns, assistant director of communications for the Diocese, was away at a conference this week. A message left Wednesday with the office's director, the Rev. Msgr. John F. Moore, was not returned by press time.

On Oct. 14, the Standard Times reported that Coleman told a staff writer inquiring about the Diocese's relations with VOTF that he would have "no comment about that matter whatsoever."

The silence is particularly frustrating for Cape members who see a different treatment of their organization in the Boston area.

"All the Voice of the Faithful chapters (there) that were started prior to Archbishop (Sean) O'Malley's (appointment) are allowed to meet," Patricia Casavant said.

Voice of the Faithful formed in the wake of the clergy abuse scandals that rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America and led to the reassignment of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law and his replacement by O'Malley, Coleman's predecessor in Fall River. Jim Post, a professor of management at Boston University and a co-founder of VOTF, will speak on "The Emerging Role of the Catholic Laity" Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Sandwich High School; the VOTF meeting will be followed by a Mass. All are welcome to attend.

"Now we feel kind of like outcasts," said Joan Kelly of Marstons Mills, who signed the letter with husband Ed. "We can't have our own Mass Sunday in one of our churches. We have to rent Sandwich High."

In a press statement announcing Sunday's meeting, VOTF is described as "a centrist Catholic lay organization that has grown to over 30,000 registered members from over 40 states and 20 foreign countries. Although VOTF originated in response to the crisis in the church, its goals are now threefold: to support survivors of sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to support cultural change within the church."

"Our personal goals are in tune with VOTF," Patricia Casavant said. "To have a church that is operating under the rules of Vatican II. That seems to be ignored sometimes. Laity participation is a big incentive for us. We want a church acceptable for our children and grandchildren, a church free of scandal and oppression."

Joan Kelly, who attends Christ the King in Mashpee, said that "so many of the people involved (in VOTF) are the daily communicants. They are eucharistic ministers, they teach CCD, which we have done. They're really involved in their church."

Patricia Casavant said she perceives "an attitude" among some Cape congregations "that there are no problems in this diocese, when really, in fact, it all started with Father Porter in Fall River. In view of recent developments, there are obviously continuing problems."

Voice of the Faithful ­Fall River Diocese can be contacted at PO Box 1036, Centerville MA 02632 or by e-mail at The group's Web site is

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