Voice of Faithful More Optimistic

By Kathleen Durand
Herald News [Fall River MA]
November 13, 2003

FALL RIVER — Members of the Voice of the Faithful in the Fall River Diocese welcome the news that Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley has agreed to meet with the group's leaders in Boston next week.

Robert Gormley of Westport, a spokesman for the Voice of the Faithful in this area, said O'Malley's decision should be an incentive to Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman to meet with the Voice of the Faithful in this diocese.

In an open letter to Coleman published Oct. 12 and which was signed by about 120 people, the Voice of the Faithful asked the bishop to meet with its representatives to discuss its goals. It also asked him to allow the group to hold meetings in parish buildings and to post its meeting notices in church bulletins.

The Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic lay group, had been meeting on church property on Cape Cod until May 22, when Coleman directed parish priests not to communicate with the Voice of the Faithful, not to allow it to meet on parish property and not to run its announcements in church bulletins.

The open letter asked Coleman to respond on or before Nov. 15. He has yet to do so.

Estelle Roach of Fall River, a Voice of the Faithful member, said she expects O'Malley's decision to meet with the group in Boston will have a positive impact.

She said O'Malley and Coleman worked together when O'Malley was bishop of Fall River and the two may have similar viewpoints. Roach said O'Malley's decision may help Coleman understand that meeting with the Voice of the Faithful is “the best thing to do.”

The Voice of the Faithful was founded in the Boston area last year in response to the widespread scandal of sexual abuse by priests. It has groups across the country.

Gormley said the Fall River group is hoping Coleman will come through by the end of the week.

But Ann Bruno of Mattapoisett said she's not too optimistic.

“We just have to hope and pray. I'm just going day by day,” she said. “Even if he doesn't choose to answer, which I consider the height of rudeness, I think to myself, it's a matter of wait and see. Dialogue for me is for clarity. It doesn't have to be for compromise.”

Bruno said it would be wonderful if the Voice of the Faithful members and Coleman or even a priest he could designate could sit down together as human beings and have a conversation.

“He's our shepherd. He's supposed to be keeping track of his flock,” she said.

She said it must be difficult for priests who want to have a dialogue with the laity but cannot because Coleman has directed them not to communicate with the Voice of the Faithful.

Both Coleman and O'Malley are in Washington, D.C., attending the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which ends today.

The Voice of the Faithful's stated goals are to support the victims of abuse; to support priests of integrity; to shape cultural changes in the church so that it will be more open and accountable; and to educate the laity by providing information about the Second Vatican Council, clarifying misconceptions about the group's mission and building community and fellowship.

Kathleen Durand may be reached at


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.