O'Malley Has "Positive" Meetings with Voice of the Faithful

By Martin Finucane
Republican [Boston MA]
November 19, 2003

BOSTON (AP) -- The leader of a Catholic lay reform group said the group's first meeting with Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley on Wednesday was "positive," but expressed disappointment O'Malley didn't lift a ban shutting new group chapters out of archdiocese parishes.

Newly-formed Voice of the Faithful chapters have been barred from church property since October 2002 after a decision by O'Malley predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law.

Voice president Jim Post said the discussion of the ban with O'Malley was the most strained part of a cordial meeting. O'Malley told Post that he was willing to meet again to talk more about the ban, though Post was hoping for a ban which he considers divisive would be lifted.

"I'm disappointed every day the bans continue," Post said.

Post said most of the meeting went well, as O'Malley committed to a public release of an audit of the archdiocese's compliance with child safety guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Bishops in 2002. The audit will likely be released in January.

O'Malley also seemed willing to accept money from Voice's fund-raising arm, Voice of Compassion. The archdiocese had refused the money because of a condition that none of the funds go toward the archdiocese's administrative expenses.

Catholic Charities, the archdiocese's social service arm, has accepted $118,000 from the Voice of Compassion, despite the archdiocese mandate.

"In all likelihood, the money from Voice of Compassion will be accepted by the archdiocese going forward," Post said.

Post also said that O'Malley agreed to let a group from Voice of the Faithful that deals with protecting children work in collaboration with the archdiocese's child protection staff.

After the meeting, Post called it "a very important first step."

O'Malley said he would work with VOTF and "stressed the importance of reconciliation and healing. He saw that as both his mission and his greatest challenge," Post said.

"We hit all the right topics and it was the right tone," he said.

The Voice of the Faithful formed during the clergy sex abuse scandal to push for changes in the church and counts 30,000 members in the United States.

Since its founding, the group has had a tense relationship with some archdiocesan officials, including Law, who imposed the ban and refused to meet with group until 10 months after it was founded. The archdiocese's interim leader, Bishop Richard Lennon, also took several months to meet with the group, and refused to lift the ban. O'Malley took over the archdiocese in late July.

O'Malley did not comment after the meeting, but archdiocese spokesman the Rev. Christopher Coyne said the tone of Wednesday's meeting was respectful, and called the topics discussed "issues within the family that need to be resolved."

"Everybody kept talking about moving forward, moving toward healing," he said.

Coyne said the church does not consider Voice of the Faithful members dissidents.

"They are faithful good members of their parishes," he said.

The meeting included several VOTF officials, Lennon, Coyne and several other high-ranking church officials.


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