First Archdiocese, VOTF Meeting under O'Malley Goes Well

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald
November 20, 2003

Leaders of the lay Catholic group Voice of the Faithful and the Archdiocese of Boston expressed fresh optimism about their sometimes strained relationship after an hourlong meeting yesterday.

"The tone of the meeting was positive, the discussion was positive," said VOTF Executive Director Steve Krueger. "It felt like a real dialogue. It was warm and it was positive."

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the meeting "was courteous and deferential on both sides."

The session was the seventh between the group and archdiocesan officials, but the first since Sean P. O'Malley was installed as archbishop in July.

Since its inception, VOTF's mission worried some church leaders.

Initially, some were concerned about the group's call for structural change.

The relationship became even more strained when VOTF set up an alternative fund for donors unwilling to give to the archdiocese, prompting Bernard Cardinal Law to issue an edict last year prohibiting new chapters from meeting on church property.

Krueger said after yesterday's meeting that all disputes were discussed.

The VOTF leaders made it clear they did not want to restructure the church, but merely wanted to expand the role of such existing groups as parish councils, he said.

O'Malley agreed to let church leaders work with Voice of the Faithful on child-protection initiatives and invited the group to meet with archdiocesan Chancellor David Smith to talk about fund raising.

On the question of new chapters meeting on church property, O'Malley made no decision, Krueger said. "He said he has to get to know us a little better . . . we want to give that a chance."

O'Malley also said he wanted to find out why nine other bishops ban Voice of the Faithful from church buildings and to find out what the priests of the archdiocese think, participants in the meeting said.

Voice of the Faithful lists 190 chapters and says that about 30,000 people have signed up for e-mail updates. Specific membership numbers are unavailable.


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