Catholic Group Members Meet with Bishop Coleman

By Gregg M. Miliote
Herald News [Fall River MA]
February 6, 2004

FALL RIVER - Four members of the Roman Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful finally met with Bishop George W. Coleman late Thursday.

Although the meeting occurred months after the group originally requested a sit-down last October, the area director of Voice of the Faithful said she was "delighted" to have any of the group's members invited to the meeting.

The four members of the group hand-picked by Coleman to meet with him were Carol Markey of Mattapoisett, Bill O'Brien of Mashpee, Chris Boyd of Centerville and Gerry Hart of Falmouth.

Calls placed to members of the group who met with the bishop Thursday night were not returned and information on the outcome of the meeting remains unknown.

Voice of the Faithful leadership initially requested the meeting with the bishop in an effort to show him they are not dissidents and should be allowed to hold meetings in diocesan churches.

Prior to his ordination as bishop last July, Coleman sent notice to all parishes in the Diocese of Fall River not to allow the lay group access to church facilities for their meetings or allow them to post announcements in parish bulletins.

"We just want to tell him who we really are. We are fervent Catholics and all are active in the church," said the diocesan director of Voice of the Faithful, Marie Collamore. "But we are also appalled by the church scandal and want change in the church.

"The secrecy and power plays have to come to an end."

Collamore, although not invited to the meeting with Coleman, was expecting to hear from the group that did sit down and speak with the bishop. As of late Thursday night she said she had not heard from the group and did not know the outcome, but hoped it was positive.

"I just hope the bishop stops listening to our detractors and allows us to work with him instead of banishing us like this," Collamore said.

The Voice of the Faithful movement began in Boston two years ago in response to the nationwide scandal involving priests sexually abusing young boys and girls.

The lay group has gained momentum and now has a few hundred members throughout the Fall River Diocese.

The stated goals of Voice of the Faithful are to support the victims of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of "integrity" and attempt to shape structural change in the church hierarchy.

Of the more than 200 dioceses across nation, Fall River is one of eight that continue to ban Voice of the Faithful members from church property.

Calls placed to the diocese's communications office Thursday night were not answered.


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