Catholic Paper Says No to an Ad
It's for a Seminar by Group Responding to Sexual Abuse

By Randy Myers
San Jose Mercury News [San Jose CA]
Downloaded March 23, 2004

A publication for East Bay Catholics refused to run an advertisement and notice announcing a university-sponsored seminar that gathers scholars to discuss the Catholic Church's future.

As publisher of the Catholic Voice, Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Oakland Diocese rejected running an ad and notification item for the one-day University of San Francisco seminar, "Imaging the Future Church."

In a March 1 letter to the East Bay chairman of the Voice of the Faithful, Vigneron explained that his decision was based on critical comments on church doctrine he heard from group members.

Founded as a response

The Voice of the Faithful is a reform organization of lay Catholics that formed in response to the clergy sex-abuse scandal. The Northern California arm of the group is a co-sponsor of the Saturday forum, and the national president is among the speakers.

"My judgment was based on the meeting I had with the local VOTF leadership," Vigneron wrote to Peter Davey, the group's East Bay chairman. "At that time I was informed that the VOTF has decided to withhold affirmation from some elements of authentic magisterial teaching, for example, the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood."

Davey responded to the bishop in a March 3 letter that said the group did not advocate for those changes. He added that he hopes the bishop will support events like the San Francisco seminar that, he said, are intended to create a better understanding of the church.

The Catholic Voice serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties and reaches 100,000 East Bay households twice a month. An estimated 520,000 Catholics live in the East Bay. USF attempted to place the ad in the Catholic Voice periodical and not in other Bay Area Catholic papers, said Gary McDonald, university spokesman.

Jesuits ran the ad

An ad did run in the Jesuit publication, America.

Vigneron was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Davey takes the refusal as a sign that church leadership wants to distance itself from critical analysis.

"It's not like we're preaching revolution here," he said. "What it signifies is that suddenly when we're trying to educate ourselves and be heard in a larger forum, it strikes fear in the hearts of the hierarchy."

Catholic publications infrequently reject ads that are contrary to church teachings or aren't suitable for a family publication, said Voice editor Monica Clark. The Voice also scrapped a political ad that featured a political leader with the pope.

Clark has been with the Voice for 20 years.

"I'm not aware of any other time this has happened on this type of issue," she said.

The director of USF's St. Ignatius Institute isn't concerned about what happened since it hasn't diminished interest in the event. USF expects the seminar to be packed.


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