Catholic Group Committed to Change

By Steve Gushee
Palm Beach Post [Palm Beach FL]
May 21, 2004

Christianity insists that God can bring forth from the worst evil the greatest good. That conviction is rooted in the new life of grace that emerged from the malevolence of Jesus' crucifixion.

Something akin to that may be happening in the Roman Catholic Church, including the church in Palm Beach County.

God seems to be raising up a new thing called The Voice of the Faithful from the dregs of the ghastly sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church.

The organization began more than two years ago near Boston. It now claims more than 25,000 members in 40 states and 21 countries.

A fledgling but committed chapter began in the Diocese of Palm Beach about a year ago. The 35 to 40 members are hard at work encouraging lay people, embracing victims of sexual abuse and supporting priests, according to Peter Amann, a parishioner at St. Patrick Church in Palm Beach Gardens who acts as their president. They welcome new members to their banner: Keep the faith and change the church.

Voice of the Faithful exists to work within the church to help laity participate actively in the governance of the Catholic Church. That's a tall order in a church that is historically dominated by clergy, but many hope a new day is dawning in the wake of the abuse scandal.

Goals are to support those who have been abused, embrace the great majority of honorable priests and help shape structural change. The group does not take positions on hot button issues like the ordination of women, homosexuality or celibacy in the priesthood.

Amann and some fellow members met with Bishop Gerald Barbarito for the first time in April. They were warmly received.

"The bishop is very positive," said Diocesan Communications Director Jim Brosemer. "He is pleased with their commitment to the church and grateful for their support and dedication."

In the end, the issues are about sharing power. That could mean that things may not be as cordial in the future. Still, a good start in mutual cooperation has been made.

The local group meets at 6:30 p.m. on June 7 at Rosarian Academy, 807 N. Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. Guests and prospective members are most welcome, Amann said.

The group has no office and no budget, but they have enormous enthusiasm, commitment and hope born of their faith.

If your faith leads you to want to change the church, consider joining them.