Catholics Called to Action
Voice of Faithful Conference Set Nov. 13 in Worcester Voice of Faithful Meeting Set Nov. 13

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]
September 28, 2004

WORCESTER- Jason Berry, the free-lance writer who called public attention to the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church before many people were aware of it, said Catholics need to move the discussion into the Vatican.

Mr. Berry, who with Gerald Renner wrote "Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II," said in a recent interview that "one of the greatest failings of this pope is that he did not act on the sexual abuse issue."

Mr. Berry, who lives in New Orleans, and Mr. Renner, a retired religion writer for the Hartford Courant, will be among speakers at the New England Voice of the Faithful conference to be held Nov. 13 at the Worcester Centrum Centre. Both are Catholics.

"The Vatican believes that the abuse scandal in the United States resulted because a pagan media and a legal system out of control came together to attack the Roman Catholic Church," Mr. Berry said. "What happened is that a monarchal institution collided with a constitutional legal system and a free press.

"They view Cardinal Law as a victim," he said.

Mr. Berry said Catholics need to pay attention to the important job they gave the cardinal when he was appointed head priest at a major Roman Catholic church.

Mr. Berry noted that most of the coverage of the abuse scandal in the United States has come from the smaller newspapers, with the large papers stepping in for major news developments.

He added that the information has gotten out to Catholics, many of whom understand the enormity of the scandal far better than the pope and those in the Vatican. Mr. Berry first wrote about the burgeoning scandal in the early 1990s when he published "Lead Us Not Into Temptation." Mr. Berry said that as he has gotten deeper into investigating the scandal, he found it is worse and runs deeper than he first thought.

In his latest book with Mr. Renner, they discuss what they call the Vatican's poor handling of the scandal through two stories. One part is about the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest who worked at one time at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. Rev. Doyle, who will also be speaking at the convention, began speaking out against abuse of children by some clergy and later lost his job.

The other section of the book deals with the Legion of Christ, a religious order that has received the backing of Pope John Paul II although its founder, Marcial Maciel, has been accused of sexually abusing boys for decades. The Legion has denounced the allegations as false.

In talks with Vatican insiders, Mr. Berry said indications are the Vatican is not really interested in doing much about the scandal. "There is no sense of collective responsibility in Rome," he said.

Mr. Berry said part of the problem is because of a vacuum created by the current pope's illness.

Lay movements within the Catholic church such as Voice of the Faithful, which was founded in the Boston area as the latest wave of the scandal rose in 2002, and Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) can do much to bring about the reforms needed in the church to make sure children are not put at risk again, he said.

His suggestion is that Catholics, victims of clergy abuse and others interested in the issue begin bombarding the Vatican with documents and their thoughts and opinions on what the Vatican needs to be doing. Victims should start sending dossiers with photographs of themselves to Rome, he said. Catholics should get to know people in the Vatican congregations and make specific requests of them. "They need to start building bridges to the Vatican," he said.

Mr. Berry said that while three-quarters of American Catholics "ignore Rome" the other 25 percent of Catholics who have particular points of view have perfected this bombardment technique and have been heard in Rome. "The Vatican is not hearing from mainstream Catholics," he said.

Others to participate at the convention include: David France, author of "Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic in an Age of Scandal," Pamela Hayes, member of the American Bishops National Review Board; Catharine Henningsen, publisher of SALT: The Op-Ed Page of the Catholic Church; Jetta Bernier of Massachusetts Citizens for Children; Sue Archibald of The Linkup, a group that supports victims of clergy sexual abuse; David Clohessy of SNAP; and Ann Hagen Webb of New England SNAP.

David O'Brien, professor at the College of the Holy Cross, will join with Anthony Massimini of Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, and the Rev. William Clark, S.J., of Holy Cross in discussing lay movements within the Catholic church. The future of the Catholic church will be discussed by David Gibson, author of "The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism," Paul Lakeland who wrote "The Liberation of the Laity: In Search of an Accountable Church," and Eileen Flynn, author of "Catholics at a Crossroad: Cover-Up, Crisis, and Cure."

Kathleen Kautzer of Regis College, Deacon Michael Iwanowich of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and Patricia Hayes, pastoral associate at Our Lady of Mercy, Putney, Vt., will discuss parishes of the future.

Speakers are also expected to include the Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils; Jim Post, VOTF president and Francine Cardman of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.


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