Bishop Accountability
  A Voice Not Rooted in Faith

By John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark
October 9, 2002

Since the beginning of the year, a movement of individuals who claim to be seeking “true reform” in the Catholic Church, but whose motives are decidedly in conflict with basic Catholic teaching and tradition, has been attempting to establish itself in some dioceses across the country. The movement, called Voice of the Faithful, claims to be seeking representation of the laity and more openness in the affairs of the Church. However, the group has used the current crisis in the Church as a springboard for presenting an agenda that is and anti-Church and, ultimately, anti-Catholic.

In my dual roles as teacher and defender of the Faith, it is imperative that I speak to you, the people of this local Church of Newark, on the subject of Voice of the Faithful, and face squarely the untruths that they seek to perpetrate on Catholics at a time when our sensitivities are heightened, and we anxious to find a solution to our problems.

Voice of the Faithful claims that it is seeking merely to have more representation in the affairs of the Church. Apparently, they believe that the real reform of the Second Vatican Council concerning the empowerment of the laity in Church life never happened. In contrast to their belief, the realities of daily life in the Church of Newark clearly show how much Voice of the Faithful misunderstands the Church. Today, parish councils of lay men and women work hand in hand with pastors to shape the financial and everyday operations of our 235 parishes and more than 170 elementary and high schools. Today, lay men and women serve in key administrative posts managing the business affairs of parishes, schools and institutions. Today, the overwhelming number of catechetical instructors in parishes are lay men and women. Eucharistic ministers, readers, in virtually any ministry – you name the parish -- you will generally find a lay person who has assumed a vital post to bring the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ to others.

On the Archdiocesan level, the involvement of lay people is also strong and vital. The Archdiocesan Finance Council and Pastoral Council consist primarily of prominent lay professionals who bring extensive practical business experience to their tasks of maintaining the financial integrity and stability of the Church of Newark. Our Chancellor and the majority of department heads in the Chancery in Newark are lay people, and the senior executives at each of our affiliated agencies – hospitals, social services, cemeteries, to name a few – are lay professionals. And to assist the work of the Archbishop in determining substantial allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy members, the Response Team of the Archdiocese of Newark has since its inception in 1993 been composed primarily of lay people.

Further, the Archdiocese has prominently supported involvement by the laity over the years through an Office of Lay Leadership that trains men and women to assume responsible positions in parish life. Lay involvement in the everyday affairs of the Archdiocese of Newark is a successful reality that does not need encouragement from outside; it thrives on its own, and we would not want it any other way.

At the same time that it seeks to ignore the real progress and contributions that lay people have made in the Church since Vatican II, Voice of the Faithful offers itself as an umbrella group for numerous causes that are divisive within the Church and that encourage open disregard for our discipline and teaching. Married clergy, ordination of women, abolition of the tradition of celibacy, altering Church teaching on sexual morality, and defiance of the apostolic authority that has guided the Church since its founding 2,000 years ago by Our Lord Jesus Christ, have all found a place in the ranks of Voice of the Faithful. These desires form an agenda that I, as spiritual leader of this Archdiocese, cannot permit to adulterate the faith and practice of the people of the Church of Newark

The Archdiocese of Newark will not interfere with the right of the group Voice of the Faithful to assemble. However, the group is not permitted to use any Archdiocesan or parish property, facility or assets. Through its word and deeds, we believe that this organization has as its purposes:to act as a cover for dissent with the faith; to cause division within the Church; and to openly attack the Church hierarchy. Such actions are inconsistent with what we believe as a Church, and we simply cannot support this group in any way.

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