Voice of the Faithful Supports Innocent Priests

By Janine Zeitlin
Naples Daily News
February 1, 2006

Those in power should open their ears to those in the pews.

That was the message at an annual Mass organized by the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a national group formed by lay people to respond to priest sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rev. Thomas Glackin of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church celebrated Tuesday's 3 p.m. Mass at his North Naples church.

"We pray that the bishops will open their ears, minds and hearts to hear different voices," Glackin said, standing with five priests from Naples, Marco Island and Fort Myers before churchgoers.

The Catholic Church's national and local hierarchy should cling to the concept of service and not dominance toward the faithful, he told the crowd of about 200 people.

"Unfortunately, the attitude of superiority seems to be more prevalent than ever. With this attitude, it causes people to lose hope, get discouraged and walk away from the church," he said.

The Voice of the Faithful should stick with its mission to respond to the scandals and also stay loyal to the Catholic Church, he said.

"Faithful means people who never give up," he said.

The Voice of the Faithful chapter counts more than 300 members in mostly Lee and Collier counties. The group aimed to support innocent priests with its fourth annual Mass, said Diane Weighart, board secretary.

The Rev. Thomas Glackin celebrates a Mass for the local chapter of The Voice of the Faithful at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in North Naples on Tuesday afternoon. The Voice of the Faithful is a group formed in the wake of the Roman Catholic Church sex scandals. Photo by Darron R. Silva / Naples Daily News.

"Most people look at someone in a Roman collar and they wonder, 'What's he been up to?' They suffer the shame of that," she said. "The vast majority of priests are attempting to minister as Christ wanted them to minister."

The Rev. Lorenzo Gonzalez, who celebrates Masses in Spanish for three area churches, said he supports all movements connected with the Catholic Church, including the Voice of the Faithful. Parishioners should be reminded not every priest is implicated in scandals splashed in headlines, he said.

"What we had a couple of years ago was like a revelation for the world about something we didn't know, but is a reality," he said. "But these cases do not represent the main attitudes, actions and convictions for the Christian priests."

After the Mass, Glackin said Bishop John J. Nevins of the Venice Diocese handled the scandals well. One case included a former priest who spent the mid-1970s in Naples accused of decades of sexual abuse.

Glackin said he hopes to spur more communication among all levels of the Catholic Church.

"We have to let the lay people talk to us and talk to everybody."

Peg Clark, head of the local chapter, said the Venice Diocese could be more sensitive to victims of sexual abuse. What's more, the large number of Southwest Florida Catholics should be invited into the decision-making of the Venice Diocese, she said.

"We are an untapped resource," she said.

Venice Diocese officials could not be reached for comment.

The Voice of the Faithful will host showings of a film about the Catholic Church's Boston sex scandal Thursday at 1 and 7 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church, 625 11th Ave. N.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.