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April 13, 2004

Nope, not me, not here

A Voice of the Faithful petition was received in the mail today. While I have some sympathy for some of their views, I do not agree with their work. Only a Bishop and a Diocese can claim to represent the voice of the faithful. And yes, that bishop is a sinner, just like me. So, the petition went in the round file.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at April 13, 2004 3:32 PM

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it's more complex, of course.

Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

37. Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors. To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and
confidence which befits children of God and brothers [sic] of Christ. By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have the laity are empowered--indeed sometimes obliged--to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.


1. We do have knowledge and competence and an obligation here, in the circumstances of the current day.

Voice of the Faithful is not an organization established by the church, but the bishops should organize something similar, because:

2. For any right or obligation we have, canon law says we must have the assistance and channels to exercise that right or obligation.

A few dioceses have provided such channels, but there aren't any regularly accessible routes for individuals or groups of laity.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at April 13, 2004 4:36 PM

Voice of the Faithful's ultimate goal is the destruction of the episcopacy.

Posted by: Nathan at April 13, 2004 4:45 PM

Peace, all.

I agree with Maureen 100% on this one. The bishops have abdicated their authority on this one. VOTF'ers are just filling the breach. Comments like Nathan's ultimately do the Church more harm than good.

Posted by: Todd at April 13, 2004 10:20 PM

Todd, The destruction of the espiscopacy may not be VOTF's goal, but it can definitely be the result of their actions.

I have to challenge you on "abdicate." We cannot be Catholic without our bishop, and your taking the other extreme also does more harm than good. To dismiss the bishops is to cease being Catholic. Yes, they are human, yes some made mistakes and should resign, but that is no reason to label the entire episcopacy as useless.

I agree with Maureen that the there need be a place where the faithful speak. VOTF is not it.

Posted by: Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS at April 14, 2004 7:28 AM

Peace, Fr Jeff.

I appreciate your loyalty to the bishops. I have certainly felt this in connection with many of mine.

However, you're stretching the point (and stretching badly) to suggest I consider a bishop useless or that VOTF hopes for the destruction of this ministry. I think bishops hell-bent on self-destruction and the few radicals who would like to experiment with congregationalism are in the extreme minority. In between is a Church that would like more accountability from and more conection to a bishop.

Regarding organizations to advise bishops, Maureen's quote from LG is telling: "this should be done through the institutions established by the Church ..." How many individual bishops set up lay commissions to work with them on the valid concerns VOTF has brought to the table? Not in my diocese. They had to be coerced to do it on the national level -- and that's not enough. Mahony's idea is to hire a PR firm. He would be better off going to his own people. If some bishops had been proactive, there would have been no need for a separate VOTF organization to assist victims, support clergy, and advocate for change.

Change is coming, my friend. It is inevitable. The Church will persist, and change will come as we adapt to new challenges and opportunities. We will not lose the episcopacy, but I suspect it will need to change also, reforming itself, with the assistance of the laity.

Posted by: Todd at April 14, 2004 9:02 AM

I pray that there is courage all around to avoid taking extreme positions out of frustration or fear.

We have some great bishops. We just lost one, Kenneth Unterner of Saginaw. Sean O'Malley is a great gift to all the dioceses in which he's served. Through judicious use of auxiliary bishops, we now have on the west coast bishops of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Pilipino heritage. It's been a long time coming, but greatly encouraging for the people of God. We need more bishops rooted in Mexican American heritage and more bishops who are at home in that culture.

But there are many bishops that make me glad we have the episcopacy. There just aren't enough structures to nudge the ones who aren't great pastoral bishops on their own in the direction of listening to the hearts of the people. It's hard to build compassion into procedures, but we can create channels into which compassion can flow more freely.

The church has had so many governance structures in its history. Many, many ways of consulting, formal and informal. We can change and grow again, and in order to be faithful the command of Christ, we have to.

The destruction of the office of bishop and the colleges of bishops is not the goal. In fact, the preservation of the effective role of the bishop's leadership is the goal.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at April 14, 2004 9:12 AM


I think that many of the people involved in VOTF mean good, but the national leadership wants to destroy the structures of the Church that Christ Himself established. It seems to have been either hijacked, or to have been created to give a 'friendly' face to discent (using the recent scandal as cover).

Posted by: JohnH at April 14, 2004 10:13 AM

Peace, John.

Just as there are people who are using VOTF to promote a flawed secondary agenda, I think we've also had bishops who have used the office for power, prestige, and comfort, not service. I have trust in the Holy Spirit that the wheat and chaff will be sorted out ... in both the episcopacy and other church movements.

Posted by: Todd at April 14, 2004 9:52 PM