Participants at the Summit of the lay organization “Voice of the Faithful” (VOTF) convoked this weekend at Fordham University's Rose Hill Campus, harshly criticized Catholic bishops, but also offered unspecified “cooperation” to face the Church’s current crisis.
VOTF’s Keynote speaker, former priest Eugene Kennedy, a psychologist, opened the meeting with a joke about the vacation plans of each person of the Holy Trinity and said the Holy Spirit option was: “I'd like to go to Rome. I've never been there.”
Kennedy also said that the church hierarchy, by denying sexuality, had lost its understanding of the human person and even true holiness, making scandal possible, and called homosexuals “the scapegoats of the age.” “This is a problem of the official church, in which the people have lost their confidence, not of Catholicism, in which they retain their faith,” he said.
On her turn, Sister Dorothy Ann Kelly, the former president of the College of New Rochelle, accused the bishops of fighting “numerous opportunities to give the laity a greater voice,” from with the Second Vatican Council to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's “Common Ground” initiative.
Sister Kelly also said lay people “have to be ready to sacrifice reputation, friends even, to press our cause” in front of what she called the hierarchy's “continued defensiveness.”
Steve Krueger, VOTF national executive director from Boston, insisted that the group's members, as faithful and committed Catholics, could be the bishops' “best friends” if the bishops “would just listen.”
But according to Gary Stern, correspondent of the Journal News “Somewhere, the ears of bishops were burning. And if they heard all that was said about them at yesterday's Voice of the Faithful conference in the Bronx, their stomachs might have been churning.”
According to Stern, who reported the event for his newspaper, in re-examining the church's sex-abuse scandal, the VOTF conference “berated, rebuked and belittled a church hierarchy that many in attendance seemed to believe has no regard for them.”
“Judging from attendance at yesterday's conference, which surprised even organizers, Voice of the Faithful has ample support in this region — at least among white Catholics over 50 who favor blazers and sweaters,” he added.
Victims of sexual abuse were also present at the meeting, urging VOTF to “keep the heat” on the bishops.
In fact, Paul Baier of Boston-based “Survivors First,” said that “The church has no right to talk about pro-life, genetic engineering, euthanasia, until we get this right.”