What do the U.S. bishops think of Voice of the Faithful?
While two top U.S. bishops have recently raised concerns about Voice of the Faithful, others are cautiously allowing them to meet on Church property.
Newark, N.J., Archbishop John Myers recently wrote a letter to a member of the group. In the letter, which was made public April 21, Archbishop Myers said: “While certain members of the organization still insist that [Voice of the Faithful's] goals and objectives are not determined, other literature and other factors clearly indicate that it is aligned or being aligned with groups in the Church that are clearly in dissent from Church teaching. I think it would be a serious mistake for the Church to promote in any way an organization that is counter to its own teachings.”
The letter was written in response to a letter from a Voice of the Faithful member inviting the archbishop to a May 13 meeting at which Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the Bishops' Office of Youth and Child Protection in Washington, D.C., was a speaker.
The meeting took place outside of the archdiocese because Archbishop Myers has banned Voice of the Faithful from meeting on Church property.
“Archbishop Myers felt from all of the information that he had — and it was fairly comprehensive — that he had some very serious concerns,” spokesman Jim Goodness said. “It looks as if many people who are involved in that organization who are setting policy and in leadership positions are also working toward other positions that are contrary to Church teaching and tradition.”
Voice of the Faithful president Jim Post denies that any bishop has reason to oppose his group. He told The Hartford Courant in a March 30 article the decision of some bishops to ban Voice from meeting on Church property is “so morally wrong that it is difficult to reconcile that behavior with Christian teaching.”
In an interview last month with the Register, Post said the position Archbishop Myers took in his April 21 letter was unfair and “highly inconsistent with his pastoral responsibilities.” Before taking such an action, Post said, Archbishop Myers should have provided hard evidence that Voice of the Faithful was acting against the interests of the Church.
“When an affirmative action is taken to injure another party … The party who acts in that way bears a burden of proof,” Post said. “It's a simple principle in American jurisprudence.”
At least two bishops have softened their stances recently on Voice of the Faithful. In early May, Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn rescinded his ban on Voice meetings on Church property after discussions by his representatives with local Voice members met his satisfaction.
And on June 12, the Dayton Daily News reported that the Dayton affiliate of the Voice of the Faithful would hold its first meeting on Church property June 19, following a decision by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati to lift the ban he instituted last year.
Archbishop Myers is not the only bishop who still sees problems with Voice of the Faithful's ambiguous message. Several continue to ban Voice of the Faithful meetings on diocesan properties, and others are refusing to meet with the group's representatives until it is clear Voice is not promoting dissent.
In April, the Register reported on a posting on the Catholic Citizens of Illinois Web site headlined, “Voice of the Faithful” Meets with Cardinal George,” referring to a March 31 meeting between Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Voice co-founder Jim Muller.
Following the meeting, a Voice chapter Web site reported that Cardinal George had “agreed to meet with the Chicago leadership of Voice of the Faithful. … Our target date is mid-June.”
Cardinal George subsequently contacted the Register to correct the record. He said he did not discover that Muller was involved with Voice of the Faithful until the March 31 meeting was well under way, and he denied he had ever agreed to meet with Voice representatives.
“It is simply false,” Cardinal George said of the reported meeting. “I can't support an agenda that seems undefined … until they're willing to say what they're for, why would you meet with them?”
(Register correspondent John Mallon contributed to this report.)