Bishop Daily Letter Lifting Ban on Voice of the Faithful

For some time, members of the Voice of the Faithful have been seeking permission to be able to hold their meetings on church property. They have expressed a desire to continue their reflection on the effects that the sex-abuse situation has had on our beloved church, with the hope of seeking new ways to continue their collaboration in the mission en- trusted to the bishops, especially in this chal- lenging time.

When I was first approached by some of our pastors with the group's request, after consultation, reviewing available information and prayerful reflection, I did not consider it pastorally advisable to grant the permission they sought. I do not regret that decision, since I had concerns about the purpose of the group and the danger that individuals with other agendas -some of them contrary to the teachings and discipline of the church - might use these well-intended members of our loyal faithful as unsuspecting vehicles for the promotion of their plans.

At the same time, I became aware that a number of good and dedicated members of our diocese who were members of VOTF were truly desirous to prayerfully reflect on our present ecclesial concerns and collaborate in strengthening the unity of our church. Therefore, after consultation, I appointed a committee of diocesan representatives, chaired by Bishop Ignatius Catanello, to enter into dialogue with the leaders of the group.

I am happy to report that the meetings that the committee has held with the leaders of VOTF in the Diocese of Brooklyn have been most fruitful. In lengthy sessions, marked on both sides by openness, communication and most of all the spirit of charity and a deep love for the church, they have addressed my con- cerns regarding the group and have reported back to me the results of their constructive dialogue.

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity of sharing the reports I have received from my representatives with my advisers, including the members of the presbyteral council. With the same hope that has characterized the meet ings of my representatives with leaders of the group, those consulted have recommended to me that I allow the members of the VOTF to use church-related facilities for their meetings. I have accepted their recommendation, leaving up to individual pastors the decision as to whether or not their parish facilities could be made available for such meetings.

At the same time, as a developing organization, VOTF leaders realize that it takes time to move ahead and especially to ensure that speakers will present the beliefs stated in their documents, which I have found to be in accord with the teachings of the church. For your information I am attaching a copy of the "Statement of Beliefs" of VOTF.

Realizing the need for guidance and following the unanimous recommendation of those I have consulted, I ask that any pastor who allows the use of the facilities of his parish ought to familiarize himself with the agenda items to be addressed at the meetings and either he or a delegate attend the meetings that are held. Likewise, responding to a desire expressed by my committee of representatives and the leaders of VOTF in the Diocese of Brooklyn, they will continue to meet to oversee the progress of any meetings held in the diocese and to keep the channels of communication open and clear between VOTF and me.

I wish to express my deep gratitude to the members of the appointed committee as well as the leaders of VOTF in Brooklyn for the dedication and sensitivity that they have manifested in their dialogue. I ask you to join me in prayer that this pastoral response to the VOTF request will enable all of us to better achieve the needed healing of our church.