Letter from From Jim Muller and News Report
The following is an Editorial from the Cincinnati Enquirer, that accurately reports on a meeting I had on Aug 8, 2003 with the Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. Thanks to the work of Nan, Kristine, Sister Mary Jerome and others in Cincy, and a prior good meeting with Jim Post, he had already reversed an early concern about VOTF activities in Dayton. In our recent meeting he reaffirmed to me that he is "satisifed that there is nothing contrary to Church teaching in the work of VOTF". He said that he views VOTF as an "association of lay faithful" that "has the good of the Church at heart". He did not endorse VOTF, but leaves it to the discretion of his individual pastors to decide if they will permit VOTF to meet on church property.
These statements are of great importance for several reasons. First, in contrast to actions of those like Bishop Murphy of Long Island, who banned VOTF without meeting with VOTF leadership, Archbishop Pilarczyk, met with many leaders of VOTF to learn about the organization. He has also studied the VOTF website. He knows us well. Second, he is a highly respected scholar and teacher. Third, he is chair of Common Ground, which seeks to encourage dialog between left and right in the Church as does VOTF. (We discussed our mutual work with Cardinal Bernadin. I told him I hoped VOTF would someday work with Common Ground, which Brenadin founded.) Finally, he is a national leader of bishops, who served as President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.
He agreed to meet again with representatives of VOTF in his diocese, and to another meeting with me. It is a good sign for the Church and for VOTF, that such a highly respected church leader has made such positive statements about VOTF. Archbishop Pilarczyk, Bishop Daley and others, who have taken the time to learn about VOTF, and issued positive statements, are setting wonderful examples for leadership that will lead to a better Church. We must urge those Bishops who remain negative, or concerned about VOTF, to take the time to meet with VOTF leaders, and learn more about the organization.I believe, the more they know, the more positive their view will be.
KFCC, Jim Muller
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Voice for change
Sex scandals: Reform movement
The Boston-based church reform group Voice of the Faithful is still banned in some Catholic dioceses, but VOTF founder Jim Muller received a cordial reception here from Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk Friday. The soft-spoken Boston cardiologist is no Martin Luther firebrand seeking schism, even though VOTF's worldwide movement sprang from outrage over priest sex abuse scandals in Massachusetts. Those scandals were echoed in dioceses across the country, including Cincinnati and Covington. The reform group is seeking more of a voice for lay people in guiding the church, and more accountable church leaders, to prevent cover-ups and other abuses.
On his visit here, Muller assured Pilarczyk that VOTF does not aim to change church core doctrine. Pilarczyk already had given pastors here the go-ahead to decide if Voice of the Faithful groups may meet on church property and if VOTF notices may be included in church bulletins.
Muller has impeccable credentials when it comes to advocating reform. He is a founder of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Who would fail to support VOTF's three core goals? Support sex abuse victims. Support priests of integrity. Shape structural change within the church. VOTF wants to create democratic lay congresses at every level of the worldwide Catholic Church to advise church leaders.
Started only last year, Voice of the Faithful numbers more than 30,000, with 186 affiliates, including chapters in Australia and New Zealand. Its Web site www.votf.org rallies the membership. When people tell Muller the laity doesn't stand a chance, he says, "We have instruments reformers didn't have before." The Internet is already a powerful force for VOTF.
Muller argues the early church was governed more democratically. Only later were lay people disenfranchised. He thinks church leaders would be better off sharing power. With energized lay people, the church could accomplish more good. Muller's is a voice worth heeding.