Supporting Our Priests

Some clear language from National's Priest Support Working Committee:
  1. To promote opportunities for priests, survivors and laity to speak the truth.
  2. To encourage collaboration and mutual support between priests and laity.
  3. To affirm and encourage the universal priesthood of all the faithful by virtue of our baptism.
  4. To model the Church as defined by the documents of Vatican II.
  5. To advocate due process and justice for all.
  6. To coordinate, communicate and encourage efforts by individual parishes and affiliates.

Starting Points
Suggested Focus Questions
(refers to meeting with priests and VOTF members called "Sounding Boards")

  1. How can Voice of the Faithful assist in protection of priests' rights and how can priests publicly support the rights of VOTF to truly share in the governance of the church?
  2. Have you heard a survivor tell their story? Have you been part of a healing Mass or prayer service?
  3. What steps can be taken to facilitate open communication and collaboration among the hierarchy, the clergy and the laity in order to enhance the growth of our Church?
  4. In an address given at Marquette University, Dan Maguire said the following:
    • "Catholic theology is at its healthiest when the search for truth rests on a tripod: the hierarchy, the theologians and the faithful."

    • Would you support a coalition of clergy, theologians, and laity ...?
    • How could this be promoted and accomplished?

    • "We shall insist on the right, where we think it is important for the good of the Church, to argue positions at variance with those that are presently official." (Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.)

    • Is "faithful dissent" possible in the Church today? How?

Msgr. Breslin receives Priest of Integrity Award

July 13, 2005
INDIANAPOLIS — Msgr. Lawrence Breslin, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, received the Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award July 10 at VOTF's national convocation. The award, which has been given annually since the group's founding three years ago, underscore's the group's stated goal to support priests of integrity.

"Msgr. Breslin has provided a model of leadership for all Catholics — ordained and unordained alike — to follow," said Jim Post, VOTF president. "He courageously named a fellow priest, who admitted the abuse, thereby placing the interest of the innocent victim ahead of a brother priest...Msgr. Breslin has demonstrated a commitment to truth and to bringing sunlight to the Catholic Church." Kristine Ward, a Dayton resident and vice president of VOTF, noted that "We live in a time of crisis. We seek true reform. Models of exemplary leadership are needed as torchbearers of light in our church. Msgr. Breslin has been a bright light in the darkness of this tragedy."


Voice of the Faithful Announces Fr. James J. Scahill to Receive Priest of Integrity Award at New England Conference

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 – Newton, Mass. – Leaders of Voice of the Faithful are announcing that Fr. James J. Scahill, of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, will receive the Priest of Integrity award at a conference hosted by the New England affiliates of the organization. The award, given by the organization of lay Catholics formed in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, honors priests who exemplify the meaning of honorable pastoral service. Fr. Thomas J. Doyle, who received the first Priest of Integrity award in 2002, and David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), will present the award to Fr. Scahill on November 13th in Worcester, Massachusetts at a Voice of the Faithful conference entitled “It’s Not History – It’s Time for Renewal.”

Fr. Scahill, the pastor of St. Michael’s parish, is an outspoken supporter of the community of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. In 2002, Fr. Scahill announced that the parish would withhold its weekly contribution to the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, because the Diocese had not removed a notorious priest and convicted abuser, Richard Lavigne, from its payroll. The monies withheld were delivered to the Diocese only after all payments to Lavigne were terminated.

Fr. Scahill also was instrumental in bringing the allegations against former Springfield Bishop Thomas Dupre to public attention. Fr. Scahill counseled the mother of one of the survivors. He then brought the claims of abuse to the attention of Archbishop O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese and to law enforcement officials in Massachusetts. Dupre resigned his position as bishop when the allegations against him became public.

Fr. Scahill has begun to work with the Diocese toward community healing despite some initial tension with the new Bishop in Springfield, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell. In September, Fr. Scahill and Bishop McDonnell held a healing Mass for survivors at St. Michael’s parish. Bishop McDonnell apologized to Fr. Scahill for remarks he had made about him and to survivors for the abuse that they had suffered.

In 2002, Fr. Doyle said about Fr. Scahill, “Scahill has not only listened to his parishioners’ concerns, he has realized that they are his concerns as well and he has taken action! This action has galvanized not only his parish, but also the Greater Springfield community behind him and his parish’s just cause.”

“Fr. Scahill demonstrated exemplary courage and principled Christian leadership by speaking up for victims of abuse and insisting that the Church do the right thing in responding to them,” said James E. Post, president of Voice of the Faithful. “When he spoke out, he could not have contemplated the hardship he would face or the criticism he would bear. But he did not flinch or forsake those survivors of clergy sexual abuse. And, looking back today, we can see the power of his actions - they are a beacon of integrity for all to see.”

“It’s Not History – It’s Time for Renewal” will focus on the response of lay Catholics to the clergy sexual crisis, how lay men and women view the current condition of the Church, and how to restore trust and faith in the Catholic Church in the United States.


Father Tom Doyle

Urged the Church to Intervene, but Study was Rebuffed
Rev. Thomas Doyle, O.P.
The Isaac Thomas Hecker Award

Since 1974, the award recognizes North American Catholics who have labored for a more just and peaceful world. The award is named after Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers. The Paulist Center is a worshipping community in the Catholic tradition with emphasis on social justice, education, and evangelization located in Boston, MA.

January 26, 2003
by Jenna Russell, Globe Staff
Boston Globe

BOSTON, MA--The report was thorough - almost 100 pages - and its conclusions were stunning: Crisis intervention should begin across the country to stop the damage being done by child-abusing priests.

Produced almost 20 years ago by the Rev. Thomas Doyle, then a canon lawyer at the Vatican's Washington embassy, and two colleagues, the report was ignored by Catholic leaders. Doyle lost his Vatican position, and came to believe that reform would not happen in his lifetime.

Yesterday, though, after a year of mounting outrage at decades of abuse that was kept secret and mounting evidence of accused priests who were reassigned, a year in which hundreds of priests were ousted or resigned, Doyle was honored by the church whose crisis he predicted.

Now 58 and an Air Force chaplain in Germany, Doyle received the 2003 Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice during evening Mass yesterday at Boston's Paulist Center, for his ''unwavering efforts to bring justice to victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse,'' said Donna Stiglmeier, pastoral minister at the center.

The award, given to a North American Catholic who has worked for peace and justice, has previously honored labor leaders Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day, and death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean.

At a news conference in the library of the Park Street center, Doyle said public speaking usually gets him in trouble. He compared the current crisis to the Inquisition, when thousands were persecuted.

''The church left these people behind, and when they were down, it kicked them,'' he said. ''I don't think the careers and perks that go along with the hierarchy are worth the life of one survivor.''

This morning, Doyle plans to march outside St. Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester, N.H., with abuse victims and leaders of their movement, at the state's first large public gathering of survivor advocates. Bishop John McCormack, leader of the Manchester Diocese, has been under pressure to resign since disclosures that, as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in the 1990s, he helped move priests accused of abuse from church to church without informing parishioners.

Rather than walking away from the sex abuse issue in the 1980s when his report spurred no action, Doyle spent years working with victims and their families, accused priests, and bishops. He helped found the abuse survivors group The Link Up 10 years ago in Chicago, and has helped develop church policies for dealing with abuse.

His choices ''cost him personally,'' Stiglmeier said. ''He traded hierarchical power for the power that comes with solidarity with people in need.''

''He was prophetic in identifying the problem, and in recommending a responsible course of action back in 1985, which was ignored by bishops at their peril,'' said Anne Barrett Doyle, a founder of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors.

A Wisconsin native ordained as a priest in the Dominican order in 1970, Doyle holds a pontifical doctorate in canon law from Catholic University and five master's degrees. He has been an expert witness in about 200 clergy sex abuse cases.

He is motivated, he said, by his relationships with victims, ''sitting and listening and feeling their hopelessness.''

Law, along with other influential bishops, initially supported Doyle's 1980s study. But when its recommendations were unveiled, suggesting changes in priest education and supervision, and even church culture, that door was shut, Doyle said, and church leaders said the report was written to make money for its authors. ''That got me angry,'' he said.

Doyle has said that the release of damning church documents, long kept secret, distinguished the recent scandal from those of the 1980s and 1990s, beginning ''a process that I thought I would never live to see, the rather quick awakening of the laity and the rapid shattering of the wall of denial.''

Catholic lay people played the role of ''enablers'' too long, he said, giving money to the church despite their concerns. Calling himself a pragmatist who doesn't expect an ''idealized'' church to arise from the crisis, Doyle said he is nonetheless encouraged by the loud demands of lay people.

''No matter how loyal you are, you can only take so much pain when it comes to your children,'' he said.

Last summer, Doyle received the ''Priest of Integrity'' award from the lay Catholics' group Voice of the Faithful.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 1/26/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.