Bishop's Stance Angers Activists
Voice of the Faithful Leader Criticizes Lori's Meeting Ban

Frances Grandy Taylor
Hartford Courant [New Haven CT]
March 30, 2003

NEW HAVEN -- The president of Voice of the Faithful, the lay Catholic movement that sprang from the priest sex abuse scandal, on Saturday called the decision of some bishops to ban the group from meeting on church property "so morally wrong that it is difficult to reconcile that behavior with Christian teaching."

James Post also singled out Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport for criticism in an interview before speaking during a two-day conference on church governance and accountability at Yale University. The conference was held at the law school and sponsored by St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center. The panel also included Kathleen L. McChesney, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection.

Voice of the Faithful, which began in a church basement in the Boston archdiocese a year ago, has about 30,000 members across the nation. In Connecticut, local chapters have started in the dioceses of Bridgeport, Norwich and Hartford.

Post expressed particular frustration with the actions of Lori, one of eight bishops in the country to ban the group's local chapters from diocesan buildings. Lori's decision came shortly after the group held a national convention in Boston in July. At that time, the bishop issued a statement that said the goals of group were not in keeping with church teaching. Local members of the group have communicated with Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, Post said.

"I think Bishop Lori was the first bishop to publicly prevent us from meeting on church property and he's never really given a full explanation for that," Post said. He said Lori has not responded to phone calls or letters from the organization.

By contrast, there has been positive communication between organization members and bishops in other parts of the country, he said.

"Those bishops who have acted to ban us, not one of them sat down with us beforehand to find out what we were doing. They acted first and asked questions later," Post said. "What I keep coming back to is that we are Catholics who love the church, and we cannot reconcile what has happened with our faith, and we are determined to change those human administrations to make a difference in this church."

Lori's spokesman, Joseph McAleer, Saturday defended the bishop. He said, "The bishop has been very proactive in responding to sexual misconduct. He has enhanced the role of the laity."

In regard to Voice of the Faithful, McAleer said, "The bishop has made his position very clear. This group has an agenda that is contrary to church teaching."

McChesney, a former FBI agent, was chosen to head the national review board created by the conference of bishops to audit the compliance of bishops charter for the protection of children that was passed at their meeting in Washington, D.C.

Since taking office McChesney has traveled the country speaking with victims groups and diocesan officials.

The review board will make certain that all dioceses have a process in place to handle sex abuse complaints involving priests and that all victims receive therapy. The board also will begin surveying every diocese in the country to collect information on the number of sexual abuse cases, the amount of money paid in settlements and the numbers of priests who are accused of sexual abuse, arrested on such charges or treated for sexually abusive behavior.

The intent is to create a detailed study that will show the root causes of the sex abuse crisis within the church.

"By knowing a lot about a particular kind of crime, you can do a lot to prevent it," McChesney said during an interview.

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.