February 09, 2006

Voice of the Faithful

The Wilton Bulletin

By Lois H. Alcosser

Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, an organization of Fairfield County Catholics who call themselves "mainstream" parishioners interested in protecting children and holding their church leaders accountable, are often dismissed as a fringe group of extremists by church leaders and fellow parishioners, if talked about openly at all. Now the controversial group's push for changes that are challenging centuries-old church practices, such as giving parishioners more control over church finances and the appointment of bishops and priests, are meeting similar disdain.

Mentioning Voice of the Faithful and its aims to Catholics in Wilton and other parts of Fairfield County evokes a wide range of responses from guarded comments, to hopeful enthusiasm and outright antagonism. Currently, the diocese forbids the group's members to meet in any Catholic church in the diocese. The area group holds monthly meetings at the Congregational Church on the Green in Norwalk.

With the slogan “Keep the Faith, Change the Church,” VOTF came into being as a lay organization in January 2002 in Wellesley, Mass., in response to the regional and later national crises of numerous cases of sexual abuse of altar boys and other children by priests, and to charges that the church hierarchy failed to act and protect children from abusive priests. Locally, a meeting was held at St. Jerome's Church in Norwalk, and two church members, Joseph Callahan, a retired Fordham University professor, and Jim Alvord of Norwalk went to Massachusetts and returned to initiate VOTF in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Posted by kshaw at February 9, 2006 05:00 PM