- A business executive with over twenty years experience as a Catholic youth leader
- A retired teacher, author and long-term contributor to Catholic journals on the crisis of Catholicism in Ireland
- A parish worker in his seventies disturbed by the financial non-accountability and patronising attitude of his bishop over many years
- A mother and housewife active in charitable work
- A doctor of psychology who is also a survivor of clerical abuse
- Another survivor of clerical sexual abuse of women who has a doctorate in the subject
These are just six Irish people who feel a need to belong to Voice of the Faithful in Ireland – to fulfil their own Catholic obligations at a time of crisis and necessary change in their church.
The earliest members of VOTFI signed on to the main VOTF US-based website following the birth of VOTF in Boston in 2002. Since then we have grown slowly to over 170 members, distributed over the island of Ireland. As far as we are aware we are the only organisation in Ireland that involves survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church in working for reform of the structures of the church here.
Our dispersed membership means that we are organised at present as on online community devoted to the mission and goals of VOTF, (stated alongside to the right of this). To respond quickly to ongoing events, members of our online forum confer online to agree policy and action. Membership of this forum is open to all members of VOTFI.
This website is our main means of communicating with our wider membership. We also confer and collaborate closely with our parent organisation, based in the US at www.votf.org
We are not driven by advanced ideas on theology. We are not trying to set up an alternative church. We are merely trying to recover the church we thought we belonged to – a place of safety and trust in which adults fulfil their responsibility to protect and educate children in their own faith.
We do not claim to speak for all Irish Catholic lay people. Our name is an accident of our origin, but our goals include the development of structures that will give the Irish church something it should have had in the wake of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 – an internal forum in every Irish parish and diocese that will allow all Catholics to raise their voices in support of the mission of their church.
We are also deeply concerned by the wider crisis affecting our church in Ireland – especially the drift of young people from faith and practice.
Together the clerical child abuse crisis and this wider crisis of faith are a challenge to the very continuity of the Catholic tradition in Ireland. They have gravely weakened the authority of church leaders and clergy at a time when young people often feel at a loss for Christian role models they can relate to.
We share the creedal faith of our clergy, but believe that the merely passive role that Irish lay people are so often expected to play is itself one of the basic weaknesses of our church. We want to stand and be counted, but we also feel the need to insist that many, many Catholics have been alienated from their native church by a minority of clergy who have no apparent respect for the intelligence and outlook of lay people.
We believe that one basic cause of the betrayal of Catholic children and families by some bishops is this gulf that separates clergy and people. Attempting to protect the reputation and social standing of clergy generally, some bishops have neglected their obligations to protect the integrity of the church – its reputation for practising what it preaches, especially in regard to children. They have shielded abusers and endangered other children – and shamed our church in the wider community.
And although our bishops complain about the dangers of secularism, it is only because the secular media have kept us informed that we know about these failures of leadership. And it is only because of the intervention of the secular state that they have come round to doing what the Bible itself insists upon – putting children first.
If our bishops can be answerable to us as citizens of the same state, why should they be totally unaccountable to us as equal members of their church, in which we are also commissioned lay apostles? Why over forty years after the second Vatican Council do they still deny us the structures for communication and consultation that the council sought to establish? Why, in other words, do they deny us adult membership of our own church – while continuing to expect us to support them financially?
It is time for us lay people to insist upon being taken seriously by our leaders, for we too share in the prophetic, priestly and kingly role of the Lord. We too were endowed with intelligence and vision for the future and are sustained by grace. Commissioned by Vatican II to ‘consecrate the world to God’ we lay people must now consciously empower ourselves to take on this role.
At a time when the secular world now speculates on the possible disappearance of our church in Ireland we can either walk away, or stand and help to restore the integrity of that church. Voice of the Faithful is a lay movement for all who want to do the second.