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Spotlight Report

Bishop won't lift church ban on Voice of Faithful

Group's leader, Lennon meet

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 3/12/2003


James Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, talks to reporters after his meeting with Bishop Lennon. (Globe Staff Photo / John Bohn)

 In-depth
A small gathering of Boston-area Catholics grew into Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay reform group.  
Coverage of Voice of the Faithful

Bishop Richard G. Lennon yesterday said he is not willing to lift a ban that prohibits new chapters of Voice of the Faithful from meeting on church property, the president of the lay group said.

During his first meeting with a representative of Voice of the Faithful, Lennon said he has not decided whether he is willing to allow the church to accept contributions raised by the organization, which is made up of lay Catholics upset about the church's handling of sexually abusive clergy.

Lennon met for about 60 minutes at his residence with James E. Post, the Boston University management professor who heads the lay organization. Lennon did not speak to the news media, and his spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, said the archdiocese would have no comment on the meeting. Post spoke on the sidewalk along Commonwealth Avenue in front of Lennon's residence.

''Bishop Lennon and I had a cordial and constructive meeting,'' Post said. ''It was a wide-ranging discussion that touched on every aspect of what the archdiocese of Boston is facing now, including the legal, financial, and moral issues that he confronts as bishop and that all of us confront as members of the archdiocese.''

Post said he asked Lennon to lift a ban, imposed by Cardinal Bernard F. Law, that prohibits chapters of Voice of the Faithful formed after Oct. 12, 2002, from meeting on church property. He said Lennon said he was not prepared to lift the ban, but agreed to restart talks between Voice of the Faithful and Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, archdiocese vicar general, aimed at resolving the conflict. Post said Lennon also promised to meet with Voice of the Faithful again shortly after Easter.

Lennon also said, according to Post, that he would decide by the end of March whether to accept about $35,000 offered by Voice of the Faithful to the archdiocese on the condition that it not be spent on the church's central administration. Law had turned down a $56,000 contribution last year, and Voice of the Faithful gave it directly to Catholic Charities.

Post said that he was disappointed that it had taken three months for Lennon to meet with Voice of the Faithful, but that the tone of the meeting was more positive and less stressful than a similar meeting with Law that took place last November. Law resigned under pressure Dec. 13, and Pope John Paul II named Lennon to serve as administrator of the archdiocese until the pope names a replacement.

''Let's face it, there is a certain amount of mistrust on both sides, and the only way you can get past that is for people to sit down and get to know one another,'' Post said. ''We took a step in that direction today.''

Voice of the Faithful claims 25,000 members in 150 affiliates around the nation. Post said the organization is growing rapidly outside Massachusetts. The organization says its goals are to support ''priests of integrity'' and victims of abuse and to push for structural change in the church aimed at increasing the role played by laypeople.

Post also announced that Voice of the Faithful members will join a vigil with victims tomorrow evening at St. Francis Church in Dracut.

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 3/12/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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