Voice of the Faithful
Subscribe to VOTF Newsletter
    Keep the Faith, Change the Church    
top 2

Letter to Pope Benedict
May 26, 2006

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Apostolic Palace

Dear Pope Benedict XVI,

Please accept this letter as a request for your help. Our organization represents 32,000 faithful, active, and mature Catholics in the United States. We ask that you help us to better serve the Church we love by putting into place processes and procedures that enable more lay participation in the administration of the Church at the local level.

Your papal ministry has given us hope as we deal with the crisis in the American Church. Because we are a group who is well educated and who have been active in the life of the Church, we were gratified when you chose the name Benedict because it disclosed your own model for your new ministry. We are encouraged by your first encyclical and by your welcoming treatment of Hans Küng.

Voice of the Faithful has created a space and a "voice" for Catholics who have embraced the vision of Vatican II. The Church asked lay people to take their baptism seriously, to more fully participate in the mystery of the Eucharist, to ponder and become educated about the vocation of the Christian in our world as well as the many other challenges Vatican II described. Our organization has also embraced Lumen gentium's emphasis upon the Church as a mystery of salvation, as a sacrament of Our Lord's presence, as a whole pilgrim people gathered and called to holiness. We are a careful and reflective group of people. Because of this we also have embraced Lumen gentium's renewal of the authoritative character of the Church as expressed in Chapter 3 of that great Constitution. Most of us have been active in Catholic institutions all of our adult lives. We have seen the importance of authoritative and competent leadership, which is what Lumen gentium characterizes as an essential characteristic of the Church for service to its mission. Sadly the root of the crisis in the U.S. is a failure of competent authority.

In your commentary on Dei Verbum, you return again and again to the insight that God's presence is best characterized as a "plenitude" of saving activities. You also noted that the entire Council was struggling to express how our belief in the Incarnation demands that we recognize God's activity in history. As you noted, the entire Council went on to re-capitulate the encounter between the human and the divine in ways that take seriously each specific historical context in which the Church will find itself. One of the ways in which Vatican II went on to apply this insight is in the ancient description of the family as "the domestic Church." Another way is in its call for the bishops to draw upon the laity to exercise their various competencies since bishops and pastors will increasingly need to rely upon them as the world grows in complexity.

We indeed are competent in many areas that could serve our beloved Church during this time of crisis. We are particularly competent in the areas of the development of children and their needs. We are also highly competent in the various areas of financial expertise as well as in the management and administration of institutions. This has been demonstrated in our schools and hospitals for decades. We ask that you further instantiate the vision of Vatican II by putting in place procedures that give the lay faithful a true voice in diocesan leadership. We are convinced that if many people had been able to exercise due diligence and some measures of governance over both finances and management, no one priest who abused a child would have been able to do so twice.

It is here that we ask for your help. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has as a body made recommendations to the bishops in the areas of child protection and financial transparency, we ask that you require the bishops to comply with these guidelines making them mandatory rather than optional. Require the bishops to adhere to canon law in creating and maintaining pastoral and finance councils at the parish and diocesan level.

As you can see our requests here are merely to make a reality what the bishops themselves have proposed and or approved. Unfortunately because the bishops are not in compliance with their own guidelines it appears to the laity that they are not sincere or truthful. This state of affairs is doing damage every day to the credibility of the Church.

In addition, Holy Father, the bishops have launched a malicious campaign against the victims of clergy sexual abuse by hiring high priced lobbyists in an effort to fight state legislation, to extend statutes of limitations. Child abuse is not contained within the Church it is rampant around the world in all sectors of our society. The Church should be taking a leadership role in ensuring that predators can be identified and prosecuted. The current law in many of our states does not provide sufficient time for a victim to come forward as a mature adult. It is for this reason that we are working for the reform of those laws.

If the Church is to heal we must have justice for survivors and forgiveness for our church. We need to restore the Church to a role where it can be a voice of moral high ground. The only way to do this is to:

  • Listen and meet with survivors and survivor supporters, embrace them with compassion, honesty and humility
  • Ensure justice for survivors. One must remember that the abuse of a child by a priest, one who the child has been taught, rightly or wrongly, represents God causes emotional and spiritual damage that is not easily measured. For one to feel betrayed by God is more than traumatic.
  • For the USCCB to fund the study their National Lay Review Board recommended on the causes and effects of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.
  • For the USCCB to make available the personnel records of clergy and laity as part of the new audit process. We applaud the USCCB for the recent RFP to hire an outside firm to conduct “on-site” audits of the diocese compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
  • The Church must take a leadership role in raising the consciousness of people around the world to the evils of child sexual abuse and the destruction that this causes not only to the child abused but also to society at large for today and for generations to come.

One more request would be to ask the bishops to remove all bans that they have instituted prohibiting the concerned Catholics who make up local Voice of the Faithful affiliates from meeting on church property.

Holy Father we ask these things of you because we love our Church, we want it to be healthy again, and we want it to be a place of spiritual nourishment for our children, our children’s children and ourselves. We need your help and we welcome the opportunity to work with you to heal the Church here in America.

Thank you, for your consideration. We look forward to your response.


Mary Pat Fox
Voice of the Faithful






top 3

Find a Parish Voice affiliate in your area.

Calendar of events

Click here to get your copy of Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful is recognized as one of the most promising lay organizations to evolve in the Catholic Church. Your support is absolutely necessary for us to continue. The online donation form and the mail in donation form are both quick and easy ways for you to participate, and we are most grateful. (VOTF is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. )

Mission Statement

To provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.


Our Goals

1. To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

2. To support priests of integrity

3.To shape structural change within the Catholic Church.

right line

Pray Each Day
at Noon

Jesus, Lord and Brother, help us with our faithfulness. Please hear our voice, and let our voice be heard. Amen. More



home | survivor support | clergy support | about us | press | contact us| site map

Copyright © 2006 Voice of the Faithful, Inc. All rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions

Voice of the Faithful, VOTF, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church,"
Voice of Compassion, VOTF logo(s), Parish Voice, and
Prayerful Voice are trademarks of Voice of the Faithful, Inc.