Friday, January 09, 2004

Voice of the Faithful in Crisis

Danny DeBruin, former co-chair of the Communications Committee for Voice of the Faithful in Long Island, puts into words my exact sentiments over Voice of the Faithful in his article in Crisis magazine entitled, An Inside Look at Voice of the Faithful:
The leadership of VOTF denies that it's an ideological group and goes to great lengths to avoid the label "liberal." One revealing example of this effort was the LI-VOTF's board of directors' April 28, 2002, letter to Bishop William Murphy, the head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. In the letter, describing the differences and ideologies that comprise LI-VOTF, the board wrote, "Long Island Voice of the Faithful is, not unlike most groups or organizations, made up of people working toward a common purpose. Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic, some are reactionary, and some are conservative…." Conspicuously missing from this list is the term "liberal" or any acknowledgment that some in LI-VOTF are left-leaning. (No one, after all, has ever accused VOTF of being "conservative" or "reactionary.")

Given all of VOTF's fervent denials, what basis do the critics have for claiming the group is made up of dissenters?

The criticisms can be boiled down to three points: (1) The leadership of VOTF is composed almost entirely of dissenters; (2) VOTF gravitates toward dissenters as advisers and speakers at its events; and (3) Its goals are ambiguous enough to hide just about any kind of agenda.

Despite the objections of VOTF leaders, during my time in the organization, I found truth in each of the three charges. The July meeting with Lakeland bore this out.

... It is VOTF's third goal-"to shape structural change within the Church"-that most concerns critics. While it could be understood to refer to small but positive changes in the way bishops run their dioceses (instituting more transparency in their finances, for example), it could also be used to advocate everything from women priests to democratically elected bishops. In short, the problem is one of ambiguity. What exactly does VOTF want?
I think that DeBruin is absolutely right. The question is one of ambiguity. When our local chapter of Voice of the Faithful says it takes no position whatsoever on the hot-button issues in the Church and then co-sponsors Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap. to come and speak about the evil, oppressive regime that is the institutional Catholic Church in today's world, what does one think? Crosby's talk did not pertain to the protection of young people.

I don't doubt the hearts of many of the members of our local chapter - I know many of them, and they are responsible people who want to ensure the protection of young people. But I do doubt that, collectively, every member is united in what they want the group to accomplish and how they want it to do it. Something that I observed recently struck me as a little odd. In order to examine VOTF's third goal of Structural Change, VOTF organized a Structural Change Working Group in order to define what it meant by the goal. What I found odd was why this was done after the goal was established. This suggested to me that VOTF had not seriously considered the specifics of what it meant by Structural Change, and this may have been indicative of a larger confusion in the group over what it wants and how it seeks to express this to the universal church. In addition, many of the members do not agree with what the working group has concluded, which suggests that it may be a long while before these issues are ever resolved.

DeBruin ends with a final point, well worth noting:
In a fitting end note, the Michigan chapter of Call to Action reported in its Summer 2003 newsletter that it's now sharing meetings with the VOTF chapter in that region. That, sadly, says it all.
I think this speaks of where the group is heading if they don't get their act together.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

St. Vibiana

I was thinking recently about one of the things that I do admire about the new cathedral in Los Angeles. If you make a visit to the cathedral, venture downstairs to the mausoleum. There you will find the new crypt chapel and marble sarcophagus of St. Vibiana, the 3rd/4th century Roman martyr who is also the patroness of our archdiocese.

According to the cathedral website:
In the nearby shrine a marble sarcophagus contains relics of the third century martyr, St. Vibiana. In 1853 her remains were found in a catacomb near the Appian Way.

A marble tablet sealed her sepulcher and can be seen at the Shrine. The inscription reads, "To the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana." At the end of the inscription is a wreath of laurel, an emblem commonly used by early Christians as a code symbolizing martyrdom.

(The photos were taken by my girlfriend, Christina)
There is a kneeler next to the marble inscription tablet and in front of the sarcophagus where pilgrims and visitors may pause to pray and ask for Vibiana's intercession. Everything about this particular space is arranged in a most sublime fashion. It is my opinion that the new crypt chapel and sarcophagus dignify the memory of Vibiana in a way that inspires a sense, both spiritual and historical, of wonder and awe. Many who do not to visit the cathedral will certainly miss this treat.

The website goes on...
Pope Pius IX gave the relics to the Bishop of Monterey Thaddeus Amat. St. Vibiana rested in several places until she was brought to the then new St. Vibiana's Cathedral in 1876.

Though we know little about St. Vibiana, she is the focus of prayer and devotion for many believers who call on her intercession. She is at last at peace here for centuries to come.
Prior to her entombment in the new cathedral site, St. Vibiana's remains were displayed in a glass sarcophagus high above the main altar of the previous cathedral that took her name, the Cathedral of St. Vibiana. You can make out the sarcophagus in this old photo, though it isn't entirely clear just how much of Vibiana's remains were visible:

Which is better? The glass sarcophagus? Or the marble stone sarcophagus? Both can be dignifying, although the glass sarcophagus is especially helpful for displaying incorruptible saints, like St. Bernadette. But Vibiana is not incorruptible, and the stone sarcophagus may be closer to how she was actually entombed in the catacombs, unless her remains were left open to the air. We do not typically get to see the relics that enshrine our altars today, though we still venerate them there, yet we have glass reliquaries for just about every type of relic, like St. Anthony's Tongue, as Matt points out over at Whapdom Central.


Related Posts with Thumbnails