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.")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.
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 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.