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Spotlight Report

Activist group told to work 'with and under' Law

Wellesley-based leaders say group plans no changes

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 5/24/2002

A small gathering of Boston-area Catholics grew into Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay reform group.  
Coverage of Voice of the Faithful
A top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law yesterday told a delegation of leading lay activists that they have a right to meet, but that their fast-growing organization should operate only ''with and under the bishop of the diocese.''

The meeting at the chancery yesterday was the first between the leadership of Voice of the Faithful, a Wellesley-based group advocating for a greater role for the laity in church life, and Law's administration. Law has repeatedly expressed support for a role for the laity in helping the church through the clergy sexual abuse crisis, but he has sent mixed signals about just what he means by that.

Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, who as vicar general is the top administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston, spent about 90 minutes meeting with three leaders of Voice of the Faithful yesterday.

''Bishop Edyvean pointed to the right of all the faithful to form associations,'' Law's spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, said in a statement yesterday. ''He underscored the fact that associations in the Church, from the point of view of both theology and canon law, are meant to aid the mission of the Church and that mission is carried on necessarily with and under the bishop of the diocese. Likewise it is the diocesan bishop's role to exercise vigilance with regard to the way in which Catholic associations perform the tasks they set for themselves.''

Morrissey said Edyvean would brief Law and other Boston bishops about the meeting, and that ''after that it would be possible to have another meeting.''

The president of Voice of the Faithful, Dr. James E. Muller, said the lay leaders were ''pleased'' to have a chance to meet with Edyvean, but that the discussions were inconclusive. He said that, for the moment, the group plans no changes.

Voice of the Faithful, which envisions itself as a way for laypeople to debate and articulate their views to the church hierarchy, now claims more than 8,000 supporters around the country, and is planning to provide an alternative mechanism for people to make financial contributions to Catholic causes without going through Law. The group has three goals - to support victims, to support priests of integrity, and to change the structure of the church - and is planning to hold a large convention in Boston in July.

''We believe we portrayed Voice of the Faithful to them in more detail than they had known before, and that's a good thing for both parts of the church,'' Muller said.

Edyvean is expected to meet today with the leadership of another lay group, a proposed association of parish pastoral council leaders. He has previously expressed concern about that group, saying it might be ''divisive,'' but the proponents are hoping they can change their proposal to address Edyvean's concerns.

Michael Paulson can be reached at

This story ran on page A30 of the Boston Globe on 5/24/2002.
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