Posts Tagged spotlight team
By Mary Freeman, Voice of the Faithful Trustee and Rhode Island member
Disbelief and anger were the reactions of Catholics and non Catholics alike when in 2002 The Boston Globe Spotlight team broke its story of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. Almost immediately hundreds of the faithful gathered in Wellesley to try to understand this and to discern what could be done to keep this from happening again.
Thus began the work of Voice of the Faithful.
How long would it take? God must have smiled at the hope and optimism of some who thought that our proposals to solve the systemic problems that caused this scandal would be listened to, negotiated, and enacted.
I think that I held hope for that too, but after 14 years of being in working groups and serving as an officer and board member, I know that we still have our work cut out for us. So we continue to work as if everything depends on us, knowing that God’s grace is working in all of us.
Patience, persistence, and prayer are needed. We cannot ease up. We must continue to make our presence known. I offer the following prayer by Pierre Teihard de Chardin, S.J., to remind us that we are in this together, all of us: God, VOTF, and the faithful.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient
in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability
and that it will take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
what time will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955), was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest, who was trained as a paleontologist and geologist. Many of his writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin. However, Pope Benedict XVI praised him, and Pope Franics noted his contributions to theology in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si.
The feature film “Spotlight” about The Boston Globe’s investigation of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston has been in wide release in the U.S. for nearly three weeks and continues to open eyes and garner critical acclaim. This story in The New Yorker is by its roving cultural correspondent, Sarah Larson.
“Since seeing the movie “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and the questions it raises—about how far institutions will go to protect themselves, about who we listen to and protect, about who and what we ignore, about the power of disclosure and even conversation …”
And how did Catholics react after the events depicted in the movie?
“In the movie, the revelations of the Spotlight investigation make (Globe Spotlight team member Sasha) Pfeiffer too uneasy to keep going to Mass with her grandmother. I asked how her grandmother reacted in real life. ‘She was shocked and saddened, but she stuck with the Church till the day she died,’ Pfeiffer said. ‘Some people left the Church; others tried to change it from within, like the group Voice of the Faithful; others loved their parish, they loved their pastor, and they sort of said, ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ and they kept going to Mass.’”
Shortly after events in the just released feature film “Spotlight” end, Voice of the Faithful was born of out of the anger and frustration of faithful Catholics at what had happened in their Church: the clergy sexual abuse of children and its coverup. Determined to remain faithful, but to address the wrongs, the movement supported abuse survivors and worked to reform Church structures that enabled the scandal.
As Boston Globe Spotlight investigative team member Sacha Pfeiffer said on ABC’s “The View,” “Certainly some Catholics felt that they couldn’t go back to the church. Others tried to change it from within. There’s a group called Voice of the Faithful. They decided to do that.”
VOTF is what happened next in the Church’s life after the movie ends in 2002, shortly after The Boston Globe published its first stories detailing abuse and coverup in the Archdiocese of Boston. VOTF’s efforts changed how the Roman Catholic Church addresses problems, as described in sociologist Tricia Bruce’s in-depth study of VOTF as an intra-institutional social movement, Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church (Oxford University Press 2011).
Several points paraphrased from Bruce’s book show how VOTF:
- Refused to let the issue of abuse and the secrecy surrounding it go unspoken.
- Spoke out through national media and publicized stories of those victimized by clergy abuse.
- Attended meetings of lay Catholic leaders to focus attention on the scandal.
- Introduced discussions about sexual abuse, power, authority, and the rights and offerings of the laity into the conversation within the Catholic Church.
- Reawakened long-dormant conversations about Vatican II.
- Helped tell the history of the scandal and influenced the Catholic Church’s responses after 2002.
- Broadened the Catholic “we” to include not just the ordained and the silent majority obedient to existing structures, but also new communities within parishes emphasizing the leadership and abilities of lay Catholics.
- Expanded the meaning of Catholic identity to contain both faithfulness and challenge to the institution, suggesting it is possible and preferable to keep the faith, but change the Church.
VOTF continues to address the problems of clerically hardened institutional structures, aiming for greater lay input into governance and for healing wounds the scandal has inflicted. Some in the Church’s hierarchy echo this message, especially in light of “Spotlight’s” story.
As one example, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, was recently quoted in The Boston Globe as saying that, “though failing to report or remove an offender is rare compared with the past, ‘it too still happens, and when it does, a shadow is cast on the church’s efforts to restore trust and to provide a safe environment. And so I suppose the story told by the movie (‘Spotlight’) bears repeating until all of us get all of it right.’”
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
A trailer was released this week for the “Spotlight” movie that follows The Boston Globe’s investigation of clergy sexual abuse of children in the Boston Archdiocese in the early 2000s. The Globe’s Spotlight Team stories led to a 2003 Pulitzer Prize and broke open the abuse scandal in the Church.
Revelations from the Globe’s stories helped fuel the anger, disappointment, and frustration that contributed the growth of Voice of the Faithful. The movie premieres at several film festivals later this summer and is scheduled for wide release toward the end of November.
If you cannot see the video link above or have trouble with the link, click here.