VOTF’s Board Distances Itself from Tom Doyle

Yesterday I found in my email inbox the latest issue of In the Vineyard, the Voice of the Faithful’s (VOTF) email-based electronic newsletter regularly mailed to all registered VOTF members.

I was shocked and dismayed when I read the letter from Bill Casey, Chair of VOTF’s Board of Trustees to Tom Doyle, a long-time friend of VOTF’s. Casey’s letter responds to Tom Doyle’s essay on VOTF and the Reform of the Governmental Structure of the Catholic Church, carried on this blog previously.

Casey, writing on behalf of the Board, distances himself and the Board from one of VOTF’s best friends and a true modern prophet.

I have included Bill Casey’s letter below. The remarks in bold red are my own.

Following Casey’s letter I have included Tom Doyle’s essay on VOTF and the Reform of the Governmental Structure of the Catholic Church, carried on this blog previously. I have added yellow highlight and bold underlining for emphasis here.

* * *

January 29, 2008
Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.
9700 Woodland Glen Court
Vienna, VA 22182

Dear Tom,

I am writing on behalf of VOTF’s Board of Trustees, most of whom you personally know. You also know that we all hold you in high regard and are forever grateful for your leadership on sexual abuse, your support for survivors, and your help to VOTF as we have struggled to respond to the ongoing crisis in our church.

The trustees, all volunteers, met last weekend and of course we discussed your recent critical statements about VOTF. We agree that VOTF can do better, but we do disagree on some important points.

Voice of the Faithful has been a movement of women and men who believe that the Catholic Church is more than a mere human institution. Our church has certainly never been perfect and it has always needed reform. We Vatican II Catholics have learned that anew as we witnessed the continuing failures of the institutional church.

It has been our conviction that we should do our best to reform the church by affirming our shared responsibility for its life and work here and now, most especially in response to the corruption revealed in the sex abuse crisis. We continue to believe that we should work to strengthen the voice of the laity in the governance and guidance of the church and claim the laity’s rightful place in decisions being made every day. Our members and our leaders do not believe that the church will be best served by giving up on Vatican II reforms. Your suggestion that such efforts are a distraction from the pressing work of reform is a judgment with which we respectfully, but profoundly, disagree.

We fear that your call to abandon efforts to influence church decision-making amounts to a surrender of the church, its parishes, and its ministries to the evils of clericalism and hierarchical power.

Tom Doyle’s prophetic words and acts of compassion to clergy sex abuse survivors have motivated thousands of VOTF members. To twist Tom Doyle’s words and to use emotion-laden words like these demonstrate an inability to hear a friend’s plea for a major mid-course correction in VOTF’s present trajectory.

We have had similar disagreements with friends in other Catholic reform organizations, and within our own membership. We, respectfully, yet profoundly, reject the proposal to turn away from the existing structure [this misrepresents what Tom has written], or to confine our work to the one goal of advocacy for survivors of abuse, important as that advocacy has been, and will continue to be, to VOTF’s mission. From the start, we have argued that we serve the interests of survivors by keeping the faith [faith in whom? The corrupt institution? The enabling bishops? Or the gospel message of compassion and justice?] and trying as best we can to change the church.

Survivor support was the foundational motivation of VOTF, but it was always connected with support for priests of integrity and working for structural reform. The three goals existed together from the outset of VOTF. They are three children of the same Catholic parents. Call us foolish, if you will, but we will not choose among them!

We believe that the Catholic Church, its institutions, and ministries, built over generations by our American Catholic forebears [and controlled by an unaccountable clerical culture enabled by a compliant laity], are worth fighting for, even if its ordained leaders [to call the bishops leaders is inaccurate; the next time you write, Bill, I suggest that you use the term church officials] resist our efforts. The desire to achieve justice for survivors of sexual abuse also opened our eyes to the underlying evils of clericalism. The root problem is the clerical nature of the institution [and the attendant fear, denial, and silence that grips the laity], and restriction of power to the ordained [the power of the ordained is enabled by the learned powerlessness, and silence, and timidity of the laity]. This condition was not always true, nor is it likely to last into eternity. We can shape a different future [how do we do this, Bill?], but only if we make the effort to do so with intelligence, imagination and perseverance. Good people differ over how best to carry out our call to change the church, and we need to remain in conversation [conversation is fine, but action speaks louder than words] as we work as best we can to build a movement for genuine reform.

In a recent Commonweal article, VOTF Board members Bill Casey and David O’Brien wrote, “The bishops are deeply attached to a closed system of governance, which they claim is required to ensure the unity and orthodoxy of the church. Even on financial matters, personnel, and pastoral planning, most bishops continue to insist on total control, an attitude that has no persuasive theological justification.”

In response, Robert Blair Kaiser wrote on this blog, “If VOTF’s leaders know how to correct this situation, they seem reluctant to say so.”

After 6 years of existence, what has VOTF accomplished in the area of structural reform? There has been lots of talk, but no plan and no action. It’s obvious that we need a new approach and new leaders.

Call us naive, Tom. We have been called worse. Call us misguided, if you will, but we must endure on the course that seems right to us.

It may seem right to the Board of Trustees, but what do VOTF’s members say?

The laity’s time will come one day, and ours will be a better church when that day arrives.

The laity’s time is now. Now is the time for action. Our ship has come in. It’s at the dock. All we have do is climb aboard and take control.

Until then, our resolute choice is to continue the journey on the path we have chosen since our founding and is guided by our 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.

It’s time for a more realistic, more action-oriented mission statement.

We hope and pray that even if we can only agree to disagree over our reform efforts, you will continue to regard us as friends, seek with us opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, and keep us in your prayers. We intend to do the same for you.

Per our earlier conversation, I look forward to an opportunity shortly to meet with you to discuss your views in more detail and share ours with you. Given that many VOTF members have read and commented on your recent statements about VOTF and its future, we also intend to circulate this response within our membership.



Bill Casey, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Dan Bartley
Ron DuBois
Mary Pat Fox
John Hushon
Elia Marnik
David O’Brien
Jayne O’Donnell
Jim Post
Dan Sullivan

· **

VOTF and the Reform of the Governmental Structure of the Catholic Church

Thomas Doyle, January, 2008

If one looks at what has happened in the institutional Catholic Church since 1965, the year that Vatican II ended, one sees a roller-coaster ride of progressive advances and regressive retreats. Since the reign (and I use that word intentionally, rather than pontificate) of John Paul II the institution has been on what some call a restorationist path. This refers to the process of restoring the Catholic Church to the splendor of the pre-Vatican II days when bishops were princes, the pope was the emperor and the lay people kept their mouths shut and their wallets open.

All along there has been a movement among some lay, cleric and hierarchical Catholics to continue with the vision of Vatican II. Today, all of the bishops in that movement in the US are either dead, retired or in exile. The Vatican II clergy are growing old, discouraged, tired and are either retired or have left altogether. They have been replaced by a couple generations of younger clergy who often describe themselves as John Paul II priests. Others describe them as the Catholic Taliban, the Young Nazis or words to that effect. Lately several scholars have written about them and the assessment is worse than discouraging. It’s frightening.

The need for deep reform exploded to the surface in January, 2002 with the revelations in Boston that Catholic bishops had been hiding, enabling and supporting sexually dysfunctional criminals in the priesthood. VOTF started off and brought with it hope, a voice for anger, disillusionment and frustration. Now we are five years down the road from January 6, 2002. This was not the beginning salvo of the clergy abuse assault. That happened in summer of 1984 with the revelations in Louisiana that the bishop there had done was Bernard Law had done but Lafayette is not Boston and the Times of Acadiana is not the Boston Globe.

The years since have brought staggering changes that no one expected. Thus far the cost in dollars to the U.S. church that Ray Mouton, Mike Peterson and I predicted…one billion…has been exceeded and, if all the numbers were revealed honestly, it’s probably doubled. The costs for California alone, thanks to the narcissism of Roger Mahony, have gone beyond a billion.

The U.S. bishops still live in their delusional world as far as clergy abuse is concerned. The Dallas Charter, the diocesan review boards, the National Review Board, the Office for Child Protection…all are bureaucratic attempts to right the wrongs, make the bad memories go away, restore trust and faith in the bishops and above all, create the false image that it’s all over. As Archbishop Gregory said in Feb. 2004, the history of sexual abuse is today history. More inaccurate words have never been spoken! Bishops continue to force victims through incredibly painful and demeaning court processes in which they and their lawyers do all they can to revictimize them. In State legislatures throughout the country, State Catholic Conferences and the local bishops spend millions of the faithful’s dollars to defeat any legislation that would offer greater protection to child victims. They insult our collective intelligence with a variety of false claims based on erroneous information. They bring in their so-called experts to tell the legislatures how much they have done and how much they care and how much they respect our U.S. legal system. The bottom line is that in State after State, the only opposition to child protective legislation is the Catholic Church. How ironic! The world’s largest religious organization which is based on the mission of Christ and it opposes State laws that do what it not only could not do, but would not do protect children from deranged predators and self-centered institutional enablers.

What about VOTF? The past five years have been tumultuous. The growing pains that some members speak of are far more than that. What we have seen has been a clash between the deeply rooted clerical dependency that has been systematically woven into our very being by the institutional church, and Catholic Adulthood. It’s a long, excruciatingly painful process to grow up in the Catholic Church. Most chronological adults never make it. No matter how liberated and avant-garde they believe themselves to be, there is still a very powerful core, deep down inside, that causes dependency feelings to take over whenever one is faced with the challenge of taking the risk of not only thinking but acting like an adult when in the realm of the Church world. To do so means to challenge the clerical office holders and to express opinions that they do not want to hear. To do so means taking the risk that some of them might try to capitalize on the magical thinking that has supported their power by threatening canonical penalties or equating disobedience to them with disobedience to Christ.

Jesus Christ was all about love. He also was a man of action. Whenever he encountered the religious hypocrites of his day he didn’t sit down to tea with them and exchange sweet nothings so that nobody had any ruffled feathers. If he blew his top when he encountered a bunch of hucksters selling birds at the temple, can you imagine what his reaction would have been if had dropped down to earth during the early days of the reformation? Martin Luther would have ended up the pope and the Roman church bureaucracy would have been vaporized. What would have been his reaction had he appeared at the chancery in Lafayette, LA in the summer of 1984 when the churchmen and the lawyers were putting together what they thought would be legal agreements that would pay off some families and insure their silence. Even better, how do you think he would have reacted reading the Boston Globe on Sunday morning, January 6, 2002, the Feast of the Epiphany? I suspect that the epiphany the Globe brought that morning would have been followed by another wake-up call of cosmic proportions. Bernard Law might have found himself propelled, not to a palace in the Vatican, but to the outer reaches of Greenland to teach catechism to the natives on the edge of the North Pole.

In addition to the anger, distrust, frustration, disillusionment and spiritual aridity the institutional Church has caused because of its totally inept response to the evil of clergy abuse, there has been another equally toxic reaction and that is the profound feeling of nausea in reaction to the self-serving public relations campaign of the U.S. hierarchy by which they continue to try to flip the whole mess around, make themselves look like victims and demonize anyone who has ever challenged their collective stupidity, cruelty and total lack of compassion.

Is there hope for change from within? As far as reform etc. is concerned, I have lost all realistic hope that the institution will change for the better in my lifetime. The present crop of bishops, courtesy of John Paul II, is far less pastoral, less theologically educated and more clericalist and monarchical than any I can remember. I see no hope and only constant signs of discouragement. I believe in VOTF but I do not believe that they will ever accomplish any meaningful structural change. It’s simply impossible for any such change to happen unless it starts at the top. The Catholic Church is a monarchy. Period! Getting a pastoral council up and running here and there is nothing. Sitting down to tea with a bishop is no more than a sop to keep the activists. They are not able or willing to bend or change their approach in something as vital as clergy sexual abuse so why expect them to even think about giving up any of their power in anything else.

The hot button issues that the popes have told us we can’t even talk about will remain discussed by lay and clergy alike and closed in the minds of the pope and the bishops. All you have to do is look at the stream of Vatican decrees re-introducing the pre-Vatican II version of the Latin mass to stomping on theologians to get the picture. The young conservatives lap it up and seem to play at church as if it’s some sort of surreal dress-up game. What many fed-up people are doing is simply walking away and finding an alternative faith/worship opportunity that is less toxic and more Christ centered.

I am not much interested in working for internal church reform anymore mainly because my experience within the structure over the past two decades has been so painfully revelatory for me. It is way too toxic. Life is short and being part of the Christian community is supposed to be joyful and not poisonous. I have turned to reading the books of John Shelby Spong and find they give me hope and a voice to my theological ideas and related feelings. I do not expect everyone to be where I am at because no one else has been on my journey. As a matter of fact, one of the more painful breakthroughs I have had is that it’s not only inappropriate but simply wrong to project that we are all on the same spiritual wave length and that some are right and some are fundamentally wrong about the way they believe.

I don’t see any hope in trying to bring about meaningful reform of the structures. One or the other group may convince a local bishop to take an enlightened approach, but then the day will come when he retires and is replaced and then it’s a crap shoot as to what happens.

VOTF has pledged to support Priests of Integrity. There has to be a lot more to this than words and an annual award. There are plenty of good, decent, hard-working priests out there, the center of whose mission and life is not the bishop, pope or Vatican but Jesus Christ. They will never be bishops. They need to be encouraged but not pitied because these men have an inner strength that is grounded in something far deeper and stronger than loyalty to the monarchical system. Maybe what VOTF needs to do is challenge the thousands of priests still in denial who continue to moan and groan because the identified sexual abusers make them all look bad. Not so! What makes Catholic priests look bad is apathy, fear and apparent subservience to a system that is outmoded, unproductive and enabling of those who would victimize others. How many priests have looked at the landscape and privately expressed shame, disgust and anger at the sexual abuse nightmare and the bishops leading role in it, and how many of these same priests have refused to speak out even to a small group for fear of retaliation by the bishop who can’t see past the walls of his imaginary kingdom.

VOTF has pledged support for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. This should be the number one priority. Why? Because everything about the clergy abuse nightmare is everything that is wrong with the institution. This is not one of many problems. This is THE problem. People are now getting excited over the revelations of embezzlement and financial mismanagement in Church throughout the US and the world. This is terrible, but we are talking about money here and not human lives. The sex abuse nightmare is a culture of emotional and physical devastation and spiritual murder. If the local VOTF chapters can’t make support and defense of victims their first priority, they should close down. If the national leadership equivocates or cowers in fear of what the bishops will think if they take strong and courageous stands, they need to quit. A word of wisdom from my military days: Either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

I respect those who continue to work for internal church reform. I am on the board of ARCC (Association for Rights for Catholic in the Church). I respect my fellow board members. I don’t believe the institutional Church cares one bit about individual rights or due process when it comes to lay people or lower ranking clerics or anyone who thinks creatively. It cares greatly about protecting the rights and assuring due process for those who are bishops and above. There are exceptions however. If a bishop stands up for what is right and has the courage to express his stand, he will quickly find himself cast out of the sacred club and into the real church with the rest of us. Tom Gumbleton, probably the only real bishop in the U.S., publicly has stood with victims. The Vatican acted quickly. He was fired on orders from the top because he broke communio with the bishops. Bravo for Tom! He did what Jesus would have done.

I don’t want to expend much more energy tilting at windmills in the world of Catholic Church reform. I have no hope that it will happen. I don’t want to spend any more time trudging through what can best be described as a swamp of toxic waste. I believe change will happen because it has happened over the past few years. It has not taken place through dialogue with the hierarchy however. It’s happened when the Church office holders (I intentionally don’t use the word leaders) have found themselves face to face with powers greater than themselves like the law enforcement agencies or the civil court system. That’s where the change will take place. That’s why I have consistently urged VOTF leaders to totally support all efforts at legislative change that will provide greater protection to victims.

There has been a vast amount of change and progress since I first became involved in 1984 and especially since 2002. The institutional Church and its bishops would have done nothing to stop institutionalized sexual abuse and done nothing to help the victims it has known about were it not for the fact that we have forced them to do something. If good people back down and believe the nonsense propagated by the public relations machines of the individual dioceses and the National conference of bishops, then we will be back on the road to returning to where we were in 1983. It happened before and it could happen again and it happened before because the hierarchy had too much power, too much influence and too little accountability. That has changed but it hasn’t changed enough. There are still countless men and women of every age who cannot come forward to disclose the devastating abuse they have suffered. As long as the clerical-celibate system remains basically untouched, there will always be victims of sexually dysfunctional priests and spiritually dysfunctional bishops.

Is there any hope at all? Yes! The hope is not in the institution or in bureaucratic policies, programs or empty pronouncements. The hope is in the ever increasing number of deeply committed men and women who are being compassionately present to people in need and in pain. These are the men and women of any denomination or belief system or of no denomination but still with a powerful belief system who work with each other to get right to the heart of Christ’s message without stopping at any denominational door to get approved by any bishop in order to express charity.

    26 Responses to “VOTF’s Board Distances Itself from Tom Doyle”

  1. Vincent Morton Says:

    I am not a member of VOTF but reading the above from Bill Casey to Tom Doyle appears the leadership in VOTF is no better than that of the institutional church
    …very sad indeed

  2. Lorraine Ferrick Says:

    In my opinion, the bottom line is the Catholic Church worships the Institutional Catholic Church
    and it appears that they do not know the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ could walk down the isle
    of the church and they would not know Him. A relationship with the Lord is what is needed, not
    rules and rituals – control from womb to tomb. We are not dependent on “a church” (denomination) but our belief in Christ. Christ paid “all” for us. We don’t even need Priests… we are priests one to
    another. Only Christ can forgive sin and he paid for our salvation and “gave” us eternal life…
    To ursurp that power that belongs to God alone is sad. A church should not be based on power
    and control by man putting guilt and fear on an individual. Christ sets us Free. When you can’t
    ask questions, then you are in a CULT…IT APPEARS that the Catholic church qualifies. Christ died
    for everyone and we all have a choice to accept that love and live for Him, and grow in His
    love. We do have a choice..it is not automatic and we are not born a Christian.

  3. Martin Kennedy Says:

    VOTF is modeling itself after the Church by removing those who would disagree. I think that is the definition of an oligarchy?

  4. Paris Says:

    This letter of Bill Casey marks a very sad day in America and our constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. The worst part about Opus Dei is that there is no freedom of speech and it demands absolute obedience to the Pope and to St? Josemaria Escriva. The VOTF is infiltrated by Opus Dei footsoldiers, Moles and spies…I have been right all along in saying this bold statement and this letter of the Board of Trustees of VOTF proves my allegations right. Therefore, with Fr. Richard McBrien, Janet Hauter and now Bill Casey, Octopus Dei’s tentacles have finally engulfed the throats of the Board of Trustees. That is a typical Opus Dei strategy — conquer the head and you’ve conquered the entire body. So Opus Dei have conquered the VOTF Board of Trustees. In 1985 Fr. Tom Doyle was fired from his job for whistleblowing the priest pedophilia reality and because John Paul II and the church didn’t want to hear about it. Today, 27 years later, the Opus Dei and Benedict XVI also don’t want to hear about this any longer especially afer the church paid more than $3Billion to victims. Opus Dei want the VOTF to be “a meek and mild voice ” – speaking only about issues that are unalterable and impertinent to lives and safety of children such as the ordination of women, which are really outside-the-vein and “harmless” to the institutional church. Opus Dei want to bury the priest-pedophilia John Paul left behind so they can canonize him saint and together with St? Josemaria Escriba, they wish to rule the church of the 21st century in a fantasy land of live happily every after amidst Zeffirelli movie production at the Vatican Television daily…… More at the John Paul II MIllstone http://www.jp2m.blogspot.com

    Good comments Frank, keep up the good work!

  5. Wendyn Anson Says:

    I so appreciate the posting of Tom Doyle’s letter. It says everything I feel, and have felt for sometime.
    I am so grateful you did this. It is a shame that the hierarchy persists in building nearly impenetrable
    walls which enable dependence and resist intellectual freedom for its members, I read a wonderful
    book once, called “Leaving the Saints”, the story of a devoted and involved female member of the Mormon Church who finally left in disgust due to her treatment as a woman. I so identified with much of of what Martha Beck, the author, said. My eyes were opened long ago as a student at three Catholic colleges. I finally left, three years ago, and joined another Church that seemed to operate more within the Spirit of the Gospels. Yet, it is difficult, still. Casey’s letter reminds me so much of some of the issues of abrogation of rights, and arrogance I dealt with at times while in undergrad and grad school. I still hold out hope for dialogue, but Frank, I agree with every word you *and Tom) have said.

    With 16 years of Catholic education, though, it hasn’t been easy. As for VOTF, the very fact of its existence still holds hope for reonciliation and dialogue.

  6. John Wirtz Says:

    I cannot help but agree with all the above comments. I am a member of VOTF but find the organization has done nothing in the Youngstown, Ohio area and seriously wonder what it has accomplished alsewhere. I considered VOTF as Catholics for the most part dissatisfied with the “institution” recognizing dire need for radical change. I am disappointed that VOTF takes exception to anything Fr. Tom Doyle has said or done. He stands tall above followers of Jesus who would overturn furniture in anger for what should’ve been a house of prayer. So what would He do about priests raping at the altar, in the sacristy, and preseneting themselves as a celebates and supported by “superiors.” Should we speak as Jesus spoke about the pharisees, hypocrities and deceivers first class? It seems to me we have addressed the”authorities” with respect and gotten nowhere. Are they even credible at all? They have their way of “indexing” progressive thought, science, truth in general. Are homosexuals intrinsiccally evil people? Are the bishops infallible too? Tom mentions Bishop Spong. There’s a man that will get you thinking! Read his book “The Church must Change or it Will Die.” I won’t leave VOTF but I’m with you, Tom.


  7. Ray O'Neil Says:

    Change will not come through the taunts of the timid. Nor will it come about by dividing the voices of reform among a plethora of issues. The fault lies in the hierarchy. Attack that self-protective, self-serving structure with the strongest weapon available, its criminality. Other reforms will follow only when the heirarchy capitulates, but not before.

  8. Debby Bodkin Says:

    As a Catholic struggling to hold on to any of the teachings of a Church that has betrayed so many children and families, without any type of conscience, I am disappointed in Bill Casey’s letter to Tom Doyle and VOTF’s obvious political move… and I need to express my disappointment.

    VOTF leaders know that Tom Doyle speaks truths in support of justice to those who have lived their lives believing and defending the teachings of the Catholic Church,unconditionally, but most often find themselves betrayed by those leading the Church…. all because someone has to justify the heinous sex crimes that were committed against children and vulnerable adults for decades, while reports of sex abuse crimes were ignored by leaders of the Church, their attorneys, law enforcement, government, political and judicial officials. What happened to the respect associated with allowing someone to express a concern or opinion, without backlash?

    Tom Doyle understands the dangers of politics in our society and VOTF knows it. VOTF cannot have it both ways…. seeking acceptance of Catholic Church leaders for the sake of remaining in the good graces of the Church, while also supporting victims of clergy sex abuse crimes and justice for the crimes committed against precious children and mandated reporters who lost their financial, career and personal reputations for protecting a child first — over protecting their status and standing with the Catholic Church.

    VOTF knows that the Church does not encourage the exercise of freedoms of speech, press and opinion, especially as it relates to the clergy sex abuse crisis. VOTF should know by now that Tom Doyle is probably at the top of the Catholic hierarchy list of persons to retaliate against. VOTF also understands that those speaking out have suffered one act of punishment after another, sometimes public and sometimes secretly.

    To VOTF:

    Whatever your plans are to lead Catholics to healing and a reformed Catholic Church, please do not attack and/or distance yourself from those seeking truths and justice, while exercising freedoms of speech, press and opinion. You have seen what happens when the Church intimidates others from speaking out to protect those who cannot protect themselves — hundreds of thousands of children were sexually abused for decades because persons who could protect them were scared!!!

    If you cave in now to the pressures of the Church, by distancing yourself from persons seeking truths and justice, you will disappoint the remaining struggling Catholics who want to believe that VOTF can make a difference and reach the leaders of the Catholic hierachy. In my opinion, as a Catholic who has already been disowned by a Church that once had the respect of so many adults, children and families, for speaking out with truths, please apologize to Tom Doyle for your impulsive and political acts. Healing will never occur as long as VOTF leaders play the game the Church wants us to play!!!!

  9. Mary Heins Says:

    The hierarchy may not capitulate (as Ray mentions in previous post) but I believe it will fall and
    crumble, at least in power and influence.
    I had a dream in 2001, before the scandal broke. In the dream I stood with my mother
    and grandmother talking in front of a Catholic church. As we talked, I noticed the tall, beautiful
    steeple reching far up into the sky. Suddenly, that steeple began to crumble and fall to the ground.
    My grandmother (a non-catholic and ardent believer in Jesus) turned and ran into the church. She
    came out carrying the Eucharist in a small, golden sacred vessel. She took the vessel and put it into
    a small cinder block structure attached to the church but with no markings or ornamentation to
    identify it. Then she came back out and rejoined us.
    Tom Doyle’s words have always been the voice of the prophet to me. His words have always rung
    true. So when he says structural reform will not happen in his ife time, I believe him. Who would know better than Doyle? He has the inside track. My dream told me the hierarchical structure would fall
    (among other things), and it is re-enforced with Doyle’s impressions and opinions — which come after more than 20 years of experience.
    In one way it’s sad that our church is crumbling but it’s on account of the hierachical system that it is crumbling. We can’t get away from that so we have to let it happen and not try to prop it up or support it.
    I feel VOTF’s goals 1 and 3 are incompatible. If you try to be truly supportive of victims, you will only
    be on the bad side of the bishops. By definition supporting victims means opposing the hierarchy.

  10. M.T. Hill Says:

    Being Catholic for over 50 years, I should have but did not expect, that VOTF administrators would dissolve into the dark waters of the institutional Church. It reminds me of high school when questions about the Church were answered with double talk or a reason to go to confession. I joined VOTF because I thought they would press for much needed change in the organizational Church. Instead they are slithering away like some altar boy caught sipping the sacramental wine. The only hope I see for VOTF is to have persons in the organization like Fr. Tom Doyle. The Catholic Church is a tough nut to crack and will take steps to reform with intelligent zeal leading the VOTF. I’m sick at heart when they see fit to do like the Catholic officials they are seemingly trying to make accountable and “blaming someone else.” The time is now. No more begging and pleading hoping the Church will come to its senses and reestablish itself on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.

  11. Tim N.Y. -Survivor/Fighter Says:

    Dear Tom,
    Keep up your Great works, my eyes see what you do! My ears hear your Inspired wise words and my heart knows your truth.
    This National VOTF Board has once again shown it is as “Lost” as our “Lost Shepherds”(with those Cone Heads). Thank God there is an Election in Feburary so we can get VOTF back on track and put the VOTF “Goals” back in the order they originally were as well as putting Goal #1 back on the Map!

    Remember this Tom …. Great Spirits Have Always Encountered Violent Oppsition From Mediocre Minds.
    – Einstein

  12. Bill Says:

    Frank, I know that you are annoyed at some of the internal workings of VOTF. At the same time no organization is perfect and there will always be differences of opinion. All In all VOTF remains an important voice for change and advocacy for survivors and we should work on improving it rather than destroying. Tom Doyle has been tremendous but he is human and can mistakes. I really do not see how the VOTF letter was anything else but an effort to dialogue and work things out with Tom.

    It takes a hard effort to work together. Sometimes we are our own worse enemies.

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  14. Edwin Zolik, Ph.D. Says:

    As long time members of VOTF my wife and I on reflection have considered for some time that VOTF started on a down hill trajectory as of the first convention in Boston. At that meeting Tom Doyle’s presentation on the problem of child abuse by clergy and hierachs was inspiring and many felt it was the spearhead of a new movement.

    However, most of the remainder of that first meeting concerned the ordination of women, bringing back clergy who had left to get married, a presentation by SEICUS, celibacy vs married clergy and a closing Mass in which the celebrant at the final blessing said I hope that the next time we meet a female will be the celebrant. We, along with others, wondered why and how such a subversion occurred. We left that meeting perplexed and inspite of our support and involvement over the ensuing years our perplexity never was adequately removed.

    VOTF has many wonderful people but as an organization one has to look hard and far to see what has been accomplished. As one bishop said: They (VOTF) have been marginalized from day one and it seems they do not even know it.

    The response of VOTF to Tom Doyle is an indication of the continued control and power in VOTF of the special interest groups for whom the problem of clerical child sexual abuse is simply a stepping stone.

    As Jim Post said at the end of his presidency of VOTF, maybe the time has come for VOTF to fold its tent and let others pursue their agendas. Over the past four years, with the exception of a few VOTF chapters, organizations such as SNAP and Bishops Accountablity certainly have had a much greater impact. They and Tom Doyle deserve our support.

  15. Dom tomasso Says:

    To Bill Casey: After I read,’We hope and pray that even if we can only agree to disagree over our reform efforts, you will continue to regard us as friends, seek with us opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, and keep us in your prayers. We intend to do the same for you.” all I could think of was, how similar that statement was to responses I keep getting from my local bishop. There is something else I’d like you to read. This was an article in the NCR publication by a Lisa Striebing. “Lay Catholics are getting together to plan how to make the church more engaging and to live up to it;s potential”. They are not meeting in protest, but in conversation. they call their gatherings “Lay synods”. My reply to her was: I can’t believe what I’m reading. Lay Catholics getting together to plan how to make the church more engaging, to live up to it’s potential, not meeting in protest, but in conversation. WOW.. For the past 5 years or more, all that I’ve been able to understand, is that the people I’ve respected have let us down. Let me see now, for decades and decades our religious leaders have been committing crimes of abuse on our children and using the church-going- contributions of over 2 billion dollars for financial settlements, to preclude from having the hierarchy being exposed as to their complicity and for decades, millions of dollars are being stolen from Sunday collections and the security procedures to correct this disgraceful situation is NOT made mandatory. Well, right now, that’s how I feel about VOTF. Tom Doyle’s message makes sense. VOTF has done good work but it has not made any possible dent in bringing about any changes whatsoever and it will continue to be inefective regarding makeing changes until they also focus on,WHY THE BISHOPS HAVE COMPLETE POWER AND CONTROL. Just think, they have canon laws to protect them, they control all the money and all Catholic publications. The main keys are to get the pew Catholics better informed so that the Sunday contribution start to dwindle. That will get their attention. They can’t function without that money. Our Diocese has started a 28 million dollar fund drive. If the fund failed., the first thing the bishop would think of, is why has the drive failed . That would get his attention. Right now he has pumped up the laity by saying how generous the parishioners are and how faithful they have been in supporting the diocese. The bishops can make all kinds of mistakes but it is the sheep who pay for their mistakes. If VOTF leaders fail to understand that Tom Doyle has given them a wake-up call, VOTF is in big trouble.

  16. Voice from the Desert » Blog Archive » VOTF’s Board Betrays a Lack of Sophistication in Understanding Tom Doyle’s Essay Says:

    […] Lay Person Award,” displays her keen intellect to get at some of the core issues surrounding the trouble VOTF’s Board of Trustees is having with Tom Doyle’s recent essay on […]

  17. Vinnie Says:


    Dear Mr. Casey,

    Oh that the VOTF would write a cardinal or bishop with such fervor and distance themselves from them as easily as they do Tom Doyle. I pause to click my heels, yet I am still here. Such an ardent plea to remain the same, with the same institutions, the same leaders and the same blindness; it tears at my heart. Every person in my family was a victim of the insidious evil perpetuated by a corrupt hierarchy and yet they are still here. No one, including VOTF, likes to hear that they have failed. Yet failed they have; the proof of failure lies in the fact that the current church officials are the same ones who were in power in 2002. This also applies to Bernie Law who has only moved his base of operations from Boston to Rome. He still has a voice in approving U.S. bishops. VOTF, if their goal was to be an agent of change, has failed.

    This past year there have been several bishops who have, with total disregard for the Dallas Charter, failed to report abusive priests in their diocese and yet they are still here. Who can pat themselves on the back and say they have accomplished anything since 2002? During the course of my business career, I have worked for corporations large and small. If I have learned one thing, it is that nothing changes until the leadership changes. Why is that such a hard concept to understand? Bishops and cardinals only have power when power is given to them. If you stop believing in them, they have no power over you! It is that simple. If you refuse to finance them, they will become more toothless. You may believe in the concept of priests and bishops being representatives of God on earth, but I have to ask, “What god would want you to keep these miserable miscreants, who defend heinous acts of their priests, in power over his church?” Certainly not the Jesus I’ve read about.

    Speaking of the church, take a good hard look at the record of the current “church officials.” Under their auspices, attendance at mass has dropped, schools have closed, churches have closed, and they have presided over the biggest, ugliest, and most disgusting scandal to hit the church in modern times. Now there is a list of accomplishments everyone can be ashamed of, but they are still here. Remember, the Clergy Abuse Scandal was your womb! Two thousand two was your gestation period. How dare you distance yourself from the one voice who has given so many survivors a voice?

    Time has opened up Tom Doyle’s eyes. It has been interesting watching that transformation over the past several years. I have seen it before, I watched it in myself. Hopefully, VOTF’s journey will be a shorter one because you have incontrovertible proof of the contempt the hierarchy has for anyone who challenges its power. My lesson cost me dearly. I have also seen VOTF become a little more aggressive and was impressed with the effort that was made to keep George out of the office of president of the USCCB. However well intentioned, he is still here.

    In time the wisdom of Tom Doyle’s words may penetrate the hardened ears of cradle Catholics. Maybe they won’t. It matters not to me because like Tom, I have found spirituality. It is said that religion is for those that are afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there. If you can shed your belief in the hierarchy for a moment and take a candid look at what they really are, you might be inclined to prevent others from having to go through hell to find spirituality. It’s your church, take it back!

    Vincent J. Nauheimer
    PS: There are many reference to the current hierarchy in the bible, here is one of several that are appropriate.

    Ezekiel 13: 21-23:
    Your veils also I will tear off, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey; and you shall know that I am the Lord. Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not disheartened him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his wicked way to save his life; therefore you shall no more see delusive visions nor practice divination; I will deliver my people out of your hand.

    Will you help him?

  18. Voice from the Desert » Blog Archive » More on the Tom Doyle-Bill Casey Dialog Says:

    […] letter extends the dialog, started on this blog, about priorities among VOTF’s three goals: 1) supporting survivors of clergy sexual abuse; 2) […]

  19. Robert M. Kelly Says:

    Lorraine Ferrick Says: In my opinion, the bottom line is the Catholic Church worships the Institutional Catholic Church….

    Wendyn Anson Says:As for VOTF, the very fact of its existence still holds hope for reonciliation and dialogue.

    John Wirtz Says: I won’t leave VOTF but I’m with you, Tom.

    Ray O’Neil Says: Change will not …come about by dividing the voices of reform among a plethora of issues.

    Debby Bodkin Says: Healing will never occur as long as VOTF leaders play the game the Church wants us to play!!!!

    Mary Heins Says: Tom Doyle’s words have always been the voice of the prophet to me.

    M.T. Hill Says: The Catholic Church is a tough nut to crack and will take steps to reform with intelligent zeal leading the VOTF.

    Tim, NY Survivor/Fighter Says: Dear Tom,
    Keep up your Great works, my eyes see what you do! My ears hear your Inspired wise words and my heart knows your truth.

    Bill Says: It takes a hard effort to work together. Sometimes we are our own worse enemies.

    Edwin Zolik Says: As one bishop said: They (VOTF) have been marginalized from day one and it seems they do not even know it.

    Dom Tomasso Says: Lay Catholics getting together to plan how to make the church more engaging, to live up to it’s potential, not meeting in protest, but in conversation. WOW..

    Vincent Nauheimer Says: …nothing changes until the leadership changes.

    I Say: Amen, and whew! I’m tired, that’s a lot of cutting and pasting! But I wanted to shout out to all those above: I agree with you! Thank you! God bless you! And Frank Douglas!

    When I read informed and passionate comments like these it humbles and revitalizes me. It is then that I believe again that the church truly is one voice in many voices. There are many things sadly lacking in today’s church, but one of the most telling is the lack of prophets. To me, that is why Tom Doyle is especially important.

    During this whole fuss about what Tom wrote, and what Bill wrote, and the aftermath, I think we have to keep a level head and remember an old saying: Our friends teach us what we CAN do; our enemies teach us what we MUST do. Let us not forget that both Tom and Bill are friends.

    Yes, we need to be angry; but we need to control that anger and temper it and channel it into a white-hot tool, and then use it wisely to effect the change that’s needed.

    We need to keep our options open because who knows what opportunities are around the corner?

    We need to constantly strive to see the church as it truly is, and understand the way that the hierarchy works. Consider, if lay people really understood the way things work in the governance of the Catholic church, would we be as divided and as frustrated as we are?

  20. James Duane Says:

    1″When all is said and done, More is said than done!”
    2″Render unto Ceasar, that which is Ceasars, and to God, that which is Gods!”
    3″Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do also unto Me!”
    4″abandonement in nature is death!”
    Mother Church, clergy and laity have excelled at #1.
    Mother Church , clergy and laity, refuse #2 simply to save face!
    Does any body realy flippin care about what was done and the aftermath thereof? #3
    All of the rhetoric simply reinforces the hopelessness and powerlessness of the victims, reminding us of our total abandonement! Why do you do that to us? Wasn’t it bad enought the first time?
    #1 Recognition of “the elephant” lessens the impact and provides “distance and safety from it’s presence!”
    #2 A scriptural caveat to be sure, however, it incurs a criminal culpability in the statutes of the state!
    #3 Does anyone remember that this is not about the good fathers face and reputation but about indescribable damage done to your fellow human beings, who were made, “by God in His image and likeness!”
    #4 “Father! Why has Thou forsaken Me?”

  21. James Duane Says:

    It would seem to me to be obvious that, religiously studious, educated and intelectually sophisticated individuals, would readily recognize, that the Roman Catholic Church is not misguided, but rather misGoded!

    The God of this church, is the church! Clergy, laity, institutions, government, bottom to top!
    This “church” has turned away from the very basic tenets on which it was founded! Has trod upon and spat upon those very tenets constituting it’s claim to Christanity! To prolong it’s existance, flies in the face of the first commandment! “I am the Lord thy God! Thou shall not have strange gods before Me!” Sister Clara taught me that in first grade! As she did my Father in first grade also!
    Perhaps we should simply return to our basic Catechism for answers here. Can anyone remember, recite, or vaguely understand “The Seven Deadly Sins?” They’re all here!
    I cannot, in good conscience or heart, understand why any sane person wants to perpetuate such a blasphemy! Raise Hitler from the dead! Reform Naziism! Pay 6.5 milion families reparations! Spend an eternity in Hell! And everything’s all right!

  22. James Duane Says:


  23. James Duane Says:

    WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! Sorry y’all! I spoke too soon!
    In my anger and frustration I failed to see the solution to this whole problem! It is, without a doubt, a political problem and the solution comes from a “good ole boy from Alabama!”
    What has to happen here, is for “The Church” to grant, sell, barter, or trade to “Herself,” a plenary indulgence for this specific blasphemy and all is forgotten! Hell, THEY do it at the federal level all the time.
    The common term for this type of solution is “good ole American Justice!”
    And here’s the beauty part! The “Church” pays for this indulgence on credit! She carries her own paper and makes her own terms with Herself! I expect to see an encyclical from Benedict any day now stating this very solution. I’m amazed that the Bishops haven’t come up with it before now! Woulda’ saved a bunch a money in L.A.!!!!!!!!! It’s jus good bidniz!!!!!!

  24. Gerree Loran Says:

    please remove comments re the loran lectures from this site ,until preparations and confirmations are complete .thank you for extending me this courtesy.this is not intended for publication on this website.

  25. Gerree Loran Says:

    remove above notice/

  26. a long distance relationship Says:

    long distance relationship…

    Voice from the Desert » Blog Archive » VOTF’s Board Distances Itself from Tom Doyle…

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