"To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse..."

From today's Boston Globe:
As members of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) met at the (Providence, RI) convention center for seminars and award presentations, celebrating the group's fifth year, people who said they were victims of priests' sexual abuse gathered outside and criticized the group for falling back on its original pledge to support them and failing to express outrage at a new report citing higher numbers of priests accused of sexual abuse in Rhode Island.

VOTF, a lay Catholic reform group, which once was on the crest of the effort to prosecute abusive priests, did not respond to the report during the conference attended by 600 to 700 people from across the nation, said John Moynihan, spokesman for VOTF. "We've set an agenda [for the conference] and that's the agenda we're keeping," he said. "We just haven't had the time to absorb it."

The report, released by a victim advocacy organization Friday, said that between 1971 and 2007, 95 priests in Rhode Island were accused of sexual assault or sexual misconduct toward children. In 2004, it was reported that 56 priests had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor between 1950 and 2002. (See a related previous post here.)

"What must seem like a bombshell to Rhode Island citizens may seem to [Voice of the Faithful] members as yet another disturbing revelation in a long litany of them," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who said he was a victim of abuse and who joined a dozen other protesters on the sidewalk outside the convention center.
It's difficult to imagine that VOTF, the lay group which has done more than any other to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, should be the target of criticism from a victims' advocacy organization. VOTF's Providence meeting was, in part, an effort to determine how best to continue implementation of the group's three goals: 1. To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse; 2. To support priests of integrity; 3. To shape structural change within the Church.


  1. In response to this posting and to the entire content of the recent Boston Globe article, I share this information.

    VOTF officers, Board of Trustee members, and National Representative Council members were not aware that a report concerning clergy sexual abuse in Rhode Island was released prior to the Conference this past weekend.

    It does seem strange that VOTF is a target of criticism by a victims' advocacy group. I cannot guess at their intentions, as the group that released this report had a display at the Convention.

    VOTF has three stated goals, the first of which is to support survivors, and the organization does not follow the agenda of other groups or organizations.

    All three VOTF Convention Plenary speakers spoke about clergy sexual abuse survivors, their difficult journey to recovery and healing, and how VOTF continues to walk with them. Indeed, Judge Merz from Ohio, who is the current Chair of the National Review Board of the US Council of Catholic Bishops, revealed in Plenary Session that he is the survivor of sexual abuse by a church worker. There were more than 3 workshops on survivor issues, as well as a liturgy that included prayers for our victim sisters and brothers, and a candle lit procession after liturgy to a nearby river where special prayers for survivors were raised.

    After the procession and prayers, convention goes returned to hear talks on the topic: "Protecting Children from the Survivors' Perspective" presented by SNAP, a survivors advocacy group.

    VOTF has not forgotten their roots - that we were founded in response to the revelations of clergy sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese and the cover up of these crimes by bishops.

    We work to ensure that this abuse will never happen again in any Catholic church, school, religious education class or in our community through raising awareness of sexual predator behaviors, education on how to recognize signs of abuse in children, and by creating and ensuring parish safe environment programs.

    We invite you to find out more about our organization and our good works at www.votf.org

    Patricia Gomez
    Region I Representative to
    National Rep Council of VOTF

  2. Pat

    You said: "It does seem strange that VOTF is a target of criticism by a victims' advocacy group. I cannot guess at their intentions, as the group that released this report had a display at the Convention."

    It is indeed strange that protesters wouldn't tell us what they are protesting. Maybe the victims' advocacy group is concerned that VOTF's support will weaken as it addresses the other two goals in the list.

  3. Our Concord MA VOTF affiliate was pleased to sponsor Fr. Bob Hoatson's Road to Recovery table at the VOTF Convention in Providence. Bob Hoatson, who lives in New Jersey, is a survivor of clergy abuse. He founded the outreach to abuse victims/survivors called Road to Recovery. Our support of Bob was a small gesture, but when a couple of our members were chatting with Bob at the Convention, he expressed his gratitude for thinking of him and his outreach work. Despite the Globe headline, I think many in the survivor community do know and appreciate all that VOTF has done, continues to do and will always do in support of those who have been through so much.

  4. I was sorry not to have been able to attend the convention in RI but have attended other events both local and national. I have seen nothing but positive energy, goodwill, and genuine concern for victims from this group. I send donations from time to time and do wish there were even more support- including membership, attendance, and monetary- to support their efforts.


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