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Spotlight Report

Group presses Lennon to meet

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 1/10/2003

 In-depth
A small gathering of Boston-area Catholics grew into Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay reform group.  
Coverage of Voice of the Faithful
Ending the period of harmony for the Archdiocese of Boston's new administrator, the president of Voice of the Faithful yesterday criticized Bishop Richard G. Lennon for not meeting with the lay group and for not being accessible over the last several weeks.

''Bishop Lennon started off with a great deal of good will from people all across the archdiocese on December the 13th, but he has done very little to capitalize on that, and now he's drawing down that good will,'' said James E. Post, president of the lay group and a professor of management at Boston University.

''He has done nothing for a month in terms of outreach to survivors, priests, or the laity, and it's getting to the point where people are impatient and frustrated, because there is a sense that he's spending all his time in the chancery, surrounded by the last loyalists to the cardinal, when what he needs to be doing is reaching out,'' Post said.

Since being appointed Dec. 13, Lennon has kept a relatively low profile. He held one press conference Dec. 18, and then met with some reporters on Dec. 22 to discuss a legal document the archdiocese planned to file the next day. He celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Dec. 15 and Dec. 22. He appeared publicly over the Christmas holiday, when he celebrated Mass twice at the cathedral and once on television and was photographed singing with a group of nuns while visiting the St. Francis House shelter.

His spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, acknowledged that Lennon has been concentrating on administrative duties, but said he plans to start sending a weekly letter to priests and visiting parishes around the archdiocese. ''There has been a profound breach of trust, and we recognize that fact,'' Morrissey said. ''We are trying to respond to what happened in the past, make sure it doesn't happen again, and regain the trust among the community of the faithful.''

Morrissey said Lennon does not have a meeting planned with Voice of the Faithful, a group formed after the abuse scandal that advocates structural change in the church. But she said, ''We hope to continue to have an open dialogue with Voice of the Faithful, and we feel that it's more productive to continue that dialogue with Voice of the Faithful and the archdiocese, rather than through the media.''

Morrissey said numerous Voice of the Faithful members are among 2,000 laypeople who will be trained for a new child abuse prevention program being implemented by the archdiocese.

But Post said Voice of the Faithful is concerned that Lennon has not taken steps to remove a ban imposed by Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who barred affiliates of the group that formed after Oct. 12 from meeting on church property. Post also said that the lay group expects to offer about $30,000 to the archdiocese in the next few weeks, and that he wants to urge Lennon to accept the contribution to support the church's ministries. It will be the group's second quarterly donation. The first gift was offered to Law, who did not accept or refuse it. It was ultimately accepted by the board of Catholic Charities. Lennon has expressed dismay that the charity took the money without consulting him.

''The vital interests of both parties are converging in such a way that makes it incumbent on us to meet before things get more conflicted,'' Post said.

Post said Voice of the Faithful sent Lennon a note congratulating him on his appointment on Dec. 13, the day Law resigned and Lennon was named apostolic administrator to oversee the archdiocese until a new archbishop is named. Post said members of his group have tried unsuccessfully to reach Lennon by phone to schedule a meeting, and that the group then sent Lennon a formal request for a meeting on Monday.

''We've got a problem in terms of a leadership that apparently sees its priorities and its work as all being inside the chancery,'' Post said. ''He seems to be either treading water or buying time.''

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 1/10/2003.
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