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BOSTON – A lay Catholic group founded in the worst days of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal said Monday it may be forced to cease operations because of a downturn in donations.
Leaders of Voice of the Faithful sent out a fundraising letter Monday to members saying it is “at the crossroads of financial survival” and needs $60,000 by the end of this month.
Bill Casey, chairman of the group’s board of trustees, said Voice of the Faithful has been hit hard by the economic downturn and is making an “emergency appeal” for donations.
The group is based in the Boston suburb of Needham.
“Our revenue has been dropping. We’ve made significant reductions in our operating expenses. We’ve cut salaries, we have cut contracts,” Casey said.
“But I think for us, the killer has been the inability of people to continue to contribute because of the economic crisis.”
Casey said that after meeting in an emergency session on July 9, the board decided it was faced with two choices: either cease operations or make an emergency appeal to members. He said the board is hoping to raise $60,000 by the end of this month to pay operating expenses for July and August.
In August, the group plans to send a new strategic plan to members that it hopes will renew interest in the group and raise additional money for it.
Voice of the Faithful was founded in 2002 during the clergy sex abuse crisis with the mission of giving lay people a greater role in the Catholic Church. The group’s long-standing goals remain helping victims of clergy sex abuse, supporting priests of integrity and increasing the role of laity by having more say in financial management of dioceses.
The group’s membership grew to about 35,000, but it has struggled in recent years as attention to the sex abuse crisis has faded.
“I think a lot of people were energized by the crisis and wanted to do something, and Voice of the Faithful was there at the right time. Now, with the crisis having passed, the organization’s agenda is not so popular,” said Philip Lawler, author of “The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture.”
Casey said that if the group is forced to close its Needham headquarters, it would continue its work through volunteers and members.
“VOTF is not going to go away,” Casey said. “We will continue the mission, but we would have to do it on a virtually all-volunteer basis, at the local level.”
Associated Press – July 13, 2009
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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