The cardinal, leader of the Boston Archdiocese, "squarely told us he was concerned about who we are and who we aspire to be," said Jim Post, Voice's president. Four leaders from the group, formed this year by Catholics upset with the church's failure to rid the clergy of sexually abusive priests, met privately with the cardinal at the chancery for more than two hours.
Law twice told the Voice representatives that he wished they had consulted with him before forming their organization, said Bill Cadigan, vice president of the group. "We saw that there are areas that we agree on and others that we don't," Cadigan said. "We didn't solve all of our problems in this meeting."
Voice in the Faithful started in a suburban parish early this year as the clerical sex abuse crisis which has plagued the church in 2002 unfolded in Boston. Voice now counts 25,000 members worldwide. The group's critics say Voice of the Faithful is using the abuse crisis to change church teachings. But Voice leaders says they only want to help the church become stronger, partly through greater involvement of the laity.
Law and the group have had a contentious relationship, with the cardinal refusing to accept its donations and barring new chapters from meeting on church property. Those were among the topics of discussion Tuesday. Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Law viewed the meeting as a chance for the group to define its aims and how it viewed its relationship to the church. "While the emergence of new groups is a constant in the history of the church, a proper discernment must always take place to insure their compatibility with the faith, discipline and mission of the church," she said.
Morrissey would not detail what was said at the meeting, which she described the as "cordial, respectful." She said Law, who initially refused requests to meet with Voice leaders, was willing to see with the group again.
Voice of the Faithful's Compassion Fund has raised about $56,000, and has appealed to Catholics who feel disenfranchised by the sex scandals. The Voice's funds are earmarked for the same charitable causes supported by the Cardinal's Appeal, the church's annual fund-raising drive. However, the Voice fund was set up so no money would go to archdiocese administrative costs.
The group said Law has seemed to view the fund as competition for his own money-raising efforts. "We reaffirmed we are not in competition with the Cardinal's Appeal," Post said.
Last month, Law banned Voice chapters formed after mid-October from meeting on church property. Voice leaders said Tuesday that the cardinal said he would keep that directive in force for now.
Elsewhere Tuesday, the Diocese of Manchester announced a settlement with 62 people who say they were sexually abused by New Hampshire priests or church workers. Plaintiff's lawyer Peter Hutchins said the alleged victims settled for slightly more than $5 million. The church's insurer will provide $2 million, $900,000 will come from a diocesan fund for unanticipated expenses, and the rest will come from the diocese's savings, church officials said.
The settlement involves accusations against 28 priests, one member of a religious institute and two lay persons. None of the clergy remain in active ministry.