A key group organized in response to clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport has disbanded.
Bridgeport's local affiliate of Voice of the Faithful brought together lay Catholics 15 years ago in response to an abuse scandal that first rocked the city's Catholic community in the early 1990s.
The worldwide Voice of the Faithful organization supports survivors of clergy sexual misconduct, most of whom were children at the time of the abuse. It also advocates for more involvement by the laity in shaping change within the Catholic Church.
Former Bridgeport chairperson Jamie Dance said that Voice of the Faithful was first founded after the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, "...where offending priests were moved from church to church, parish to parish, in order to protect the Diocese from any issues that would surround an offending priest having to come forward."
Though the decision to disband the Bridgeport organization centers mostly on a lack of new members, Dance said it comes as the community is starting to feel a sense of closure.
This week, the Diocese of Bridgeport settled the last of dozens of clergy sex abuse lawsuits involving more than 25 priests.
"It's almost a sense of relief that from our perspective, this series of events -- which took so much out of our Diocese in terms of a sense of belonging, a sense of wanting to be part of the church -- you can only imagine how many Catholics left the church because of this scandal," Dance said. "This allows us once again to be proud to be called Catholics. I mean, we can move forward now."
The Diocese of Bridgeport has paid out tens of millions of dollars in settlements involving priests accused of abusing children.