The VOTF movement emerged from a handful of dismayed parishioners in a suburban Boston parish into a growing movement of lay Catholics. They mobilized around the shared goals of supporting survivors, supporting priests of integrity, and shaping structural change in the Catholic Church. This chapter identifies the VOTF movement as a specific type of social movement: one operating within an institutional space. It also begins to explore the consequences of this intrainstitutional positioning; namely, the public banning of VOTF meetings in several dioceses. This action highlights the complex identity negotiations of a movement operating inside of an institution.
A primary distinguishing characteristic of VOTF as a social movement is its positioning within an institution. St. John’s parishioners identified with and expressed commitment to the Catholic Church while also communicating their desire to “seek correction of the institutional structures of the Catholic Church.” They chose not to find a separate public forum or organization through which to voice their desire for change; rather, they held meetings in their parish and presented their first substantial protest statement at an institutionally sanctioned event: the Cardinal’s Convocation.